As the Minister to Students and Their Families, I am always looking for ways to encourage, support, and challenge those serving God and our students. I believe that there are certain foundational attributes that are interconnected and serve as the building blocks of a strong, holistic student ministry. Over the next few months, I’d like to highlight these attributes. At Providence Student Ministries, we are: Authentic, Formative, Mission-based, Relational, Safe, and Sustainable. So, let’s look at these attributes individually and see why we want to claim them.

What makes a Student Ministry Authentic? We follow Jesus—the most authentic person who ever lived.Because of that, our student ministry will be marked also by authenticity. People were drawn to Jesus’ genuine love and acceptance. His greatest criticism was reserved for hypocrites, those who said one thing and did another. Neither they nor their faith was trustworthy. Just as Jesus’ actions were true to His words, we too must be reliable. We must mirror the message we find in the life of Jesus. Authenticity ensures that our verbal and non-verbal communication is consistent. We should strive to communicate in word and deed the unconditional love of Jesus. We should foster an atmosphere of genuine relationships, providing a space for students to experience unconditional acceptance from both leaders and peers.

Authenticity demands that we love every student—when it is easy and when it is not. Consistent love like that modeled by Jesus will result in healthy relationships. Authenticity will also encourage relationships with students that define the role of student minister as leader as well as companion in the journey of faith. A healthy and authentic student minister should model relationships to students, parents, and other church members at all times. Living authentic lives with students creates a tension for all student ministers to pay attention to the thin line between authenticity and transparency—over sharing and blurring the line between friend and leader. Ultimately, authentic relationships will direct people toward an authentic faith in Jesus.

Jesus’ call is radical indeed. The authentic life of faith finds itself quite often at odds with what is commonly held to be acceptable. The life of Christian faith is always true to oneself when it is true to Christ. The more Christ-like we become, the more whole (complete) we are. When we model this desire for true maturity, we make way for the genuine relationships we seek to develop among all those involved in our ministry.

As we seek to serve God in a community of trust, authentic relationships are crucial. In fact, they are vital to effective ministry.