Cultivating the Next Generation of Ministry Leaders

A student today can have thousands of friends they communicate with regularly – through social media, online forums, etc. But they’re actually pretty lonely. The idea of deep relationships and community in real life feels foreign to them. They’re being more consumed by the secular world, and perhaps that’s why they’re less interested in church. Unless we do something about it, this could drastically decrease the number of ministry leaders in the next generation. 

Authentic Christians

Many of today’s students are having a difficult time distinguishing between what’s real and what isn’t. This is largely due to social media, or as I like to call it, the Apostle Paul of this generation. As adults, we know so much of social media is unrealistic. Still, we can’t help but compare ourselves to the perfect families we see on Facebook. That constant comparison is elevated for students; they’re blasted 24/7 with photos and videos of kids their age living extravagant lives with not a facial blemish in site. 

Often, the selfies that get the most ‘likes’ are the ones that have been edited so much, the person can hardly recognize themself. The edited version of themself is getting all that love and attention, not them. While that’s damaging and confusing, it’s become normalized for young people because they don’t see anyone being genuine anymore. That’s one of the reasons why the next generation of ministry leaders need to see authentic Christians today. 


The reason I call social media the Apostle Paul of this generation is because, like Paul to Timothy, social media acts as a mentor to many young people. They follow it, emulate it, and obsess over it. But they don’t have actual relationships with the people they look up to online. Students don’t need makeup artists or pranksters on YouTube to be their mentors. They need mature Christians to disciple them one-on-one. Now is a better time than ever, because covid has pushed people to pursue authentic relationships.

I’ve met many parents who agree wholeheartedly but don’t know where to start with this process. It could be as simple as asking their student what they think about a topic of the day, and they listen to them. The idea of discipling kids seems intimidating, so many think, “I’ll let the pros handle my kids’ discipleship. Their youth pastor, bible teachers, etc.” But whether you have a theological degree or you’re a line cook at Wendy’s, you can disciple your kids. In fact, you probably are, whether you realize or not, for better or worse. 


Think about all the things students see on the internet. Now think about what you’re posting on the internet. “I would never post anything inappropriate!” you say. But are you posting political rants? The ones in the name of Christianity? Kids are watching Christians, and they’re seeing a lot of anger and not much compassion. 

At school, we teach the students that Jesus took on the form of a servant, so we do a lot of field trips where we do volunteer work. But some parents don’t realize that they can do the same thing with their kids! Go serve at a nonprofit for a day with your child, and then ask them about it later. You’ll be amazed by what they learned. By showing them what a real Christian look like, you’re greatly influencing the next generation of ministry leaders. 


Church leaders often look at today’s students and have no idea how to reach them. But they never actually put the students in the driver seats. In a world of cyber bullying and kids cutting each other off for different opinions, I know students who intentionally send out bible verses in massive text messages. Because social media doesn’t seem to be going away, many students are using the platform to spread Christianity.

There’s nothing wrong with asking students to give us advice on reaching their generation. This empowers them and gets them involved in church, thereby preparing them for ministry leadership one day. Not every student is going to be a pastor, but we hope our Christian students will be leaders in church, nonprofit organizations, faith-based businesses, or anything else that serves God’s kingdom. The best way we’re going to make that happen is by showing them what authentic Christians look like – people who actively practice discipleship, show compassion towards others, and are humble enough to ask for their advice.

Christopher “Mr. G.” Gardiner is the Spiritual Formation Coordinator at Northwest Christian School where he has served since 2006. He has been working with teens since 1994 and doesn’t see that ending anytime soon. Chris is also a chaplain in the US Army Reserves. He and his wife Erika have been married since 1999 and have 4 children.  RJ, Joe, Tim, and Elena.

This Blog is sponsored by Frameworks: A Biblical Worldview Initiative. Frameworks courses are online Bible classes that public school students can take for elective credit on their high school transcript! Learn more at

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