How Youth Ministry Attracts Kids to Jesus

Jesus Christ appeals to every kind of person. The young, the old, the fisherman, the tax collector, the scribe, the rich, the blind beggar, Mary and Martha, and the woman caught in adultery; all heard him and were drawn to him. One reason people are drawn to Jesus is because we can relate with him.



Jesus knows what it is like to grow up. He was a baby, a boy, a teenager, and a mature adult. He worked in his father’s shop just like boys today learn from their dad or grandfather how to fix a car, work with tools, or plant a garden. Just like adolescents today have to patiently study in school, learn life skills, and wait to set sail out into the world on their own, Jesus spent many years in Nazareth as an adolescent before his official ministry was launched. We need to remember that although Jesus was fully God, he was also fully human.

Maybe this is exactly why young people are so drawn to Jesus: Because he can relate with them on a human level. Most people these days make a decision to follow Christ between the ages of about 12-20. It is well observed that after this, few people come to Christ. In those adolescent years, kids are asking what the young man asked Jesus: “Good Master, what do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”


The more I work with young people I believe that it is natural, logical, and normal for young people to be attracted to Jesus. By painting an accurate picture of the person of Christ to young people, most young people won’t be able to resist him. Instead, they will be stunned by him and will want nothing else than to let go of their fear and pride, and do what he is calling them to do: turn away from their sin and surrender to him in love and obedience.

Just as a magnet naturally moves metal, as the compass needle points to the north or south pole, it is inevitable that young will be attracted to Jesus if introduced to him accurately. A normal young person can only resist Jesus if he is misrepresented or if they are extremely dulled by the distractions of the world to the point where they are deaf to his message.

To become a follower of Jesus is not an unusual, or atypical experience. It is completely normal. It’s as natural as a flower opening up under the warm rays of the April sun, or for a bird to sing at mating time.

RELATED: 5 Trends in Youth Ministry & How to Navigate the Perfect Storm


Parents, teachers, pastors, and youth workers should expect young people to want to become loyal followers of Jesus before they reach their twenties. It should be considered a strange, abnormal, almost unexplainable, thing if a boy or girl should grow up (especially in Christian families, churches, and youth groups) and not become a follower of Christ. There is a harvest time in the spiritual realm, and that harvest time is not primarily at the end of the season (i.e. old age), when the grain is matured, or like an ear of corn fully ripe at the end of the season. The spiritual harvest time for people is not when they are ready to pass away, instead it is more toward the other end of life, when they are young. The greatest harvest time seems to be when the eager, energetic young soul is excited to ask the question, “Lord what will you have me to do?” and when she has the courage to respond to Christ’s call by saying, “Here I am Lord, send me.”

If more people began to see early conversion of young people as the normal expected outcome of youth evangelism, then churches would be giving more attention to student ministry. Yet the perspective of the average adult is that it is normal for all young people to “sow their wild oats.” Too many adults believe that the average young person is irresponsible, thoughtless, and not interested in spiritual realities. That could not be further from the truth.

I want to remind those who work with students, that when we winsomely present Jesus to young people, the natural, almost inevitable response is to be drawn to him. It is truly abnormal and unnatural for young people to reject the Savior of the world when they are given an accurate picture of him.


  1. What are some reasons why young people are especially attracted to him?
  2. Why do you think it is perfectly natural and normal for young people to follow of Jesus?
  3. How might your student ministry leadership team be motivated by constant reminders that the normal response to Jesus if given an accurate picture of him is to be attracted to him?

This post is adapted from my recent revision of Francis Clark’s book, newly titled: The Personality of Jesus: How to Introduce Young People to Jesus and Help Them Grow in their Faith.

Lessons Learned from Nepal Earthquake & How You Can Help

Leaders and decision-makers are critical in times of crisis. We have been investing in leaders in Nepal for the past 10 years and we are hoping to be able to encourage and resource them as much as we can as they prayerfully step into relief work that few are prepared to do. As of today 5,000 are reported dead and estimates are that those numbers may rise to 10,000. Relief agencies are on the ground providing food, water, shelter, and medical help. But there is also a long term need of coming alongside leaders who will have the will and the ability to follow through on projects to help rebuild people’s lives.


If you are wanting to find a way to help, I’ve listed below a few resources that may be of interest if you know people in Nepal or just want to get involved…. (read more)…

Nepal Earthquake Relief. Will You Help?

Yesterday morning a destructive earthquake shook central Nepal causing significant damage and loss of life. I am in contact with several pastors who I have known for the past 10 years and by God’s grace the people who I know directly are safe, yet some of them have probably lost friends or relatives. At the moment the families are living in tents outside because the buildings are unstable and aftershocks are still coming (and will be for months most likely). I’m staying in constant communication with those I can reach to get updates.

Nepal Earthquake 2015

The death toll from the Himalayan Earthquake is over 3,500 today and continues to rise especially as relief agencies venture out into the villages. Most of the news is coming out of Kathmandu, but the epicenter was between Kathmandu and Pokhara (where I spend most of my time there) so in the coming days the destruction to villages will become more known to us.

The pastors who I’ve been working with are uniquely positioned to reach out to many of the rural villages surrounding Pokhara. One leader has been literally hiking into villages for years and years to share the Gospel and equip churches in youth ministry in these remote areas. He travels into some of the poorest regions of Nepal where relief agencies will likely not have a significant presence in the coming days as they will set up their centers in the larger cities.


Some of the villages we will likely visit: Chapang (the poorest people group in Nepal), Tirsuli, Ghorka (90% of houses are damaged), Barpak, Shading, Lanajhung. Information is barely available yet for villages in the epicenter, so a long relief effort is anticipated.

Nepal earthquake

We have made a plan to leave in a few days to join up with our partners in Kathmandu and Pokhara to accomplish a few simple goals:

  1. ENCOURAGE: Encourage and support our partners who are leaders of leaders as they begin a very long journey to restoring lives and communities.
  2. ASSESS: Assess the situation in several cities and remote villages where our partners have the most significant relationships. We will make plans for follow up visits, short term missions projects, and immediate financial needs.
  3. AID: Offer some financial assistance for food, water, shelter, medical supplies and transportation. Transportation is something we have known is a problem for a long time, and we have decided that now is the time to try to get them a 4WD vehicle for their ministry. This will also greatly enable leaders who can assess and make decisions while visiting less reached areas of Nepal.
  4. FOLLOW UP: In the coming months we will determine how to come along side the churches and leaders we know to maximize their potential to get glory for God in the midst of this trial.


In faith, we have a goal, to raise $25,000 in the next 5 days. If you would like to contribute to this initial relief effort please follow the link below to give online. We consider your gifts a sacred trust, and it will all go directly to those who are most in need and those who can lead and facilitate the distribution of resources with the best stewardship possible. Please respond by Friday, May 1, 2015 and GIVE at:


Thank you for your support. We will report back to you as we learn more and see how God is working in the midst of this difficult trial.

The Appeal of Jesus: A Youth Ministry Book by Ashley Denton

Young people need someone who is crazy about them. – Walter Brueggemann

Personality of Jesus

The first youth ministry book ever written was Francis Clark’s, Christ and the Young People. Clark spent enormous amounts of time with kids. He studied them and discovered that there were certain things that they were drawn to in their adult leaders. His vision was to see the development of a robust youth movement that modeled the personality of Jesus. He was convinced that making his dream a reality would depend on recruiting and then training volunteer youth leaders to have the heart and skills of relational evangelism….

How the Cross Draws Secret Believers out of Hiding

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. (John 19:38-39)

Hans sharing about secret believers in Austria

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had significant influence in the Jewish community and had kept their faith a secret all the way up to the day Jesus died on the cross. But witnessing all that happened that day and the last breath of Jesus on that cross changed everything. They threw caution to the wind and asked Pilate for his body. Then single-handedly in the light of day, they prepared his body for burial. Working together and quickly to lay him to rest before sundown (the beginning of the Sabbath), these two secret believers made their love for Jesus a spectacle. Joseph’s tomb was near the hill upon which Jesus had died, so their work to lay him to rest would have been visible to all.


We need more student ministry in North America and around the world, not less. I could blog all day long hundreds of reasons why youth and ministry is increasingly vital, but in this post I want to address those passionate youth leaders out there who either want to pursue a vocation in youth work or student ministry, or those who want to be a durable volunteer in student ministry years to come. I’d like to name a real problem and offer a solution to it. The problem is trust.

youth work jobs

We live in a world where trust is eroding. And when trust erodes institutions and cultures weaken. The prosperity of any culture is dependent on how much people trust one another. And since societies can find less and less to agree upon as “normal” you see trust wearing away decade after decade. I’ve oversimplified the problem, but in my view if you want to bring transformation to your city, you need to work on building trust.

Now of course, trust first starts with whether we are trustworthy. No longer do young people trust a teacher just because they are in the “position” of teacher. Even further, just because your organization has a history of trustworthiness, this no longer acts as a filter for people to trust the individuals who work with/for that organization. And unfortunately this trend is even beginning to be imposed on the church.  This may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that trust is rebuilt one person at a time. And you are a vital stepping stone to revitalizing the foundation of “trust” in your neighborhood, city, etc.

How to Create an Environment of Authentic Missiology: Good Theology Escalates our Ability to Solve World Problems

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

missiology in NepalYouth + International = Authentic Missiology

Crossing into other cultures (and subcultures) often raises questions. This is good for our theology. Theology is simply asking questions and seeking the answers to those questions in the Bible. Engaging in relationships with people across ethnic and geographic boundaries forces us to use our energy to think authentically about theology. I find this especially true among young people internationally. They have keen insights if we take the time to ask them. Relevant local theological development begins to happen when we engage in cross cultural missions. We discover new questions and we have to go to the Bible to search for answers.

For example, if you look at the past 10-15 years of evangelism among youth in Nepal, local youthworkers would tell you that it has actually been fairly easy and fruitful so far. But the process of helping them to grow in faith is very difficult. If a parent discovers that there child has become a Christian, they can become very angry. They may even stop their child from going to church forever.

Nepalese youthworkers wrestle with what they can do about this problem.

Jesus Loved Outcasts | PALS 15 Minute Devotional: Mark 2:13-17

Jesus loved to hang out with outcasts. Here’s a PALS 15 Minute Devotional on Mark 2:13-17 that will help your small group of students notice others around them who are hurting. This devo will challenge your small group to do something obvious and counter cultural in your school to impact kids who may feel alone or unliked…

Jesus Loved Sinners - 3 Retro Gangsters

A 15 Minute Devotional Format for Busy Students – Try “PALS”

One of the highlights of my week is when I meet at a nearby cafe at 6:45 a.m., Friday mornings with my son and 8-12 of his friends who are high school juniors. All we do is drink coffee, eat cinnamon rolls, and spend 15 minutes discussing a passage of Scripture and how it might relate to their lives and their school.

Cafe open - PALS 10 Minute Devo

Students are busy these days. I wish I could change that, but just like surfing… its not very effective to fight against the wave, it usually works out better to just ride it. So I’ve started using a 10 Minute Devotional format I call “PALS.”

5 Priorities for Mentoring Chinese Church Leaders

If I had a thousand pounds China should have it- if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour? -Hudson Taylor (circa 1900)

5 mentoring needs of leaders in China

The church in China has been growing rapidly for many years. We know some things about the development student ministry in China but it is still somewhat of a mystery to the outside world. Yet one thing that China has a lot of is students. So what challenges will the Chinese church face in the coming decades as they raise up the next generation of young leaders? How will they provide the needed mentoring to grow the church and reach the millions of Chinese who do not yet know Jesus? Here are 5 current needs for mentoring among Chinese church leaders…