Almost 4 years ago, I began full-time youth ministry in a local church here in NW Arkansas. This is certainly not my first go-around with youth ministry in terms of leading and volunteering. However, this is the first time I believe I am doing youth ministry in a way that pleases God and is faithful to His Word. How do I know this?
Before I arrived in Arkansas, I wrote up a Philosophy of Youth Ministry in order to get my head on straight of why I do what I do with the youth and church I serve. I wrote a summary of that here on PS23 in a past blog. But once I got here, the rubber met the road and I had to practically work out what I was to do. I then wrote a series of blogs that are the essentials of youth ministry. I would like to remind you of them today, in a summarized way to stir you up if you work with teenagers or if you are a church leader who supervises the youth pastor/leader (if you want to read the full posts, then click on the title of each “essential”).
ESSENTIAL #1 – PRAYER
Generally speaking, prayer is an absolute necessity of the Christian’s new life in Christ. It is not a ritual that keeps us in right standing before God (Matt 6:7-8), but, as John Bunyan defines prayer, “prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised or according to His Word, for the good of the Church, with submission in faith to the will of God.” Additionally, prayer should be persistent (Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-18) and regular (Eph 6:18; Phil 4:6; Col 4:2,12; 1 Thess 5:17). If a Christian ignores this vital part of their new-born spiritual life, I would say they need to take a long, intent look at their spiritual life, because (1) it is a common mark of their election (Luke 18:7; Rom 8:15), (2) it is the pattern of all the saints of the Bible (e.g., David, Daniel, the Apostles), and (3) prayerlessness is a characteristic of the wicked (Ps 14:4).
Since prayer is critical in the Christian life generally, it should be critical in the life of any ministry that is done for the glory of God; including youth ministry. Youth pastors, youth leaders/volunteers, elders, congregations, and youth should be in regular prayer for the gospel of Jesus Christ to permeate all that happens in youth ministry.
ESSENTIAL #2 – THE BIBLE
The Bible is God’s self-revelation. It is God’s coming out party to the world in which all mankind can know God’s perspective of the world and mankind. No one can know God without the Bible (Rom 1:20; Ps 19:1-3). Without the Bible, we are lost in a dense fog of spiritual cluelessness–which explains the massive amount of false religions/beliefs in this world. When we open our Bible, clarity sets in and we can know the God who created the world, the God who is a Tri-unity, and the God who deserves all the glory from His creation. Most importantly, the Bible contains the story of redemption, the very words and actions of Jesus, and the actions and beliefs that lead to a life that glorifies/pleases God (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Because of this, I believe it is natural to assume that any God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-led ministry would have the Bible at its center. Youth gatherings should have the Bible as the center of their meeting. Youth worker gatherings should have the Bible as the center of their meetings. Training seminars, parent lunches, camps, one-on-one discipleship, birthday cards, etc., etc. Because of the Bible’s importance in every situation of life, it must be at the center.
ESSENTIAL #3 – THE GOSPEL
Every youth worker must keep the following in mind at all times: THE GOSPEL MESSAGE IS THE ONLY MESSAGE THAT SAVES! (Mark 8:35; Acts 4:10-12; Rom 1:16; 10:13; 1 Cor 15:1; Eph 1:13; 2 Thess 2:14; 2 Tim 1:10)
So preach it, teach it, instruct on it, apply it, illustrate it, copy & paste it, repeat! Motivate your students to tell their friends. Include the gospel in every sermon. Warn of the dangers of not believing it. Have the students speak it to one another. Give it to them in a simple format, like 9Marks has done (God, Man, Christ, Response) Do seminars and discipleship and events that focus on the gospel. Never pass up another opportunity to get the gospel at the foremost of your youth ministry. In doing this, you imitate your Savior, for He was the greatest of gospel preachers (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 11:5; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 16:16; 20:1)
Listen: Satan knows that the gospel message is a saving message and he is actively working to blind your students to its message (2 Cor 4:4). If you avoid the gospel message, you are playing right into his scheme. Shouldn’t your understanding of this simple fact make you more motivated to preach the gospel regularly?
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
So, there you have it. Three essentials to youth ministry. Are you being faithful?