First of all, I know it’s been 325982 years since I last posted (well, actually it was 55 days, but who’s counting?), but I promise it’ll get better. Actually, this blog will serve as an introduction to a series of blog posts on something I am very passionate about: student-led youth ministry. Without further adieu, here we go…
Retro is in. I know, I just absolutely shifted your entire paradigm with that statement. But seriously, anyone who knows anything about youth culture knows that in today’s fashion world, just about anything goes. A student wears aviator sunglasses that look like they’re out of the 80’s, with jeans flared at the bottom, resembling something from the 70’s, and a bow tie that his grandfather might have worn in the 50’s. Yes, strange times are upon us.
I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure I get the retro thing (not that I’ve ever been a fashion guru). It all just seems kind of bizarre to be wearing things from which another generation has already moved on. There is something, though, we as Student Pastors and Youth Workers should go retro on.
When I became a Youth Pastor, I knew I wanted us to have a student-led youth ministry. I’ve always felt that the more you engaged a young person in the work of the church, the more likely you would be to retain that young person long after he/she moved on from our youth services. So I began to consider how to do this successfully, and something occurred to me. Jesus Christ, who called young men to be his disciples (some theologians would argue these young men were most likely youth-group age), had a short time to invest a lot into them. As a matter of fact, He had just three short years to move them from clueless to dynamic leaders that could set in motion a movement that would carry His message to every generation. If Jesus could do it in three short years, certainly Holy Ghost-filled youth leaders could do the same in six!
The thing we must realize, however, was Jesus had a completely different teaching method than what we are used to. We are used to the western education model. It goes something like this (prepare for a flashback to Jr High): 1)The teacher presents facts. 2)You memorize as many of those facts as possible. 3)You regurgitate all of these facts on a test. 4) You forget all of these facts, because you’ve already taken the test, and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. The problem with this model is we’re not dealing with pen and paper, but with souls. You can’t just memorize facts about prayer and then forget about it! You can’t “move on” from a lifestyle of holiness. Theres’ too much at stake.
So I figured if I could teach my young people the same way Jesus did, maybe I could get the same results He did. I searched the scriptures and found a trend in the way Jesus taught, and I think it sets a framework for teaching students to be successful in a student-led youth ministry.
1. Jesus Modeled. He lived out a particular behavior in front of his disciples, and as a result, they were interested in learning more. As an example, look at the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11. Luke 11:1 says “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Jesus didn’t need a catchy title to get His followers interested. He didn’t need an intro video. Please understand, I’m not against those things; I’ve used them. But they can’t replace the basic need to model the behaviors in front of our students that we want to see in them. You want a youth group that prays? Let them see you pray! You want a youth group that worships? They have to see you worship.
2. Jesus Taught. Once Jesus saw the interest in His disciples, He gave them practical instruction that they could take and immediately apply. Read Luke 11:2-4. How simple is that? He didn’t say, “Go to the wilderness and fast 40 days.” He didn’t say, “Well, aim for an hour a day and let me know how it goes.” No, he put the concept within the disciples’ reach. How long does it take to pray the Lord’s Prayer? 30 seconds? But Jesus was laying a foundation.
3. Jesus Engaged His pupils in the concept being learned. He taught on prayer, and then He sent them out to pray for people. Jesus understood that there is no substitute for experiential learning. He was careful to create a context for them (See Luke 10), but He got them involved, and He got them involved quickly.
4. Jesus Coached. Jesus did not wait until they were 100% ready to get them engaged in ministry. As a result, He knew there would be times when they would face something they were not ready to encounter. Essentially, Jesus put them in positions where He knew there was a chance they could (and would) fail. He knew that failure is a great teacher. But when they failed (Matthew 17:18-21), Jesus was there to provide them with sound wisdom to coach them through the process and help them be successful next time.
So, as Student Pastors, if we want to see a student-led youth ministry, we have to be willing to teach like Jesus taught. We could call it revolutionary, but it’s not; it’s actually retro-lutionary. In my next few posts, I’ll look to lay out practical steps that will set you on a course for a solid, well-structured student-led youth ministry. I hope it blesses you.