Youth discipleship is a long process. Because following Christ and growing in our relationship with Him is a journey with many successes and a few failures on the way. There are many ups and downs and we must guide our youth through those so they can become fully developing followers of Christ. Because of that we must be flexible in the way that we disciple. And even though we have a schedule, a plan, and a curriculum we have to know where there are times that this must be done away with so we can better meet the needs of our students. So sometimes when we get together it may not be time to study but instead to just cry and pray together. Other times we may need to spend omoBecause as we have said, at the end of the day discipleship is about doing life together and we must be ready for whatever life may throw our way.
In youth discipleship our model is Jesus. And Jesus knew that as He was investing in His disciples so that He could eventually send them out to tell the world about Him. And ever since that first model of discipleship, the cycle has continued. We disciple so that we can send people out and they too can go out and make disciples. This is extremely important because I fear many of us disciple in hopes that those people will always rely on us. I understand the feeling. It is nice to be wanted and it is like the parent not wanting to let go of their child. But just like parent, if we have done our job well we can send the person out whom we have invested in and they will be successful. And they will still need us to an extent but just not in that full reliance that they did initially.
In youth discipleship I think it is important to remember that Jesus spent His ministry investing in 12 guys, and one of those betrayed Him. The reason I say that is that often times we get so caught up in numbers that we think we need to disciple everyone. Now I believe that is a good heart. We should desire to disciple everyone. But as we see in Jesus' ministry, some people are just not ready yet. Think about the rich young ruler who walked away because He was not ready to fully commit to following Jesus. Also, if we are honest with ourselves we realize that we cannot disciple everyone. But we can fully invest in a few that can start a chain reaction of life change all over the world. So dream and plan big in hopes that all people become disciples. But invest in a few so that this dream can become a reality.
There is so much to youth discipleship that I believe the best way to sum it up is doing life together. I am sure I did not coin this phrase so I do not even begin to try and take credit for it. But I think it is the perfect way to some up our greatest calling, building disciples. If you do not believe me just look at the Bible. When Jesus worked with His disciples and gave us the model for discipleship they did far more than just discuss the scriptures. Yes that was part of it but they also walked through life together and Jesus looked for opportunities to teach and set an example in everyday circumstances. We need to do the same thing. We need to study the Bible with our students and look for curriculum that helps us do just that. But we also need to walk through life with our students and bring them along in our everyday experiences. Then in those experiences look for opportunities to show our students what it truly means to follow Christ with all of our lives.
Youth discipleship is about helping the students whom you disciple find their next steps in their faith. When I hear this it automatically makes me think about three things, and I believe it should do the same for you. First, you need to know your students so you know where they are spiritually and can help them take that next step. So make sure that you have a strong, honest relationship with your students so you can know exactly where they are. Next, the Christian life happens one step at a time. This is important to remember so that we can always know that a student has a next step and their is growth that can happen. But also that students do not need to skip any steps. Finally, taking next steps means tough love sometimes. When you teach a baby to walk they fall and hurt themselves from time to time. But that is the only way that they will move on from crawling so you have to allow that to happen. It is the same thing spiritually speaking. Sometimes we have to let your students go out and do ministry and get hurt. Sometimes we have to speak a hard truth into their lives that they will not want to hear. But in this process they learn to walk spiritually and maybe even run and they are truly made into disciples.
One of the biggest keys to youth discipleship is patience. You must be willing to stick with the process of helping the students you are put in charge of grow in their faith and understand what it truly means to be a disciple. Because this will take time and there will be many ups and downs. I know this not only from my own experience of working with youth but also from studying scripture. Because if you remember Jesus' disciples were about the same age of most of our youth. And for a long time they did not get it. And many times Jesus would come down on them fairly hard when they were not grasping the truth He was speaking and the vision He was trying to give them for their lives. But He stuck with them and even forgave them when they turned their backs on Him. This is our model for discipleship and we must follow up. We do not take things easy on our youth but we are patient to stick with them in the discipleship process regardless of what challenges it brings.
At the very heart of youth discipleship is answering the question what is a disciple? Because far too many times we tell students to be disciples and to go make disciples but we never actually explain to them what that means. I realized this problem in a couple of ways. One was just in pure observation of my students' lives and they way I saw them act and heard them speak. I began to realize that somehow there was not a connection between the knowledge I was giving them and the lives they were living. I also did some research and found that over 860,000 people a month were searching to find the answer to the question ,"What is a disciple?" This made it perfectly clear to me that as we disciple others we make sure they understand what it means to be a disciple so not only their lives can change but also so they can go out and help others experience life change as well.
Now, more than ever it is vitally important that a youth discipleship curriculum help a student understand what their beliefs should be as a disciple of Jesus and how those beliefs should guide their lives. There are so many opinions floating around about what truth is and whether there is actually truth at all. That is why it is vitally important for students to dig into the Bible and know exactly what it says and how the truth it contains should guide the beliefs of their lives. Because if we do not our students run the risk of being pulled about by every opinion and passing fad instead of being anchored in the truth of the Bible. But if they are in full understanding of the truth of the scriptures they will be able to stand firm whether they are facing trials or opposition and will be able to light in the midst of great darkness.
Youth discipleship curriculum should always not only teach students the Bible but it should call them to action. Because as disciples there is work to be done and we need to ensure that we are doing that work. Whether it is sharing the Gospel, serving others, or even holding each other accountable, we need to make sure that those whom we disciple know that the Christian life is not just a one time decision but a daily lifestyle we are committed to. And that part of that lifestyle is us working to change the world around us for Christ. So as you look for a study look carefully. If it causes those whom you are discipling to dig deep into the word that is great and vitally important. But if it does not also call them to take action then it is not serving its fully purpose and those whom you are ministering to will never become fully developing discipleship of Jesus.
Youth discipleship curriculum should help your students develop the character of a disciple. The best definition I have ever heard was who we are when no one is looking. Because in those moments we see who we really are and our true actions and desires come out. And when you think about this way you also realize we something else. We all have character, it just may not be good. But as followers of Jesus, we do not want to just have good character. We want to truly have Character like Christ, the character of a disciple. So in choosing your curriculum you need to make sure that it helps those whom you disciple develop this character and that it does not let them merely settle for being good or getting by. Because if our world is going to change we need students who are living for fare more than that and are truly becoming disciples.