Jesus’ heart for the next generation is evident. He told the disciples to stay out of the way of some kids who were trying to get to Him. He gives a strict warning to anyone who would hinder the young from coming to Him. (And offers death by drowning as a preferable alternative!) He even holds up the faith of a child as an example that the adults he was talking to should follow!
For generations, the faithful church has reflected His heart for the young (as well as His heart in every other matter). But sometimes, our attempts to do so have come with unfortunate side effects. Over the last 60 years or so, as youth culture has increasingly developed its own distinctions from the larger culture, I’m afraid the job of ushering the next generation into the presence and Life of Jesus has been misplaced – it’s been left up to ‘the experts’.
Youth speakers, pastors of student ministry, youth ministers… With good intentions, churches have designated people like me as the ones to make disciples of the next generation. But the unfortunate side effect in this case is that most of the rest of the church begins to shirk its responsibility because “we hired someone to work with the kids.” The truth is, the youth minister cannot do the whole work that is necessary for the church to reach the next generation. It takes (in the case where I serve) a nurse and an entomologist and a lab tech and a paint guy and a painter and moms and dads and grandparents and a social security worker and a veteran and the cable guy… We need teachers and coaches and sales associates and railroaders and office workers and clerks and secretaries and managers and… Hey, what’s your profession? We need those, too.
See, the responsibility for reaching and equipping the next generation to make disciples isn’t just mine. It’s ours. They need all of us to collectively reach out as the Body of Christ and invite them into the adventure of discipleship in every walk of life.
This isn’t really just a youth ministry issue though, is it? Aside from “Love God and love your neighbor.” there may be no other command of Jesus as clear as “Go make disciples.” He said a lot of things that were sort of hard to understand that we’re not quite sure what to do with, but “Go make disciples.” isn’t one of them. And yet… aren’t there a lot of people who show up in church services regularly who aren’t making disciples? How have we misplaced one of the most basic functions of who we are? Is the painter who never paints anything really a painter?
It saddens me to think of how many believers have basically ignored this plain instruction and could not name a single disciple they’re “making”. It saddens me even more to think of how many young disciples-to-be may never know the potential they have in His service because the church hired someone else to take care of the students and stopped making disciples of the kids in their own communities. Would you do a check and make sure that doesn’t describe you? Connect with the kids around you. Invite them into your life and share the journey of discipleship with them. Start now.
Is there something you’re missing that you need in order to make disciples? Can I help you with the nuts and bolts of making disciples? (Use the contact page above or send me a message to get in touch.)
If you’re a church leader, take some time to evaluate how you do things. Are the people you lead making disciples? Are you the all-star quarterback of the disciple making duties of your ministry or the coach, pulling a team together and maximizing every team member’s unique contribution to the disciple making mission?