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 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.
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.
Author: Ted Johnston