The Long-Term View… Self Feeders (Revisited)

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime…”

A while back, I talked about having a A Long-Term View of Student Ministry and focus on the critical areas of ministry that will lead to long-term life change. In ten years from now, what will the faith of our students look like because of what we (and their parents) do today? So often, it’s easy to get caught up with a short-term view that focuses on todays numbers or todays immediate challenges. Here’s the problem: When we live in the short-term, we often shortcut what students really need. Rather than helping them to become self-feeders, they learn to be spoon fed by what we give them in our ministries.

At the beginning of the new year I want to revisit some specific steps I am taking to help students become self-feeders in their faith walk. If I am honest, in the past, I have been too focused on creating an engaging message that will feed my students spiritually, and fail to realize that I am not helping them learn feed themselves. Are we helping students depend so much on our weekly message, yet they spiritually starve the rest of the week? How are we helping them to grow independently from our ministries?

1) Teach Them Self-Feeding Principles: At least once a year, (January or the start of the school year are good times for our ministry), devote a whole series to personal growth. Teach on Bible study, prayer, quiet times, giving, and serving. Feel free to add to this list, but you get the idea. We just began a series called “The Journey” that uses material from , (the series is called “Lifelong Faith” under the curriculum, we just created a different series name).

2) Show Them In Our Teaching Times: In our teaching times, we must ensure that we walk through some of the steps we took to gain understanding to a passage or topic. Students need to see that they could quite easily unpack a passage and find application from it. Too often students will not read the Bible when they think only “smart” people can do it. Walk them through the background to the passage, what it meant to the biblical audience, the theological principle, and application for us today. If you have limited knowledge in how to do this, and want to do some self-study, I recommend by Duvall and Hays.

3) Have Them Lead it: In our small group times, instead of a master teacher telling them what the passage says or what they need to know, it’s important to give the ownership and discussion over to the students. Ask questions about a passage instead of making statements. Have key students lead the questions and have them prepare for the study / small group time beforehand. Support them as they lead and give them feedback afterward. This will take more work than if we do it ourselves, but the long-term results are worth it.

5) Give Resources To Continue Self Feeding: Whether it’s a monthly devotion or Bible study resource we give them to take home, it’s imperative we resource them to read God’s Word and pray at home. We use On Track Devotions and our students love them. They are cheap, but well done.

6) Have Students Share Their Experiences: Anytime we have students share their testimony, we always ask them how they are growing in their faith and what ways they are self-feeding. It’s so important that students get to hear from their peers and what is working for them.

Well, there are some ways I am trying to help my students become self-feeders. How about you? What are you doing to help your students own their faith in greater ways? What is working for you? What tips could you share?

Phil <><

  • Josh Pezold

    Great post Phil! I love the reminder to schedule in self feeding principles into our yearly sermon series. We are all forgetful people and need to be reminded to feed ourselves. I’d have to add “asking good questions”. Though that’s obvious, I think that is the most basic way to get intrinsic motivation started is getting students thinking and talking. Instead of just offering answers, helping them come to their own conclusions. This goes along with your idea of having them lead so really just adding onto what you’ve already said. Good stuff!

  • Phil Bell

    Absolutely! Good Questions are key! I tell my leaders, “when we talk, they don’t learn as much”. It’s imperative that they own the truth by digging into God’s Word and developing their own answers. It’s a socratic method that allows them to create “streams of thinking” in their brains, that leads them to ownership of their faith! Good stuff Josh!

    Phil <

  • Andy

    I know that this is a passion of yours and I love that you keep refining it. This is such an instructive post. I found myself thinking about how I lead students while reading this, and I have been leading students for well over a decade. Thanks Phil. Keep it coming.

  • Phil Bell

    Andy, thanks for the encouragement mate! Appreciate you and all you do with Les over at

  • Chris Wesley

    Great post, and great reminder. I think laying out 10 years is a great plan because sometimes we short change ourselves by only looking 1-4 years ahead. It’s a long journey.

  • Phil Bell

    Chris, Thanks mate! Indeed it’s a long journey!