Change is difficult. Especially when you’ve done something a certain way for years, if not decades. But what if you could make just one tweak in how you minister to teenagers that would significantly impact their faith journey and yours? Would you be in? Well, I’m glad you’re reading this right now, because I want to share with you how one, single change radically transformed my faith and my ministry.
Ever begin a New Year’s resolution only to make it like a week before you fall back into old habits? I sure have! Maybe you’re way better at making changes than I am, because I need in-your-face military boot camp if I’m going to stick with my fitness routines!
It all starts with commitment.
Commit to Being Honest with Yourself
I was doing all the “right things” in our ministry, but I didn’t see students actively sharing their faith and owning the Great Commission personally. Then it dawned on me one day as I was boarding a plane after a conference:
I need to commit. I can’t ask students to share their faith with others if I’m not doing it myself.
Ouch! How much do we hold our students back because we don’t want to do it ourselves? If an adult won’t talk to people about Jesus, then why would a teenager?
Be honest with yourself. When is the last time you shared the Gospel with someone not at youth group? When is the last time you asked a stranger how you could best pray for them? When is the last time you went out of your way to show kindness to someone you didn’t even know?
In that moment I was boarding the plane, I decided I would personally commit to being a Gospel Advancing follower of Jesus and not take for granted the lost and hurting people around me. I would pray for people, I would take opportunities to care for them, and I would start sharing the Gospel directly with them.
So, I did. Right there on the plane, with the person seated next to me. For the next two hours we conversed back and forth about the Gospel. Even though he didn’t make a faith decision in that moment, he did allow me to pray for him when the plane landed. Since then, I’ve been so excited to talk with people about my faith. It’s given me so much courage and boldness, as people have been completely open in talking with me.
Now, it doesn’t always go swimmingly, and there are those who want to check out of the conversation the moment it turns to spiritual things. But here’s a little secret: They’re not rejecting me—they’re rejecting God. It isn’t anything personal. They’re just not ready. I now take my students with me during events and outreaches where we share our faith in public, and I’m the one to lead the way. Many of my students are amazed by how receptive people are, and they become more confident when their leader breaks the ice for them. They’re now “owning” their faith and experiencing for themselves the power of the Holy Spirit.
Commit to Finding Help
Even after I’d committed to sharing the Gospel personally, I needed a coach or a mentor to guide me in helping my students do the same. I needed someone to disciple me on how to make structural changes within the youth group, as well as to encourage me and keep me accountable.
You don’t have to go it alone. There are plenty of Gospel Advancing brothers and sisters already on this journey. (For starters, join this Facebook community of like-minded Gospel Advancing leaders.) It’s incredibly beneficial to be part of a Gospel Advancing network—a group of people to bounce ideas off of and do outreach activities with. This will build excitement in your group regarding the Gospel Advancing changes you’re implementing.
If there isn’t a network around you, ask one person close to you to go on this journey with you and keep you accountable. Just as with New Year’s resolutions, you’re more likely to stick to your changes if someone’s counting on you.
After all, creating a Gospel Advancing ministry isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. You may run into pushback from a volunteer or parent or church staff member who doesn’t think students should be sharing their faith with others. You’ll need support to navigate these difficult conversations and cast the vision. Don’t allow the negative opinions of a few to shape your mission and God’s commission.
Also, if you’re really brave, bring your youth group into the process early in the journey and let them know they can call you out if you’re not personally sharing your stories of how you’ve been praying for people and sharing your faith with others.
Commit to Setting Goals
As author Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” It starts with your personal Cause Circle. Who are you praying for to come to Christ? Do you know any non-Christians around you? Start there! Find out who serves your coffee at Starbucks or your lunch at the deli every day. Pray for them, and create opportunities to share the Gospel with them.
Then, share those personal stories of triumph or failure with your team and students. Let them know you’re owning your faith and you expect them to do the same. Share the vision of becoming a Gospel Advancing ministry, and tell them how you’re taking the first steps. Celebrate the failures as well as the wins, so your team and students can see that it will not all be home runs for Jesus. Rather, it’s a journey—one you’re fully committed to.
Commit to Starting Now!
There’s no better time than now to start on your Gospel Advancing journey. Most of the largest influencers on the web will agree that the hardest hurdle for their success was putting off their start date. I think Jesus makes it very clear for us: There’s no better time than now!
There will be setbacks, times where you’ll go back to the drawing board to revise your plans. But if you’re fully committed to leading a Gospel Advancing ministry—if you’re honest with yourself, you get help, and you set goals—then you will persevere. If God has brought you here, He will see you through this.
Let me remind you of Paul’s declaration in 2 Timothy 4:7:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
May your commitment be as fierce as Paul’s, and may you finish your race strong. Welcome to the Gospel Advancing journey!