Youth Ministry and the Great Commission
Jeb Egbert and I co-direct a national youth ministry development team. The mission of the team is to facilitate the growth of great commandment-great commission (GC2) healthy youth ministries to multiply young disciplemaking followers of Jesus. We advance this mission by encouraging and equipping district superintendents, district youth coordinators, Summer camp directors, pastors and youth ministry workers to lead and staff ministries to and through children, teens and college-age young adults. The primary objective in this work is to see the development of GC2 healthy youth ministries within our congregations.
A vision for a movement of youth ministry
In our work we are mindful that GC2 healthy youth ministry, like all authentic Christian ministry, originates with God and flows from the person of Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Christian ministry is thus the sovereign work of God, yet God, in his divine freedom and grace, invites us to partner with him in his disciplemaking work. As followers of Jesus, we are made disciples and equipped and commissioned to be disciplemakers.
What Jeb and I seek to do in our work as a youth ministry development team is to proclaim the vision for a catalytic movement of youth ministry in and through USA congregations. We then seek to encourage, resource, train and otherwise equip those who are committed to leading and otherwise participating in this movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
Youth ministry resources
In order to advance this work of vision casting and equipping, we provide articles in this column and will share more technical information with our pastors and other elders in Good Shepherding (our ministry journal for elders) and in e-mail newsletters that will be sent to youth workers and leaders in our congregations.
I also want to draw your attention to our regional conferences. At these conferences, various denominational leaders and guests will provide training that will be of great assistance to all our members in building great commandment-great commission healthy ministries, including youth ministries. We will provide training in disciplemaking strategy, and I will conduct a session on youth ministry for pastors and other youth ministry leaders. Again I encourage your participation.
Now back to the purpose for this column. Jeb and I have been blessed with the equipping God has provided for us in youth ministry through many years of hands-on experience as well as advanced training. Our desire is to share some of what we have learned with all of you. And so in this column we’ll discuss foundational youth ministry principles as well as offer lots of real-life examples and how-to tips and strategies for implementing effective youth ministries in your setting.
Jesus’ person, passion and mission
Regarding foundational principles, our goal is to help us all understand how youth ministry is a vital way in which we may experience and share Jesus’ person, Jesus’ passion and Jesus’ mission.
Regarding his person, authentic youth ministry is always Christ-centered: fully embracing Jesus, the Son of God and Son of man who has come for our salvation, sanctification and glorification. Youth ministry is an important way to seek Jesus, to be with Jesus and to make Jesus known to a new generation.
Regarding Jesus’ passion, authentic Christian youth ministry is motivated by Jesus’ great passion—his love for God and love for people. Jesus was (and is) perfectly obedient to the great commandment of love, which Jeb wrote about in this column last month.
As Jeb noted, that love (Christ’s love shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit) is expressed toward God by exalting Christ, by practicing prayerful dependence and by giving priority to God’s Word. The same love is expressed toward people by actively contributing to an environment of love and grace, by intentionally building redemptive relationships with others and by extending Jesus’ disciplemaking ministry into the lives of others.
As we embrace and express Jesus’ person and passion, we come to desire fuller participation in Jesus’ mission on earth in our time. We appropriately refer to that mission as the great commission—summarized in the command given by Jesus to his disciples just before his ascension (see Matthew 28:18-20).
Our participation in this mission of Jesus is far more than simply a series of tasks to achieve—it flows out of who Christ is and who we are in Christ. Because we are his disciples, we seek to make disciples. An appropriate Christian motto would be being and building disciples.
And so it is with youth ministry. We want to see young people being disciples and then being equipped to participate in building disciples. They do this with Jesus and for Jesus, motivated by Jesus’ passionate love for God and for people and assisted along the way by caring adult disciples who catch the vision and desire to participate in what God is doing among youths in our day.
This mission of building disciples is both simple and complex. It is simple in that Jesus models for us a clear and concise strategy to follow. That strategy involves inviting people to meet Jesus (seeking the lost), building up those who receive him (building believers) and then equipping believers to be workers in Jesus’ service (equipping workers).
Easy enough to understand, isn’t it? But sometimes the steps in implementation can seem a bit complex and daunting. How, for example, does one seek out lost youths and introduce them to Jesus? And how does one build up a young believer in his or her love for God and for people? And how does one equip a young believer so that he or she becomes active and skillful as a worker in Jesus’ service? And, by the way, what does it look like for a child, teen or college-age young adult to be serving with Jesus in his disciplemaking work?
I’m glad you asked. And it’s not that we have a one-size-fits-all formulaic answer. But Jeb and I have experienced and seen what God is doing in our day among young disciples of Jesus—he is giving birth to a disciplemaking movement that includes adults and youths—living and sharing the gospel together.
In future articles in this column, through web-based instruction and in our conferences, we’ll share what we’ve learned as we unpack the how-to details of seeking, building and equipping young disciples of Jesus. We’ll also talk a lot about how to lead youth-directed disciplemaking ministries. So stay tuned. Prepare your heart. Seek after the equipping you need. And please pray for Jeb and me, and most importantly for our youths.