Distractions, distractions, distractions. In a fast-paced youth ministry world full of teen drama, trying parents, texts and Tweets, distractions often rule. It’s sometimes easy to forget the central tenet of what Jesus has called you to do: make disciples who make disciples.
Even the latest hot topic or ministry trend can waylay us like a butterfly distracts a kid. So to avoid wandering around directionless like the Israelites in the desert, let’s explore this continual challenge all of us face by looking at the last questions in our “Top Ten Questions” series.
Question #10: There are so many distractions in youth ministry, how do I stay focused on the main goal?
If you’ve been in youth ministry any length of time at all, you’ve already discovered that just because you cram your schedule with ministry stuff week in and week out, it doesn’t mean you’re truly making disciples. Staying focused requires a continual commitment to evaluating every interaction, activity and teaching in light of your commitment to make disciples. Everything you do in ministry – game nights, lock-ins, camps, conferences, curriculum, outreach – should all be subservient to that overriding goal.
As you disciple teenagers, you are being used by God to help them become passionate about knowing God and making Him known. You’re motivating and equipping them to multiply and reproduce the transformation they’re experiencing in others in real time. Not someday down the road, by and by, but NOW.
Evangelism Focused Youth Ministry
One of the primary ways you can motivate your students is by helping them develop a Biblical understanding of their calling as Jesus’ followers, which is also to make disciples who make disciples. It’s your job, but it’s their job, too! They are co-labors in the harvest field with you right now!
I passionately believe that the missing trigger in the “typical” discipleship model is evangelism. Outreach turns passive observers into active participants. An evangelism focused youth ministry approach gives your students a thirst to better understand and actively apply the Biblical truths they need to know to explain their faith to their friends. Reaching out with Jesus’ message of hope pushes them to dig deeper into the theology of salvation, the Trinity, God’s Word, prayer, evangelism, good and evil, obedience and fellowship, to name a few. And a solid understanding of these core truths give your teens a God-grid to run their daily challenges through, whether the practical application comes in the area of self-image, relationships, sharing their faith, sexuality, substance abuse or whatever.
Paul’s Ministry Model
Making disciples who make disciples takes time and effort. It’s an exciting and demanding ministry model that doesn’t typically fit the standard 9-5 work mode. Consider Paul’s description of it in 1 Thessalonians 2:8-12:
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
When you open your life up to your students, they get a real glimpse of what this being and making disciples process actually looks like.
So consider the following self-reflection questions as you revisit your focus and double check to see if it’s on the main thing:
- How willing are you to share your life with your teens in order to make disciples?
- How available are you to share your life with your teens?
- In your heart of hearts, do you expect making disciples will be full of “toil and hardship”? Or are you expecting it to be fun and games?
- Paul describes his relationship with his disciples as how “a father deals with his own children.” What are the implications for this viewpoint in your relationships with the teens in your youth group? Is it more appropriate to see yourself as a coach or a buddy?
- Are you modeling evangelism for your teens by sharing your faith with others?
Disciple making is what Jesus focused on, so we should too! And we all know “the rest of the story” from the book of Acts.
Write the word FOCUS on a piece of paper this week and post it where you’ll see it often. Let it remind you to be all about making disciples who make disciples. Let’s labor alongside our teens in the fields that are ripe for harvest and equip this generation to rock their world for Jesus!