There is nothing simple about discipleship, but our simple to understand definition of discipleship is: obedience to Jesus. It’s thinking like Jesus wants us to think and doing what he wants us to do. A youth ministry that wants an element of depth will help teenagers live a life of obedience. Spiritual depth isn’t:
….| Showing up to all the church events.
….| Knowing “spiritual” facts, trivia and information.
….| Doing good things.
….| Having good motives.
….| Being liked by everyone.
Loving Jesus to the point of obedience may include all of the above, but those actions by themselves don’t require spiritual depth.
More important than our definition of discipleship is your understanding: How do you define deeper youth ministry?
As a youth ministry leader, it’s important to have a clear picture of spiritual maturity for your ministry. Your picture is a good first step and a great second step is to share that picture so others can see it. If you have a definition of discipleship that no one knows or understands or sees translated into a plan for teenagers to follow… it’s either not a compelling definition or you’re not leading in an effective manner. Good leaders understand the importance of communicating their values, definitions and plans.
Here are a few ways we’ve tried to keep discipleship infused in our ministry culture:
1. We repeat simple imagery. Just about every week, students were challenged to think about the difference between God’s way and their own way. We went visual with this message and displayed road signs on opposite ends of the stage—one reading “God’s way” and the other “world’s way.” The message was simple: God’s way is not the same as your way or the world’s way… it’s up to you to choose which way you follow.
2. We emphasize spiritual commitments. Our commitments define who we become, so we took time to think through important spiritual commitments we wanted our teenagers to embrace. For us, these commitments became directional without having a rigid “to do” list that every student had to follow. We provided a clear picture of spiritual growth without giving everyone the same “prescription”.
3. We provide self-pace spiritual growth tools. We want students to discover the joy of connecting with God on their own. Beyond corporate worship and hanging out with other Christians, we want teenagers to practice some of the classic spiritual disciplines that have been around for 2,000 years. We’ll talk more about this one tomorrow!
What will it take for you to take your teenagers to a deeper place? When you figure it out (or, if you already know it) make sure you shout it from the mountain top and call your teenagers to this place of depth. In the long term, they’ll be glad you did!