Here’s a disclaimer: I’m in the process of thinking through what this looks like for my youth ministry. I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe the Holy Spirit has been pressing on my heart to start the conversation, which I’ve done with my Impact leaders.
The great commission was not just a suggestion Jesus made to the disciples; it was a mandate. It was a command based off of the greatest commandment, which is love God and love thy neighbor as thyself. I believe we’ve been given the same mandate. I like to think of it this way: If you truly love God, then you truly love people; and if you truly love people, your heart’s desire is for them to know Jesus as their savior. I believe this is the foundation of why we share our faith. But it’s funny how sometimes we can regulate the great commission to mission trips, as if the people down the street don’t need to know Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in missions and the work that is done around the globe. I’m a part of a great church doing great ministry through mission work. I just wonder what our youth groups would look like if our students heard about the great commission the way the disciples heard it in Acts 1:8.
What if students felt the same mandate that the disciples felt when it came to loving God and loving people by sharing the gospel? I believe we actually do students a disservice when we simplify this mandate down to a suggestion.
I had a student who had been working up the nerve to invite her friend to church–this friend happened to be a Mormon. So one day she got up enough courage to ask, and her friend said yes. My student was so excited, because she felt like God had answered her prayers. Well, she brings her friend to church, and as they are sitting there listening to the welcome, the greeter announces that this weekend we have a guest speaker here to talk about Mormonism. Yikes! My student felt so embarrassed and awful. She couldn’t even focus on the message because all she could think was, “My friend must think I’m a horrible person for setting her up like this.” After the service she immediately reached out to her friend and begin to apologize saying, “Please don’t hate me,” letting her know she had no idea that they would be discussing Mormonism.
Her friend’s response blew her away. “Stop apologizing. You’ve done nothing wrong.” Then she asked my student, “Do you really believe what was said today?” My student said yes, and her friend said, “Well, you bringing me here today shows you love me more than you hate me. I just wonder why none of my other Christian friends ever invited me to their church.”
There is a cost to sharing the gospel or even inviting a friend to church. I love that my student’s Mormon friend understood that and even challenged my student on the fact that it’s something she was supposed to be doing if she loved her. My student felt so empowered to reach her other friends for Jesus because of what she’d experienced with her Mormon friend.
You see, I believe sometimes youth ministry can be seen as a stepping stone for real church, and so we hold back. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Students are a part of the church just as much as adults, and the great commission is mandated to the church as a whole. He doesn’t segregate by race, age, economic status, or anything else. Now, it may look different and play out differently for everybody, but the command is for all of us. We all should feel the weight of the great commission as a mandate, not a suggestion.
Even though there may be many other ways to grow your youth ministry, one way for sure is to empower and charge your students to fulfill the great commission right where they are.
Hope it helps,
Check out Evangephobia, a student devotional by Greg Stier on overcoming fear of faith-sharing and reaching out.