Youth leaders face a ton of pressure. Unrealistic parental expectations, teen apathy, stressed marriages, low pay, overpacked schedules and under-appreciated efforts are all contributors to youth leader burnout. According to The State of Youth Ministry Report commissioned by Youth Specialties, the average youth leader stays in their position for 3 years.
"When Sanballat heard that we were building the wall of Jerusalem, he was very angry and upset. He started making fun of the Jews. Sanballat talked with his friends and the army at Samaria and said, 'What are these weak Jews doing? Do they think we will leave them alone? Do they think they will offer sacrifices? Maybe they think they can finish building in only one day. They cannot bring stones back to life from these piles of trash and dirt. These are just piles of ashes and dirt!'” Nehemiah 4:1,2
When Nehemiah began to rebuild the broken down walls around Jerusalem a few naysaysers began to say "nay!" They yelled "nay!" to Nehemiah's vision of restoring Jerusalem to it's former glory, "nay!" to bringing the scattered Jews back to Jerusalem and "nay!" to helping this city on a hill shine the glory of God to the nations like it once did.
I went to a Christian school. My kids go to a Christian school. I'm not anti-Christian school (or home school or public school for that matter.) But I am convinced that Christian schools have a dilemma. The leadership of these schools must decide if they are they going to produce legalists, hedonists or activists.
Over the last 25+ years I have had the privilege of ministering to over a million teenagers and equip tens of thousands of youth leaders to to build Gospel Advancing, disciple-multiplying youth ministries. During this time I have written twenty books either to teenagers or about teenagers. Some would even consider me an "expert" on reaching and discipling the next generation.
And then something strange happened...I had kids. And, now, those kids are teenagers. There's nothing like raising two teenagers to help you know what works and what doesn't when it comes to discipleship.
As a father of a 13 year old girl and a 17 year old young man I have had a mini-awakening about what it actually takes to disciple teenagers. Suffice it to say, I may have to rewrite a few chapters in a handful of my books. Raising and discipling two teens is a trying and exciting experience that my wife and I are continuing to learn from every single day.
For decades, down deep in my spiritual subconscious, I think I had a "bowling" philosophy of discipling teenagers. I thought that, if I rolled the truth ball straight down the lane of their lives, there was a good chance of getting a discipleship strike in the hearts of my kids.
After all, that's where most of the arrows are pointed on the youth ministry lane. Read that book, follow that program, grow them "God's way" and there's a good chance of bowling a solid game with your teenagers.
And my wife and I have tried to do that with our kids. We've gone through great programs and great books with great insights. We've used discipleship curriculum and our very own Dare 2 Share evangelism training tools with our kids. We've had prayer walks, long talks, late nights and, yes, verbal fights. Along the way we hit some strikes, a few spares and plenty of parental gutter balls.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto, leader of the Japanese forces, was asked about how he felt. His answer was stark, “I am fearful that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve.”
This article was written by Greg Stier and Randy Davis, a partner from the National Network of Youth Ministries (NNYM).
Legend has it that when the Greeks defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, a warrior named Philippides ran the extremely long distance back to Athens, burst into the assembly and proclaimed “We have won!” just before collapsing and dying. This story has inspired countless runners to run and keep on running (and hopefully not die) in marathons around the world.
When it comes to sharing the Gospel we have a motivation problem. Some Christians excuse their apathy by saying things like, "Well, that's the pastor's job" or "Evangelism is not my spiritual gift." Others think to themselves, "God is in charge of that stuff anyway. I can't save anyone."
"Day after day, in the temple courtsand from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah." Acts 5:42
Just two days ago I got back from a short but powerful trip to South Africa. It was a game-changing, perspective-altering, kingdom-impacting experience. Dr. Mark Andreson, our Global Director of Outreach at Dare 2 Share and myself went there to observe an evangelism training event put on by our partner-in-crime Don Olding, who leads Go-Live-Dare in South Africa.
For years I avoided having the tough LGTBQ conversation because it seemed a bit out of my zone. My focus as the leader of Dare 2 Share is mobilizing teenagers to share the Gospel in a loving, clear and effective way to everyone...gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgender, anyone and everyone. But I've come to realize that this subject is too big and too important to avoid any longer.