What Makes a Student?

This post is the second part of a series that responds to the article/editorial “Don’t Call ‘Em Students” found in Group Magazine’s September/October 2008 issue. To read the article, go here. To read the introductory post to this series, go here. For more info on Group Magazine, go here.


“A lot of teenagers are, in fact, not students. Many are school dropouts. Are they not worthy of Christian youth ministry? Do we want to systematically exclude them through our labels? Also, some teenagers are home-educated. Do they not belong in the youth group because they’re not students like their peers who attend traditional schools? Jesus is for all teenagers. Why adopt the constrictive student ministry when not all youth are students?”     ~ Christian Smith in Group Magazine

Within our ministry there are not a large number of teens who have dropped out of school. We even have a handful of home-schooled students involved (in fact, I myself was homeschooled through middle and high school). And yet we continue to use the language of Student Ministry. None of these teens has expressed (in any way) negative thoughts regarding our usage of language for our ministry. Not one as even given a hint of feeling constricted because we might be treating Public School students with more love than we are treating them. And here is why.

Thus far we have communicated effectively to adults and teenagers alike that we use student not just to set us apart from every other youth ministry in town, but because we are all called to be lifelong students of the Gospel no matter our age or station in life. And whether they like it or not, even those who may have dropped out of school are still students of something or someone. They are still learning and growing even though they are outside of the walls of the institutional education system. They are still students.

Sure, this means that we should label every ministry in our church as a student ministry, and perhaps we should. But for now, four our specific ministry to teenagers, we choose to focus in on the call to growth rather than the negative connotation that the youth label brings with it (which I will get into more in the post after this) as we challenge our teens to grow and learn on their journey.

Everyone is a student. Whether the Public School system says so or not.

Other Posts in this series: