This week we will explore two very interrelated principles of sustainable youthwork: Youthwork is Discipling and Youthwork is Missional.
Principle # 4 – Youthwork is Discipling
Youthwork is 1) Family Based, 2) Congregational, 3) Relational and 4) Youthwork is Discipling! Youthwork is never about keeping Young People busy or giving Parents a break from their teenagers (although sometimes people do think this). Youthwork in the United Methodist Church is ALWAYS about Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. I would suspect that this missional statement in the UMC is very close to what most other denominations would say and do as well.
Many fun things happen in Youthwork: fellowship, games, meals, sporting events, lock-ins, lockouts, retreats, beach trips, etc. But all of those important components of Youthwork are not the main course; they are more like fast food. They fill the time but if they fill too much time, there is no spiritual nourishment and we all become lazy Jesus-followers. Try eating big macs for a week or two straight and you will totally get this metaphor. Don’t get me wrong; I like to have fun as much as anybody who does Youthwork. I like fun as much or more than the Youth sometimes. But I have to remember to keep the main things the main thing. The main thing is discipleship.
“There is an obvious Great Disparity between, on the one hand, the hope for life expressed in Jesus – found real in the Bible and in many shining examples from among his followers – and, on the other hand, the actual day-to-day behavior, inner life, and social presence of most of those who now profess adherence to him.” ~Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, 2006
Why do we have Youth Ministry in the UMC? Simple answer: To Make Disciples. Not just any Disciples, we are too make ones that follow Jesus. We teach them to follow Jesus not just for their own benefit but to transform the world so that the prayer we pray “thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven” becomes reality. This is the call and the task God has given each one of us. It is non-negotialble.
As we build a Sustainable Youth Ministry in our local churches, it will take each one of us committing to Discipleship to help teach and nurture the faith in each Young Person.
Are YOU ready? Is your church ready?
Principle #5 – Youthwork is Missional!
God is on a mission to make things right in the world. God is doing something and God is calling all of God’s people to join in the mission. Young People play a key role in this mission. From a Biblical standpoint, Jeremiah was a young person as was Mary and Timothy. What a key role these teenagers played in the work of God in the world!
There are a few different ways to think about this mission of God.
First, God is on a mission TO Young people. God calls Youth to live a Gospel life on purpose. This call typically can be heard most clearly by Youth when the noise and busyness of the world is blocked out for a time. That is why we take Youth Retreats, go on Mission trips, go to Camp at Lake Bridgeport and other places, hold share groups and offer Bible study and Sunday school and give Youth leadership roles in the worship service.
Second, adults in the congregation should also be on a mission into teen culture. How else can a Young Person learn to trust you and want to be mentored by you unless you take their world seriously. That means doing what any successful missionary would do: learn what music, TV shows, movies, books matter to young people. What world issues are they passionate about? Always seeking first to understand Youth before trying to make them understand what you want them to know about life, God, the Bible, Church, etc.
Third, God calls Youth to go out and change the world. The best missionaries into teen culture are always going to be other teens. So we need to equip them with the tools they need NOW to share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. Youth are not just the future Church, they are also the PRESENT Church. Closely linked to this idea is the parallel thought that Adults are not just the Church of today, they are also the FUTURE Church! The work Adults and Youth do NOW, really does shape the future Church.
They are many ways adults can help support Youth as they join God in God’s mission to save the world. What way will YOU choose?
Next week Part 4
Peace and Grace,
Charles W. Harrison