If I ask you why you care for the students who are in your youth ministry, you will probably say something about helping them growing in their faith. I inquire, “OK, who do you want them to be?” You say something about them being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
Yet if we are honest, when we take a step back and look at how we run our ministries, it is not always with the end result in mind. We plan a calendar, take trips, run small groups and do activities.
Some of us will say our focus needs to be on helping parents disciple their children; others say we need to build student leaders, do outreach, share the gospel or simply pour into our youth. However, I would contend there are two questions that should drive everything we do in our ministries:
1. When a student leaves us, what will they look like? I, of course, am not talking about their voice and body changing into an adult. Let’s say a family enters your church and has a baby. This baby grows up in the church through all the ministries and then graduates, leaves home and heads out into the “real world.”
Who is that young adult? Is he or she a fully devoted follower of Christ? What does that mean? Do they read their Bible every day, tell others about Christ, pray often and enter the mission field? How is everyone in your church working together to see this happen?
The time of the “silo” between nursery, children, youth and adults needs to be over. What are we doing to work together to grow our children? Let’s stop starting over every time our kids enter a new phase of life. Instead, let's see each of us as part of their journey into their lives as someone taking the world for Christ.
2. How does what we are doing influence who they are becoming? The second question has to do with our programming and approach. There was a time when I would say the main question we needed to ask before embarking on anything was, “How does this build a relationship?” That is still vital, and it’s a great filter. Yet still we have a tendency to make plans based on who is standing in front of us today, not in the future.
When we plan this way, we run everything we do through a sieve of purpose. It helps us know what not to take on and what might need readjusting. So you take students on a missions trip yearly. Why? How is this part of the journey in the Lord? What do you need to do to get them ready or to follow up with them afterwards? Are you teaching them about service and why that matters when they are 8 or 9 years old and again and again before the trip ever happens? This helps with equipping parents and growing the body of Christ as a whole.
These are not questions we can ask once, but often. I contend they should be asked anytime the church does anything. At least quarterly, sit down as a full staff and see how you are working together.
It doesn’t really matter if a student jumps in when they are 5 or 15 years old. When we do ministry this way, we are all about moving with Jesus all the time.
Are you asking these questions?
Leneita Fix is the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family-focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County in New Jersey and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years.
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