In many ways youth ministry is like a road trip. Everything you do should drive toward a desired destination.
Determining this destination is the single most important decision you will make when it comes to how to lead, structure and advance your youth ministry.
Taking a Spiritual Snapshot of Last Year’s Senior
If you survey a cross section of youth groups, you’ll likely find a wide variety of destinations represented within and across them. But think through last spring’s crop of seniors who were under your spiritual care. Which of the following best characterizes the place each of them ended up as they graduated out of your group?
Crashed: they’ve already disconnected from Jesus
Survived: they aren’t likely to abandon their faith now that they’ve graduated
Matured: they’re committed to living and owning their faith long term
Reached Out: they’re actively spreading the good news in word and deed
Multiplied: they’re making disciples who make disciples
A Road Trip, Not a Guilt Trip
If you’re sobered by your assessment of your seniors, let me be clear: this is not designed to be a guilt trip. Our focus is on the road trip that is youth ministry. We look back to learn from the past (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and to motivate us going forward toward accomplishing ever greater things for Jesus. That’s why I’m encouraging you this week to give some thought to mapping out the right destination for your youth ministry for the coming school year.
Regardless of where your past seniors landed on the “Crashed—Multiplied” spectrum above, God has given you a new crop of freshman this fall! And I believe Jesus is calling all of us to take our students Deep & Wide—deeper in their understanding of God and wider in their commitment to share His message with others and make disciples who make disciples.
So a key question for you to consider as you look at the lay of the land and get ready to launch into a new school year is this:
“Where do I want to take as many of my teenagers as possible before they graduate from high school?
5 Key Ingredients for a GREAT Destination
Only you can decide where you want to go, but as you make that determination, I believe there are 5 critical ingredients needed for a GREAT destination. Let’s take a quick look at each.
1. God Honoring: Does it bring maximum glory to God?
Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall has this Latin phrase inscribed on it: “Ad majorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salute.” It means, “For the greater glory of God and salvation of humanity.”But forget Georgetown University, that phrase should be written on every youth leader’s heart and every youth room wall!
2. Radical: Is it considered unrealistic by some people?
How difficult are the goals that you have set for your youth ministry? Os Guinness once said, “If a goal can be achieved through human effort only, it’s probably not a God-given goal.” Pray and ask God to give you radical goals for your youth ministry. Ask Him to help you dream big.
3. Exact: Is it measurable and specific?
Charles Spurgeon said, “There is a general kind of praying which fails for lack of precision. It is as if a regiment of soldiers should all fire off their guns anywhere. Possibly somebody would be killed, but the majority of the enemy would be missed.” You get the point. You need to aim at a specific target or else how will you know if you get there? Here’s an example of what this might look like: “I want to see 25% of my senior class reach and mobilize at least three people for THE Cause of Christ by the time they graduate.”
4. Achievable: Can it be accomplished with God’s help?
While you want a radical, God-sized goal, it also needs to be achievable given the unique circumstances, resources, time and talents available to you. If your youth group currently consists of 2-3 unsaved teens who are sporadic attendees, what’s achievable may look different than a youth leader who has 100 already active, engaged students.
5. Time Targeted: Does it have a deadline?
As a youth leader, you have a built in timeline. Jesus had one too. He knew He had about 3 ½ years to get His youth group to His GREAT destination…that’s just about the amount of time you have with your incoming freshmen.
A GREAT Destination!
Take a fresh look at Matthew 28:19-20. Do you see the key ingredients needed that make for a GREAT destination?
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
This week, write out your own GREAT destination for your youth ministry. Then throughout the coming year ask the hard question each and every time you plan a meeting, activity or interaction: “How is this helping me to get there?”