I’ve been asked by three different people in the past two weeks what advice I have for someone who is tasked with starting a student ministry from scratch. It’s a frustrating, intimidating job. My advice is this:

Pick a school district and make it your mission field. If you don’t already have any students “built in” to your ministry, then you’ve got to go reach some. Don’t go in and beat people with your Bible, but just have lunch in the cafeteria, show up at some football games, get involved in helping with FCA or some after-school activities.

One of the best ways to get started is to schedule a meeting with the principal or administrator of the school. Sit down with him or her, and don’t do anything except tell them who you are, what you do, and ask if there is any way you can help them. They’ll be blown away that you are there to make their life easier, rather than ask to start a Bible study or activity that will create work for them in the long run.

Most importantly, spend time praying. When you’re starting from scratch and you have 100 ideas, a long to-do list, lots of planning ahead of you, and no end in sight, it’s easy to get bogged down in endless tasks that eat up all your time. Don’t forget the main thing.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NLT)

Make sure you’re asking God to let you in on the work He’s already doing in your area, not just inviting Him to join you in your plans. He will open doors for you to reach students and in turn to grow your student ministry.