Our Cause as believers in Jesus is to share his Good News with those we encounter and to make disciples of those who respond (Matthew 28:18-20.) Some call it “The Great Commission.” I call it “The Cause.” There are a ton of good causes out there that we, as believers, can and should be a part of. But there is one overarching, great Cause that every believer is called to as their primary mission in life. It is the call to reach the lost, disciple those who respond, and train them to do the same.
Events are part of youth ministry. Your Wednesday night or Sunday night (or whenever weekly meeting) is an event. The retreats you do, camps you coordinate and conferences/concerts you take your teenagers to are events.
And there's nothing necessarily wrong with events. But, if these events aren't triggering movement toward spiritual growth in the hearts of our teenagers then we may need to do some re-thinking, re-imagining and re-tooling.
Here are a few questions to consider when leading/doing/attending events with and for your teenagers:
1). Will this event inspire my teens to serve Jesus more passionately?
I have a youth pastor friend named Mr. Bill who has a simple grid for any and every youth group event: "Will this help my teenagers know Jesus and make him known?" If not, then it's off his grid and off the youth group calendar.
Don't get me wrong. Mr. Bill and his youth group have fun, play games, do events and reek all sorts of typical-youth-ministry havoc. But, behind it all, there is a deeper purpose. And he drives everything about the event toward his teens knowing Jesus more deeply and making him known more widely.
He calls the unbelievers to believe and challenges the believers to fall in love with Jesus and tell others about him. It's woven into the fabric of each one of his events.
It's called Life Series. These powerful, short and amazingly well done videos are specifically designed to help new believers to grow in their new LIFE in Christ.
Jesus was a youth leader. When Peter, Jesus and the rest of the disicples went into Capernaum only Peter and Jesus paid the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27). If you cross-reference this passage with Exodus 30:14 it becomes clear that the temple tax was only for those 20 years old and older.
If I'm reading these passages correctly, Jesus was a youth leader, with only one adult sponsor (and one really rotten kid named Judas.)
But within the span of 3 1/2 years (about the time a typical teenager is in high school minus summer vacations) he turned those teenagers into teen leaders. After the ascension here's how the big dawg religious leaders of the day viewed them, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13.
These teen leaders went on .to take the Gospel to the ends of the world. Some even went on to write books that would be included in the canon of Scripture and be used of God to build the church on a firm theological foundation.
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.
High school graduation is upon us and, if statistics ring true, then a majority of teenagers who currently claim to be Christians will abandon their faith sometime after the tassel is turned. Some will turn on it and become atheists. Others will put it in a drawer for a later time down the road. Some will have it eroded by hedonism or the Philosophy 101 professor of their secular university.
But it doesn't have to be this way. I'm convinced that graduating seniors can, not only keep their faith after high school, but learn to advance it effectively.
So how can you help get graduating seniors keep (and advance) the faith in those tricky college years? Here are 4 ways:
"Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” Joshua 3:12,13
Getting on Team Jesus is simple. We put our faith in him and we are on the team!
Jesus put it this way in John 6:28,29, "Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” John 6:28-29.
Salvation is a matter of trusting, not trying, believing, not achieving, and relying, not resolving. When we trust in Jesus, based on his finished work on the cross, we are signed up on his team...never to be kicked off by the Coach.
Yes, getting on Team Jesus is easy. But being a starter on his team takes 100% commitment. And, sadly, not every Christian is willing to pay that high price. And, if we're honest, there are times even the most committed of us have fallen grossly short of starting team requirements.
From Jonathan Edwards, 18th Century American Pastor and Revivalist,
"Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.
Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.