A third focal point of youth ministry that I always seem to be developing is a passion for revealing God to people who don’t notice Him. You can call this evangelism or outreach if you need a churchier sounding word to summarize. The bottom line is that if our youth ministry is not driving students to help people to see the Living God working to reconcile all things to Himself in the world today – we’ve missed something pretty critical. We’ve missed the fact that we are not what people need, He is – that we can’t really change anything, while He changes everything.
So many people struggle through life, not knowing how deeply they are loved by their Maker, who is moving heaven and earth to show them His love. A church (or youth ministry) that has grown to be ok with that fact has ceased to be the church of which Jesus is the head. The church that He said He would build can’t sever itself from the heart of Jesus and continue to be what He calls us – His Body.
I remember early in youth ministry spending hours dreaming up ways to get students to come to my youth ministry’s activities. I was basically building on a well planned framework with lots of room for imagination, and I had (in outside the book, practical terms) no idea what else I should be doing, so I dreamed up some pretty fun stuff. “Because if students are having fun, they’ll bring their friends, right?” I felt validated by large numbers, and conversely, I felt like a failure when only a handful of kids were interested in what I had planned. It’s easy, as youth leaders, to get focused on getting a big crowd together, having some fun, then pulling it all together with a quick hit of Jesus talk and giant-gutter-sundaes. It’s normal. It’s expected. If you’re good at it, it will get you a lot of pats on the back and whatever measure of job security is afforded in youth ministry in the current socio-economic climate.
But it’s also shortsighted and ineffective. Because what a kid needs is not to come to my (or your) youth group… What a kid needs is not to know the greatest youth leader in town… What a kid needs, is Jesus.
These days, my perspective’s a little different than it used to be. There are actually some things I do with some students that don’t ever get promoted at all because they’ll be more effective with only a few students. Sure, it feels good when I can say something about having a big group involved in the county’s butteriest slip ‘n slide, but the truth is that there’s a far greater payout when I see my students pouring Jesus into the lives of their peers and families without the interjection of their favorite youth ministry cruise director. They’re getting it. They’re showing His love to the people around them because they understand that:
- We can’t save our friends from their sin.
- We can’t fix all the brokenness in the lives of the people we care about.
- Jesus can.
- We don’t have to wait until youth group to show Him to them.
- We don’t have to get people in “our” building to show them His love.
This passion to reveal God to people who don’t notice Him is developed through a lot of teaching and a lot of discussion about the reality of who Jesus is and who we are, as well as how lost we are without Him and how broken we stay without Him. Students don’t want to see their friends continue down destructive, pointless trails of brokenness. And the more they get to know the one who’s making them whole, the more they are wanting to reveal Him to others.
Spend time with Jesus. Get to know Him more deeply and share what you find in Him.
Here are the links to the rest of the Foundations of Youth Ministry series. Check out the other posts and be sure to use the subscribe field at the top to get new content via e-mail: