As I’ve connected with hundreds of youth leaders across the country this fall at Dare 2 Share’s youth leader trainings, I’ve found many who are committed to making evangelism a higher priority in both their personal lives and their youth ministries. These leaders have hearts that seek to follow Jesus and a renewed passion has been kindled for Christ and His Cause of making disciples who make disciples.
Still, it’s typically a struggle to recalibrate a “youth ministry ship” that’s already headed full-steam ahead on a predetermined course – a course that is often characterized by an entertainment-driven, just show up, youth ministry model handed down to us by our ministry forefathers. Moving from the status quo to a more missional, evangelism-focused approach to life and ministry can be a challenge.
So I’m launching into a new energize series titled “Top Ten Questions.” Together, we’ll be exploring some of the most basic “how-to’s” when it comes refocusing our youth ministry model on Jesus’ mission of reaching the lost. So here we go…
Question #1: What’s the number one thing I should do first if I want to make evangelism a higher priority in my youth group?
I know for many of you, the answer to this question may seem simplistic. But the longer I am in ministry, the more convinced I am that it all starts with one very foundational element: PRAYER.
The only way you’ll see evangelism come alive in your ministry and yield fruit is if you PRAY! Any lasting impact from your ministry must be grounded in prayer. I know you know that, but you might be surprised by how little priority prayer gets in much of youth ministry today.
Let’s Get Real
Trust me when I say that this is not designed to be a guilt trip. It is my genuine conviction that prayer should be at the top of any youth ministry “Best Practices” list. Unfortunately, there’s just no getting away from the fact that we often shuffle prayer off to the side, into an “if I have time” category.
So I want to encourage you to answer this question truthfully: How much time do you spend in prayer for your youth ministry, students and adult leaders?
Be honest with yourself. Are you satisfied with how much time is spent in prayer? One of the creeds I live by is: “Work as if it all depends on us, and pray as if it all depends on God.” I believe most of us work hard and love what we do, but often times we leave the prayer part out. Prayer needs to be the number one priority in our ministries. We, as youth leaders, need to model this for our students and our volunteers.
Do We Really Believe in the Power of Prayer?
Most Christians spend little to no time praying each week. I think it is because they don’t see the power that prayer has to change things. But take a serious look at Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, and your prayer life should come into focus:
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Or consider this passage in 1 John 5:14-15:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.
Reflect on these passages and ask yourself:
- Do I truly believe in the power of prayer and is it evident in how I pray?
- If I knew that whatever I asked for concerning my youth ministry, according to His will, would be given, what would I ask for? Why don’t I ask for it?
- What can my adult volunteers, student leaders and I begin to do to make prayer a higher priority in our ministry?
Steps to Help You Up Your Prayer Life
So here are some concrete steps you can take to begin to make prayer a bigger priority in your ministry:
- Take an inventory of your own prayer life. How are you doing? Are you modeling the commitment to prayer that you desire to see in your “disciples” – your students and adult volunteers?
- Pray with your students and volunteers. I’m not talking about just those brief introductory or closing prayers that most of us fold into our meeting outline. I’m talking about praying with them like Jesus prayed. Model with them what prayer should look like. Show them how to make praying for their unreached friends a consistent and urgent plea before the throne of God.
- Ask them to commit with you to pray every day. If you need more structure to stay accountable, consider starting a prayer journal and invite your disciples to do the same. It can help you develop a more consistent prayer life as well as give you a way to see God’s answers to your prayers – and that’s always exciting.
Begin to put prayer as the top priority in your life and in your ministry. It is absolutely foundational to an evangelism-focused youth ministry! Like Phillip Yancey says in his book Prayer,
Keep it honest. Keep it simple. Keep it up.