Seminary Hill Press, the publishing arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, released today A New Vision for SBC Student Ministry, by Richard Ross, professor of student ministry and J.M. Price Chair of Religious Education in the Jack D. Terry School of Educational Ministries. The book’s release coincides with Ross’ preaching the last chapel sermon of the 2021 fall semester.
“With minor adjustments, the church has been ministering with teenagers about the same way for seventy years,” Ross explained about why the book is needed. “That model is not working. We introduce fewer teenagers to Jesus each year. Even among the teenagers who attend, only ten percent meet the most basic criteria for a disciple. Half the youth group walks away from the church after high school. Another forty percent attend church occasionally but make no difference for the Kingdom. Missing the constant infusion of young adults who love Jesus and pursue the Great Commission, seventy-five percent of evangelical churches are plateaued or declining.”
Ross, who has served as a professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary since 2000, said the decline in numbers has little to “do with ineffective student pastors, weak student ministry programming, or cold pizzas,” but rather the “critical issues are more church wide and systemic.”
A New Vision for SBC Student Ministry, which is targeted to senior pastors, student pastors, and other leaders who are concerned about the future of the church, offers sixteen changes in student ministries which aid in reaching, discipling, and sending teenagers, as well as how to design a student ministry. Included are suggestions for how to implement the sixteen changes and appendixes to provide support for student ministries from SBC entities, including curriculum offered through Lifeway, and theological education for further equipping in the area of student ministry.
The 2021 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville adopted Vision 2025, which includes six strategic actions Southern Baptists are committed to accomplishing by 2025. The fourth strategic action focuses on reaching, baptizing, and discipling people under the age of 18 in order to change the ongoing decline in these three areas.
Calling the inclusion of one of the priorities focusing on next generation “historic,” Ross, Shane Pruitt, national next generations director at the North American Mission Board, George Siler, student leaders manager at the International Mission Board, and Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources, met together “to work out implementation” because the Vision 2025 statement “said we will turn around ministry with the young, but it did not say how,” Ross explained.
Ross wrote the book with input from over 40 denominational youth ministry workers from across the Southern Baptist Convention. He said the group spent an hour in prayer and “many more hours hammering out all the ministry recommendations that make up the heart of the new book.”
Ross’ desired outcome for the book is three-fold. He hopes to see an increase in the numbers of teenagers who are baptized, teenagers who are faithful, lifetime followers of Jesus who can take the Gospel to “Wall Street, Washington, D.C., Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Main Street to become salt and light that changes the culture,” and teenagers who go to the last unreached people groups with the Gospel.
“With all my heart I believe we can see a new day in the church’s ministry with teenagers by 2025,” Ross said. “If tens of thousands of churches prayerfully make many of the sixteen changes detailed in the new book, I am certain we will see visible changes in evangelism, discipleship, and missions mobilization.”
Ross was an older teenager when the late 1960s and early 1970s Jesus Movement swept through his generation.
“Like Simeon waiting in the temple, I pray I get to see another generation rising up to adore and follow their King,” Ross said.
A New Vision for SBC Student Ministry can be purchased on the Seminary Hill Press website here. Bulk orders of 24 copies or more receive a 50 percent discount.