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.
YOUTH MINISTRY HELPS KIDS RELATE TO JESUS
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.
Young people need someone who is crazy about them. – Walter Brueggemann
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….
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.
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.
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
Youth + 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 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…
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.
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.”
Leadership qualities like being humble, hopeful and vocal leave a lasting impact. Before you read any further, take one minute and think about 3-5 memories from your life that deeply shaped you to be who you are today. What were they? When did they happen?
This probably won’t surprise you, but recent adolescent research affirms:
Nearly everyone recalls adolescence more powerfully than any other stage of life (Age of Opportunity by Laurence Steinberg).
Why is that true about adolescence (ages 13-25 or so)? One of the reasons people have so many shaping memories from adolescence is that the brain’s last period of heightened malleability is during adolescence (Steinberg, 10). Because this is the last window of opportunity for the brain to be so radically shaped, we tend to remember things that we experienced from that stage of life. Here’s how you can make sure to leave a lasting impact in the lives of the students you are investing in…
As a youthworker or parent, to give hope and solace to teenagers, we need to tell them how to find peace. The world has questions. The Bible has answers. Students, ages 13-25 in particular are beginning to shift from a totally concrete view of the world to a more abstract perspective.
This means that adolescence is a time where we begin to process our environment and relationships by asking lots of questions. Most of these questions go unspoken, but they are there if you dig for them.
The best way to keep the communication lines wide open with teenagers is to consistently show them respect. Distance is what adolescents often feel from adults. They think adults don’t understand them, are vastly different from them, and don’t struggle with what they struggle with.
This could not be further from the truth. Here are three things that teenagers need to constantly hear from you through verbal and nonverbal vibes…