Before Jesus ascended into the deep blue Judean sky he gave his final instructions to his young followers. He told them to carry out his bold vision by taking his even bolder message to the ends of the earth.
He even give them a built in strategy to do just that: start in Jerusalem (where they were at) and spread outwardly until everyone everywhere has an opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the Gospel.
The baton of fulfilling that bold vision has been passed down from one generation of believers to the next to the next. Now it is firmly in our hands...or should be anyway.
How bold is your youth ministry vision? Do you have one?
Yes, yes, I know you're vision includes your teenagers being discipled. But, if you engage them on the mission given to us by Jesus they can't help but turning into fully devoted followers of Jesus. Why? Because, unlike Bible studies and discipleship meetings, evangelism forces teenagers to put skin in the game. It allows them to risk their social equity, their street cred so to speak, for the sake of the Gospel.
So, with this as a backdrop, how do you craft a bold vision for your youth ministry?
1. Spend time praying for wisdom before you craft it.
James 1: 5 gives us one of those promises we can claim without hesitation in the planning process, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
Before you run to the whiteboard to write out your rough draft, go to the prayer closet and pray. Every powerful second spent on the front end of the planning process in prayer will yield unimaginable dividends to a bold vision that is tight and right for your youth ministry context.
2. Include all three target areas.
The disciples bold vision started where they were at (Jerusalem) and spread slowly outward (ends of the earth.) In between there was the tough part of town (Samaria). And Jesus wanted his disicples to saturate all three target areas with the Gospel.
I'll label it "across the street" (Jerusalem), "across the tracks" (Samaria), and "across the world" (ends of the earth). Each youth ministry needs a bold vision that has a local impact, a social impact and a global impact. Of course you probably already have some sort of vision for across the street but what about across the tracks?
My gritty family was reached for Jesus by a church in the suburbs that reached into the city and invested in our lives. Because their vision spilled over the boundary lines of where their mostly middle to upper middle class congregation lived, many of the teenagers who came to our youth ministry came from the tougher parts of town.
And what about global missions? Are you consistently seeking to give your teenagers a vision of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth? This is more than just doing a service project in a 3rd World country. This means that whatever we have them do (build a house, install a well, feed the poor) that they are doing what no government program could ever do...and that is to bring the message of hope to those our teenagers are serving. We need to "gospelize" our missions trips and make sure our vision for the world goes beyond meeting mere temporal needs.
Jesus gave his disciples a bold vision that entailed the local, the gritty and the globe. Our bold vision should encompass the same.
3. Clearly identify your "Jerusalem."
At Dare 2 Share we challenge youth leaders to define their own version of Jerusalem (we call it their "Cause Turf") by identifying the streets to the north, south, east and west of their church (and the schools within this area) that God has helped them see as their primary Cause Turf. This area of geography becomes their piece of the pie, their battle field and their playground. It is within these four streets that most of their local ministry outreach and disicple multiplication efforts will go.
4. Make sure it's measureable in some way.
My church recently made a goal to add 650 baptized new believers into the congregation over the next five years. I love it because it's measureable and that it focuses on the church growing with disciples being made and multiplied, not just because more believers are moving into the neighborhood or coming from another church.
It's not different in a youth ministry context. We need some way to track the right kind of progress toward our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal.)
5. Organize your entire ministry to accomplish your bold vision.
Once you identify your vision then start organizing to accomplish it. Choose and train adult leaders who are modeling what you want your teenagers to become like when it comes to outreach and disicple multiplication. Choose student leaders who don't just set up folding chairs for the youth group meeting but fill them with the friends they are seeking to reach for Jesus.
I'd love to hear your Bold Vision for your youth ministry. Put it in the comments section below and share your vision with other youth leaders!