The powerful principle that underlies the foundations of youth ministry is that the Holy Spirit makes disciples of Jesus. Our job is to cooperate (co-minister) with him. One of the most important ways we do so is by providing a healthy environment for the Spirit to do his disciplemaking work. In this series, we’ve described six essential characteristics (foundations) of disciplemaking environments:
- An atmosphere of love (where we reflect God’s love to all participants)
- The adoration of Christ (where Jesus is clearly presented and worshiped)
- Prayerful dependence (where participants are being connected to and formed by the Spirit through the spiritual disciplines)
- Communication of the Word (where the gospel is clearly and persistently proclaimed through the teaching of Scripture)
- A biblical group image (with a clear sense of disciplemaking purpose leading to a community of hope and expectancy)
- Commitment to contact (where participants are heeding the Spirit’s call to reach out to one another and to non-believers)
Just do it!
Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Good stuff, Jeb and Ted!” But let me ask, what will you do about it? May I encourage you to go and live it? “But how?” you may reply. (Glad you asked.) The key is to seek God’s help to be passionate, intentional and persistent.
Let me share with you an important tip: conduct regular ministry team meetings that emphasize these foundations of disciplemaking. Meetings easily get bogged down in the stuff of ministry: who will pick up the kids for the outing, who will bring food, who will provide worship music and teach the lesson (and this is important!). But your meetings should also provide time for what is even more important: developing a disciplemaking ministry team. Here is a suggested format:
Worship. Begin by practicing the adoration of Christ, prayerful dependence and communication of the Word through a time of group worship. Our ministry is useless (or worse) unless we are connected to God. In worship through song, prayer and Scripture, we are building the ministry team’s foundations.
Examine the foundations. Evaluate the foundations of your ministry. You might address one of the six foundations at each meeting. For example, at one meeting the team leader might ask, “How are we doing in maintaining an atmosphere of love in our ministry to children?” Then each team member could report and participate in a general discussion concerning this foundation. As you do this, you’ll be focusing together on what really counts.
Look for strategic balance. Continue the self-evaluation by discussing how the ministry is doing in achieving a balanced disciplemaking strategy (see earlier articles in this series). The disciplemaking strategy has four essential and interrelated parts: 1) seeking the lost, 2) nurturing believers, 3) equipping workers and 4) multiplying leaders. In your team meetings, ask how you’re doing in growing toward a balance of all four.
It’s common to put all the ministry eggs into one basket—usually the basket involving the nurturing of believers. But that won’t do if you’re seeking balance. So ask what the team is doing o reach out to unchurched kids (to seek the lost), and to recruit and provide training for the youth ministry workers (equip workers) and to recruit and train youth ministry leaders (multiply leaders). By regularly (and persistently) emphasizing strategic balance, you’ll reap positive change as more and more of your team members catch the vision for being a balanced disciplemaking youth ministry.
Make assignments. Eventually you have to get to the work tasks that are vital to conducting the business of the ministry. But beware of getting bogged down in what is urgent rather than focusing on what is essential. Make plans and assign work tasks that strengthen the foundations and promote strategic balance.
Here’s an example of what this means: you have to do more than talk about bringing lost kids to Christ—you have to assign programs and people to do something about it. So set goals and make work assignments that relate directly to the foundations and to the four aspects of the strategy. As you do, you’ll see more and more disciplemaking ministry occurring.
And have fun!
A final word of both caution and encouragement: Don’t get so serious about disciplemaking that you wring the joy out of it. Being a disciplemaking youth ministry leader or worker is about being with Jesus as he, through the Spirit, lives out his passionate love for young people. He reaches out to them with love and joy. It’s a blast to hang out with Jesus as he ministers to kids. So be with him; serve with him—and have fun while you’re at it!
Yes, it’s often hard work with many difficult obstacles. Sometimes it’s discouraging and distressing. What teen ministry worker has not shed many tears over a teen member gone astray? What children’s ministry worker has not been frustrated by lack of parental support? We experience sorrow and frustration in the journey with Jesus—but also great joy.
Thank you so much for your generous and sacrificial ministry to, with and through our young people. Jeb Egbert and I deeply admire, respect and love you, and we hope this series of articles on the ministry foundations has helped equip you for your ministry.
Author: Ted Johnston