Discovering God’s purpose for their lives should be your No. 1 youth-ministry task
What on earth am I here for?” That’s the question every teenager on the planet asks at one time or another. And while your youth ministry plays a variety of roles, helping students wrestle through this question is, in my experience, its most important task. (Helping your youth successfully toilet-paper the senior pastor’s house is a close second!)
At Saddleback Church, we’ve landed on the following simple phrase to help our teenagers recognize God’s purpose for their lives:
“I am here to express Christ, His kingdom, and the purposes of His church to the world around me.”
How that happens, exactly, looks different for each student in our ministry; but the role of the youth department is to create an atmosphere and programs that will help each student make that simple statement a reality. Here are the practical ways this works for us:
Our Purpose Statement
“Our ministry helps students become exposed to, experience and express Christ, His kingdom and the biblical purposes of His church.” (If you don’t have a statement that defines the purpose of your youth ministry, begin by creating one.)
Large Group (Expose). We have a weekly large group gathering that is designed specifically to expose the teenagers in our church and community to the good news of Jesus Christ and the purposes of His church. Everybody is welcome to join us at this entry-level church experience.
Small Group (Experience). We believe that life change happens best in a smaller group setting, so we encourage all our students to join a weekly small group. These groups, each of which comprises 10 to 12 students and an adult leader, gather in host homes and those attending experience life and faith together.
Everything we do in these groups is meant to be a step deeper and more experiential in nature. When teenagers begin to experience what they’ve been exposed to, their faith begins to stick!
Individual Life (Express). As I mentioned, our ultimate goal is to help each student embrace the reality that they were placed on this planet to be a living, breathing expression of Christ, His kingdom and the purposes of His church. So we have all sorts of ministry opportunities and experiences that help students live out their faith in their day-to-day lives—such as PEACE (mission) trips, student leadership, friendship evangelism, baptism and campus clubs. All are examples of faith-stretching opportunities we provide students so they can participate both within the church walls and beyond.
If your youth ministry can successfully help students identify why on earth they’re here, and help them toilet paper your pastor’s house, then that’s a job well-done!
Kurt Johnston has been on staff at Saddleback Church since 1997 and currently leads the student ministry team. He is the founder of simplyjuniorhigh.com and has written numerous books, including Middle School Ministry Made Simple, and has created dozens of resources for youth workers.