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.
Youth discipleship curriculum should be about helping students realize that the Christian life is a lifestyle and about helping them realize what their next step is in their life. There are many steps in this process for them but I want to mention three today. First of all students need to realize who they become when they come to Christ. They need to realize that they truly are a new creation and what that means for them. They need to see and understand that they are not who they used to be but are a completely new person because of Christ. Next, they need to see what that new life looks like. Your youth need to know that the Christian life is different than their old life in the way we think, act, and see the world. Finally, your students need to know what is next. It will look different for each them but they need to realize that the life of a disciple is a journey and they should always be looking for their next step.
Youth discipleship curriculum should always be a tool that helps you reap the harvest that Jesus so often talks about. Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. I firmly believe that this is more true now than ever. There are so many lost and hurting students around us and so few people actually trying to go out and reach them. This is why your curriculum should be about equipping and empowering your students to go out and reach others. There is too much work to be done for us and our leaders to just do it on our own. We must turn our students loose to reach the world around them. This is why I always suggest choosing a study that is driven towards calling your students to action and is also one that they can turn around and teach others as well. This way you not only get more mileage out of the study you purchase but also we can begin to turn the tide in this generation and see a mighty move of God like we so desperately need.
I feel like a lot of youth discipleship curriculum that is available does not live in reality. A lot of studies seem to think that we all live in a perfect world and that our students' lives are all fun and games. But for better or worse this is not the case. The reality is that we and our students live in a fallen and broken world. And because of that more and more students are going through major struggles and difficulties at younger and younger ages. That is why we need to make sure that any study we choose meets students in the reality that they are living in so that they are not only ready to stand firm in their faith in the midst of great opposition but we also must make sure that they are ready to reach others for Christ who also face immense hurt and struggle.
In order for any youth discipleship curriculum to be effective you have to empower your leaders to take ownership of their groups and lead as they see fit. They also must be empowered to hold their groups accountable as well as taking them out to actively do ministry. Because discipleship is about doing life together and that cannot happen effectively if you have the reigns held tight and only give your leaders so much room to move. I know this can be difficult, but if you have the right leaders, be they adults or students, you should be able to trust them and more importantly trust God. Then because of that begin to remove your hands from this portion of your ministry. Yes you are still there for support and encouragement and to make sure that the work of discipleship is being done. But you are not controlling everything. Instead you are entrusting God to do a mighty work in your ministry through the leaders in your ministry, that you never could have done on your own.
Youth discipleship curriculum should fit in with the focus of your student ministry. Too often we have a sermon series going on about one thing, then a Sunday School curriculum about something else, and then we try to throw in a discipleship curriculum about something else. Instead what needs to happen is that we are singularly focused on one things at a time as a student ministry and then adding in a discipleship study that supports that goal. For example, if you are talking throughout the year about missions, then do small group Bible study and discipleship that focuses on that as well. Or if you are talking about community follow the same pattern and have every study and activity tie into the same things that students can begin to fully understand the current topic of study and ministry. Because while we can focus on many things at once and see how they all tie together our students cannot and their spiritual growth suffers because of it.
Now is the perfect time to get a youth discipleship curriculum because summer is upon us. While this time is often filled with trips and activities it is also a great time for discipleship. That is why you must use this time wisely. Instead of seeing this as a time to shut down, other than your planned events, you need to see the change of pace as well as the extra time that your students have as an opportunity for discipleship. But beyond the time, this also is a great opportunity because you can disciple your students while they are away from the pressures and temptations as school so they will be ready for the battle ahead when the fall comes. Not to mention that they will also be ready to reach others and disciple them as well. So as you plan for the summer in your ministry, look for ways to disciple others and get the resources you need to make that happen. Then make discipleship your number one priority during this great season.