When we talk about youth discipleship I think we often begin to try and over complicate things, because we realize we are talking about teens, so somehow things must be different and more difficult. But I have found between working with youth and with adults that not much changes. They still have the same questions and the same needs and they all are on the same journey of trying become more like Christ. And besides, discipleship is about doing life together, regardless of how old someone is who is going through the discipleship process. Yes, because of our life stage our experiences are different and the types of things we may be doing are different, but at the end of the day all of us in the discipleship process are people who were sinners, have met Jesus, and are striving to be more like Him through prayer, discipleship curriculum, relationships, and life experiences.
In youth discipleship you have many tools at your disposal. Many of these are things like your youth discipleship curriculum that you can use to work towards reaching students for Christ in a variety of ways. But today what I want to look at is the fact that many of your best tools are not always what first comes to mind. But these tools are incredibly valuable and can have an incredible impact on the life of a student.
1. Time- I continue to believe that our time is one of the most valuable resources that we have. Therefore we must use it wisely as we find time to spend alone with God daily, find time for family, and find time for our ministries. But time is also valuable for another reason. Taking the time to sit down with a student or show up to an event can mean the world to them. Often times this is because they know how valuable your time is and appreciate the sacrifice you make in using it to invest in them. But many times it is because no one else in their lives is giving them any time at all. It continues to amaze me how so often we think of these big, fun, and exciting things we can do for our students, like events, when really all they want is the simple things, like time.
2. Wisdom- I always think of wisdom as knowledge combined with experience. Therefore we all have some of it to give. And our students need our wisdom. They are bombarded from all sides with what the world says is wisdom about how to live their lives. We need to make sure that we are there though to impart true wisdom to them about a life filled with hope and joy, even if sometimes that wisdom comes in the form of speaking a harsh truth into their lives in order to save them from themselves.
3. Heart- More than anything, students want to know that they are wanted, loved, and that they belong somewhere. They want to know that someone cares about them and what is going on in their lives. We need to make sure that we are opening our hearts to our students so they know that someone cares and that someone is there to carry their burdens with them and to celebrate their victories.
These are what I believe to be some of the most important tools we have as leaders. What about you? What are your favorites?
Youth discipleship is about far more than just studying a youth discipleship curriculum. It is also about fellowship and doing life together. The problem is that though that there is not enough time to come up with ideas and for many of us we just struggle with coming up with ideas like this anyways. That is why I want to take a moment today to give you a list of youth ministry activities that you can do with those whom you disciple so you can deepen those relationships. Not to mention that many times I find the best spiritual conversations come out of times for relaxation and fun.
In the process of youth discipleship there are some youth discipleship resources that I believe can come in handy. I would like to discuss a few of them today. The first is a calendar. This is because I firmly believe that discipleship is about doing life together. So there will be times where you need to show up to events and other functions in order to show how much you care for and want to support the people whom you choose to disciple. And nothing could hurt that process worse than you missing out on an appointment that you promised to be at. Another thing that is helpful is of course a Bible because part of becoming a disciple is growing in God's word. The last couple of resources are not mandatory but highly suggest them. The first is a journal. I just believe it is nice to be able to document things you want to discuss, prayer requests, as well as triumphs and trials in the process of following Christ. The final resource would be a discipleship curriculum. While a discipleship curriculum is not mandatory, I do believe it is helpful to focus study and your time together with those whom you disciple. Those are the resources I think are most useful. What are you using?
Youth discipleship is about doing life together. So there will be a lot of time for fun and games along the way from trips to go shopping or even camping to ballgames and parties. But eventually the time to get serious will come. Because if you are truly going to disciple someone the time will come where you will take the relationships and the trust you have built with the person whom you are discipling and take the opportunity to speak truth into their life. You will have to call out the sin in their lives and you will have to challenge them to live for greater things. And at times it will feel uncomfortable and like you might even lose the relationship. But if you are not helping them grow in their faith and truly helping them become disciples of Jesus, then what is the point of the relationship anyway?
In youth discipleship I believe a curriculum is important and can be very helpful because it gives structure to your students time together with whomever is discipling them but it also makes it easier for them to turn around and disciple someone else. But out of that, I also want to remind you that some of the best lessons will often not come from a curriculum at all. Instead they will come from the teachable moments you take as you do life with those whom you disciple. These could happen on a car ride, they could happen while doing yard work, or even while folding laundry. And in these moments some incredible, life changing spiritual conversations can happen. So, value your scheduled time together with those you disciple, but remember that some of the best discipleship times will happen outside of that time as you look for opportunity to build relationships throughout the week.
Youth discipleship is the process of building relationships for the purpose of helping them grow in their faith so they can turn around and disciple others. Because of this the temptation is to just always go with the flow as far as what a student is doing or what they want to talk about. But this is not always the best strategy for spiritual growth. Sometimes you have to go against the grain in order for a student to go from where a student is to where God wants them to be. This can be a scary proposition because you may feel that you run the risk of offending the student or turning them away. But if you correct, redirect, and push them out of love you should not have anything to worry about. And besides, if you are helping the student grow, the relationship is not doing them any good anyways.
Youth discipleship is often something that gets added to our youth ministry schedule like our midweek services or our small group Bible studies. This is fine in itself because this way students are more likely to stay disciplined and actually continue in their discipleship relationships. But we have to realize that just because discipleship is on the schedule for an hour during the week that may not be the only time that discipleship needs to occur. Your students may need you for accountability and wisdom in the middle of the night. They may need you to be there for them at an important event. You may have to meet two to three times in one week because in order to be able to fully digest a challenging study topic. But regardless of what the situation is, you have to remember that since discipleship is about doing life together, it has not timetable. Therefore you must be ready and available to disciple your students whenever the opportunity or need arises.
I wish I could tell you that the process of youth discipleship is going to be one victory after another. But while there will be victories and celebrations there will also be defeats and struggles. Therefore we must be prepared to handle this difficult times, both in our own lives as well as our students. I encourage you to find support and accountability. This way when frustrations and difficulties come as you disciple youth, you can have someone to process through things with so that you can better understand the situation and respond to it. This way you do not just unload your frustrations on the student you are discipling when it may have been a case of you needing to change your approach. But what about the defeats in your students lives? I believe we do as Jesus did and take it on a case by case basis. Sometimes we will just be broken with our students and show them compassion in their failures and their difficult times. But other times we will boldly proclaim truth and give them direction in where they should go and what needs to change. But either way, make sure that you are aware that defeats will come so that you are not caught off guard and are prepared to handle them in the best manner.
Youth discipleship brings about the ultimate reward: Seeing someone come to Christ, grow in their faith, and turn around and reach others for Christ. Nothing else in ministry could be more valuable than that process. Because of this, no investment of time and resources is too great in this process. Why? Well it is the idea of opportunity cost. This is an economics vocabulary word that means when you choose one thing you cannot choose something else. So if you buy lunch one day you won't be able to use that money to buy a movie ticket later. Well in ministry we have limited time and resources. So when we invest them in one thing we cannot invest them somewhere else. Which is why I say that any investment is worth it when it comes to discipleship. Because at the end of the day, if people are coming to Christ, who cares what else we did not get to do.