Church and Ministry Articles: Youth Ministry and the Great Commission

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 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 disciples and equipped and
commissioned to be disciplemakers.

We seek to encourage, resource, train and otherwise equip
those who are committed to leading and participating in this movement of the
Holy Spirit in our midst. Our desire is to share some of what we have learned
with all of you. We’ll discuss foundational youth ministry principles as well
as offer real-life examples and how-to tips and strategies for implementing
effective youth ministries in your setting. 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.

Jesus’ person, passion and 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

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.

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. We 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 more disciples. An
appropriate Christian motto would be “being and building disciples.”

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 (nurturing 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, do we seek
out lost youths and introduce them to Jesus? And how do we build up a young
believer in his or her love for God and for people? And how do we 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. It’s not that we have a
one-size-fits-all formulaic answer. But we 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 other articles in this series, we’ll share what we’ve
learned as we unpack the how-to details of seeking, nurturing 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 us, and most importantly
for our youths.

Ted Johnston

Ted Johnston

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