There is a new phrase rattling around the youth ministry world; it is new but it represents an age-old principle that has its roots in the beginnings of the church. This new phrase is SLAMM, which stands for Student Led Adult Mentored Ministry. It is being championed by groups such as Youthmark, Youth Missions International, Christian Endeavor International, and others! Frankly, it is a simple way of saying that adults mentoring and equipping students in ministry is a philosophy that works to produce students who are disciples that take an active part in the kingdom work of creating more disciples!
To some it may appear that SLAMM is a threat to their way of doing youth ministry or even a direct attack on the current “youth ministry structure or machine.” To others SLAMM may seem like a fad that shall soon pass like so many in the past. However, to many of us, SLAMM represents a shift back to a philosophy of ministry modeled by the people of Israel in Old Testament times and our early church fathers after our Lord’s redemptive work was completed on earth. A great thing about SLAMM is that it doesn’t necessarily mean youth leaders have to completely change their ministry! In fact, in many if not most cases, SLAMM will merely enhance what is already being done, give it clearer direction and build on clear success already evident in so many youth ministries around the world.
As a community we need to stop fearing SLAMM as we prayerfully consider its implications for our ministries. There are many reasons why this new, yet old, philosophy of ministry will strengthen already existing youth ministries. Here are two of them for us to consider:
- SLAMM is about discipleship! Certainly the majority of youth ministers take discipleship seriously, but what SLAMM does is refocus our energy on this all-important command. A casual look at the five Great Commission passages found in the gospels and acts clearly teaches us one thing: We are sent by the creator of the universe to be disciples who create disciples. At its core, SLAMM promotes the solid biblical concept of older, wiser believers mentoring younger, new believers in a discipleship relationship. It creates an atmosphere where young people can “devote themselves to the apostles teaching” (Acts 2:42a) while actively serving the cause of Christ. Imagine the potential impact on your ministry if each week students have caring adults investing in them as co-heirs in Christ. Corporate & individual prayer increases, evangelism increases, service increases, worship increases and best of all, the kingdom advances!
- SLAMM changes our leadership structure, not necessarily our program! There is certainly a need to re-evaluate the youth ministry trend of relying on programs in our ministries, but the good news is that effective program does not have to be sacrificed in a SLAMM ministry. In fact, it will become more effective because SLAMM promotes actual tangible leadership by students. Students assume the roles of planners, coordinators, under shepherds and every other day-to-day leadership role. With the aid and guidance of the adult mentor team to whom they are accountable, they set the vision, strategy and plan every aspect of the ministry. Sunday or Wednesday night can still be “youth night,” but the difference is the students create their vision and decide how to best fulfill it instead of adults creating a template and inserting “leaders” into roles. This creates ministry ownership by students that, when properly supported by adults, will simply revolutionize any ministry or program willing to take the risk involved.
Certainly transitioning to SLAMM must be done with prayer, much planning and with the support of church or ministry leadership, BUT it is certainly worth the effort. When done well, SLAMM will lead to more adult involvement in our ministries, increased spiritual growth in our students and the advancement of the cause of Christ! Don’t fear SLAMM or see its proponents as the enemy because I can assure you they see you as friends and co-laborers for the cause of Christ. Without caring adults like you pouring into student’s lives, SLAMM wont work!