Those of us involved in reaching and discipling teenagers have inherited a box labeled "Youth Ministry." There's a lot of great stuff in the box that's been left to us by our youth ministry forefathers.
There are self-image talks in the box (along with a ton of other talks on a bunch of relevant issues.)
There's pizza in the box (and who doesn't love pizza?)
There's dodgeballs, small group curriculum, cool videos, song sheets for the latest greatest worship songs, great apps, retreat planning guides and a ton of other fun and/or necessary things.
I'm grateful for the stuff in the youth ministry box. It's made youth ministry easier.
But there are some glaring ommissions in the youth ministry box. And these ommissions have kept youth ministry from being all that God intended it to be.
Prayer, for the most part, is missing from the box. I mean true, deep intercessory prayer. Sure, many youth leaders will open or close their meetings in prayer, but, even then it feels more like throwing holy water on a meeting rather than truly calling out to God on behalf of each other and the lost.
What's interesting to me is how teenagers at our Dare 2 Share events have taken to corporate prayer. At every event thousands of teenagers spend 20-30 minutes praising God, confessing sin and interceding for the lost. It's a powerful sight to behold and a beautiful sound to hear. And it is more engaging than any video we could show or game we could have them play.
Teenagers are longing for more. They are longing to experience God. They are longing for truth. They are longing to talk to their Daddy together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Put prayer in your youth ministry box by, well, praying. Pray in your small groups, leadership meetings and small groups. Create enough space in your meetings to truly talk to God and bring your collective requests before him, especially the requests that have to do with the unreached who need to be reached (1 Timothy 4:1-8.)
But it's not just prayer that is often missing from the youth ministry box, the Gospel is missing too. Of course you most likely talk a lot about Jesus but do you talk about the cross when you speak of Christ? The two subjects are eternally intertwined. In heaven we will see him as Lamb who has been slain (Revelation 5:6) and look on the One whom we have pierced by our sins (Zechariah 12:10.) His scars will be an eternal reminder to us that Jesus and what happened to him on the cross are forever united. So to preach on Jesus and not preach the cross is a disservice to Christ as well as to the Gospel. As Spurgeon once said, "To tell about Jesus without the cross is to betray him with a kiss."
Give the Gospel in every meeting in some way. Don't let one non-Christian leave your youth room without having an opportunity to hear, understand and respond to it's good news. Don't let one Christian leave your group without being reminded that there is power in the blood of Christ, not just to save us from eternal damnation, but to enable us to live the abundant life right now!
A big part of this Gospel focus is equipping your teenagers to share the Gospel on their own. Train them to bring the Gospel up and lay the Gospel out to their peers. Coach them to have Gospel conversations and not just make evangelistic presentations. If you need a curriculum to help your teenagers get there be sure to check out Shine. There's no other curriculum like it that combines real teenagers getting equipped to share their faith in the wilds of Colorado while participating in some exciting and somewhat dangerous mountain activities.
But regardless of what curriculum or tools you use to equip your teens to share their faith make sure this a in-the-box priority.
And, yes, there are other things that aren't typically in the average youth ministry box that need to be. These can range from a disciple-multiplication strategy to Biblical measureables to a highly functioning leadership team and more. But if you start by adding intercessory prayer and a relentless focus on the Gospel to your youth ministry box that would be a great start!
For a deeper analysis of what may be missing in your youth ministry box take some time and fill out the Gospel Advancing diagnostic and you'll have a report sent back to you within minutes! It will rate you green (for good), yellow (for so-so) and red (for need some work) on each of the 7 in-the-box essentials. For more help feel free to connect with us at Dare 2 Share and we'll do our best to help you get your box filled with the right stuff. Or, better yet, connect with one of our 26 Certified Trainers who can help coach you through this process.
Of course, as you start putting the right stuff in the box, there will probably be a few things you have to take out of it to create space. So ask God for wisdom as you seek to unpack and then re-pack your youth ministry box with the priorities and resources that will enable you to be truly effective.
There's so much more that can be written on this and, perhaps down the road I will. In the meantime let me ask you the question...What else tends to be missing from the average youth ministry box?