By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
BATON ROUGE, La. (LBM) – The Student Missionary evangelism strategy, launched in early August, is a guided, school-year-long training program for students to learn how to be intentional about being an evangelist on campus.
Sixth to twelfth graders are commissioned by their respective churches to reach their classmates for Christ. Then each student is matched with a coach who will help him or her to grow in Christ and develop the skills needed to share Jesus with their classmates. Additionally, the student will have at least four prayer partners who will adjust their intercessions according to monthly updates from the student.
Steve Masters, coordinator of the program and director of the Louisiana Baptist Collegiate Ministry at LSU, said he hopes many churches will partner with students and help foster a foundation of discipleship that will carry on past high school.
“Many seniors have checked out of their faith and student ministry involvement by the time they reach the final year of high school,” Masters told the Baptist Message. “The best place to reach students is our schools. If we can walk beside our students, we can better help reduce that rate and help them reach their classmates.”
Masters said once the student missionary graduates from high school, he or she then will have a passion for evangelism in college, the workplace, armed forces or other areas of life. The student will be encouraged to remain in contact with the mentor and church and participate in mission trips and become involved in a local church. If in college, the school’s BCM director will pair them with an upperclassman for continued coaching.
The groundwork for the effort began in 2001, when a campus missionary strategy and manual were first introduced by the North American Mission Board. Eleven years later, the student ministry team of NAMB, under the leadership of Chad Childress, revised the “campus missionary” strategy and the manual.
In spring 2023, a team of state convention student ministry strategists and college ministers then took over the ministry strategy and renamed it “student missionary” and revised the manual for the ministry.
Team members included A.J. Ruff (middle school student pastor, Cypress Baptist Church, Benton), Bryant Laird (associate director of student ministry, South Carolina Baptist Convention), Jay Barbier (youth specialist, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board), John Nugent (minister of youth, Temple Baptist Church, Ruston), Lee Myers (Louisiana Baptist Youth Strategist), Mark Robinson (Baptist Collegiate Ministry team director, Louisiana Baptists), Matthew James (associate vice president for enrollment, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary), Sam Swann (team leader, Student Leadership Development and Evangelism, Baptist Convention of New Mexico), Shane Pruitt (national Next Gen director, North American Mission Board), Warren Gassaway (student ministry specialist, Arkansas Baptist State Convention), and Masters.
“The student missionary plan is a comprehensive strategy for students to actively become missionaries in their most frequented mission field – their local schools,” Myers said. “They already understand the environment or the mission field, they already ‘speak the language’ of those they are ministering to, and know the risks involved in serving in that area. This resource gives them the spiritual tools they need to accomplish the task of reaching their peers for Christ. We want to get this in as many hands as possible so student ministries can utilize it for their local school campuses.”
Robinson added: “This is a similar discipleship leadership training I have used for 30 years on college campuses. It was very effective. Students found an opportunity for deeper level commitment to their church and other organizations and were ambassadors for the Gospel. This approach has even shaped many students to be full-time ministers.”
Louisiana Baptist and national student ministerial leaders have endorsed the effort.
“With more and more schools being closed off to youth leaders visiting them, the future of student ministry has to be raising up student missionaries to send onto campuses, because the schools can’t keep those students out,” Pruitt said. “The student missionary ministry is an incredible tool to help you do just that. Let’s raise up student missionaries for the glory of God.”
”Every healthy youth ministry is doing everything they can to see students come to know Christ and then to step up in their faith to share their faith with friends and family,” said Nathan Iblings, student minister at First Baptist Church, Denham Springs. “Many student ministries struggle with preparing students for evangelism as well as sending students into the real world once they graduate. The student missionary ministry provides the structure, intentionality, and accountability to accomplish these goals.
“By involving the broader body of church members, the students feel supported and loved in a way that spurs them on for further evangelism,” he continued. “It also shows the student missionaries what having a life on mission can really look like. This shows the students how they can be disciple makers no matter their situation. Schools, colleges, workplaces, communities and more will all be blessed through the strong disciples and missionaries being formed in the student missionary ministry.”
Richard Ross, senior professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, said his prayer is these student missionaries will make a difference in their schools for Christ.
“On a Sunday morning every fall, in a tiny church with only one teenager, I pray that congregation will have damp eyes as they commission that brave student to be a missionary to his or her school campus,” he said. “On a Sunday morning every fall, in a megachurch with hundreds of teenagers, I pray that congregation will have damp eyes as they commission a multitude of students to be missionaries to their multiple school campuses. For the fulfillment of the Great Commission and for lifetime kingdom impact on the young, I greatly desire to see the public commissioning of teenage student missionaries to become normative in SBC churches.”
For more information on how to participate in the student missionary program, visit studentmissionary.com or contact Masters at 225.964.0830.