Are you creating total sensory gospel experiences in your youth group? Can teenagers see, feel, taste and, of course, hear the gospel when they attend your weekly meetings? Teens should sense the power of the gospel on at least four levels in your youth ministry...
1) The Sight of Excellenceâ€¦â€œDo students see the gospel in your commitment to excellence?â€
If you are a servant of God then you should be a slave to excellence. We worship a God who is committed to excellence on every level. The creative process of the universe demonstrated this clearly, â€œGod saw all that he had made, and it was very good.â€ Genesis 1:31
When it comes to the quality of your worship, teaching, organization, games and lessons is it good, very good or lame? And please don't run to the "I don't have any budget" excuse. What you lack in finances make up for in prayer, creativity and hard work. If your youth group is not growing it may be because the quality falls short. Teenagers know when you are working hard to pull off a youth group experience that is as high quality as you can possibly make it (especially if you have little-to-no budget)...and they pay you back by attending week after week and inviting their friends.
2) The Feel of Acceptanceâ€¦ â€œDo visiting students feel the gospel in the absolute acceptance demonstrated by your youth group?â€
Think about how the visitors to the early church must have felt! Here's how Luke describes the atmosphere in the 1st Century church services in Jerusalem,â€œAll the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify.â€
Is your youth ministry friendly? Are your teenagers "one in heart and mind"....or does your youth room feel like a sancified version of the cool kids over here and loser kids over there high school cafeteria caste system? Are visiting teenagers welcomed with opening arms or kept at arms length?
Train your teens to envelop newcomers, introduce them to others and sit next to them. Consider training a greeting team that makes visitors feel like they are loved and accepted, because they are being.
3) The Taste of Worshipâ€¦. â€œAre visiting students tasting the power of the gospel in your worship?â€
In the words of Ben Pasley in Group Magazine, â€œPre-Christians need non-intrusive opportunities to get close to us and watch how we relate to God. This is the perfect portal into discovering Christianity.â€
The Apostle Paul shares the power of this kind of youth ministry climate in 1 Corinthians 14:24,25, "But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!'â€
When God's Word is going forth, praise songs are going up and testimonies of God's power are going out there is often a deep conviction of sin in the hearts of those who are in our midst. It is important to allow teeangers the opportunity to share stories of God's power in their lives. These proclamations can pierce the hearts of the unregenerate and flip the switch from off to on through the power of the Holy Spirit.
4) The Sound of Truthâ€¦ â€œAre visiting students hearing Godâ€™s Word and the gospel message in a culturally relevant and uncompromising way?â€
Barna wrote these words in Third Millenium Teens, â€œIt turns out that relationships bring the kids to the place, but they will not return unless the church delivers the goods. What are they looking for? Substanceâ€¦ solid teaching."
Too many times too many youth leaders regurgitate pre-digested outlines that have not been thought through, fought through, prayed over and exegeted. As a result teenagers often get spiritual junk food in youth group rather than the stuff that will help them press on to spiritual maturity(Hebrews 5:12-14.) Yes, it should be communicated in an interactive and practical way (like Jesus did in the gospels) but, no, it shouldn't be like a light beer...great taste but less filling.
Let's help teenagers experience the power of the gospel and the presence of God in real and visceral ways. When we do we will see students who are transformed by the good news of Jesus on every level.
Applying these principles in your youth group will enable your teenagers to "taste and see that the Lord is good" by enabling them to see the gospel in action on every level. The result will be teenagers hearing the gospel and knowing that it has the power to change lives because they've seen, heard, tasted and felt the difference it has made in your youth group.