Many youth ministries try very hard to put on outreach events to attract the lost. Some youth pastors get worried if non-believers attend small groups when it is for the “committed” students. In another words, their small group ministry represents the discipleship component of their youth ministry philosophy.
I am arguing that discipling students before they believe is the new youth ministry evangelism method. Youth pastors are dealing with such an unChristian and unChurched teenage population that deeply studying books of the Bible, theology, and ethical issues are what the students are needing. When something becomes a rarity, it is different. Teaching for 45 minutes about Leviticus can now be the new cool thing to do in youth ministry. Why? Because Bible literacy and education is so removed from the teenage culture.
Andrew Root said it best: “youth ministry has settled for bullet pointed bible verses as theology, rather than seeking the mystery of the burning bush. Theology is not about giving the knowledge to solve kids problems but a way of being and seeing world and searching for God.”
Students are living in a philosophical fusion of existentialism and modernism, which should compel youth pastors to cultivate environments that exhibit informational and transformational mediums.
Did Jesus do outreach events and determine who believed and who didn’t believe? No. He kept preaching the message of God and restoring the world and people. Actually the more popular He became, the harder the message.
If a non-believer shows up to my youth group, I have no problem teaching from the book of Nehemiah for 45 minutes. Granted I carefully contextualize the story and define certain theological and Bible words.
I think too many youth ministries have dumped down their youth talks, hoping to be more translatable to their audience. Unfortunately, students are only getting three really cool pithy statements that are very surface level and redundant. Stuff like….. “it is great to date, but worth the wait. (Proverbs 3)”
Implications for Youth Pastors:
1. He/she must become theologically trained so he/she knows what the heck they are talking about. If a youth pastor does not like theology, he/she doesn’t belong in youth ministry. It is like saying: I like Football, but I don’t like practicing it. It is essential to be in theological conversations.
2. Understand discipleship is a freaking messy process and cannot be assessed by how many committed students are in “small groups”. Small groups are not for the good and committed students. Serving and being missional is for the committed and core students.
3. Comprehending that being a follower of Jesus involves more than just believing and saying the sinners prayer. It is about learning the deep historical roots of Christianity and knowing the ins and outs of exegesis.
4. Evangelism doesn’t necessary mean sharing your faith and conducting outreach events. Evangelism means to invite non-believing students into the faith of Jesus and shows them the beauty and wonder about following Jesus.
5. Evangelism means letting our non-believing students test drive the faith before they believe and buy into it. Therefore our youth ministries need to show them the ins and outs about being a follower of Jesus.
Discipleship as the New Youth Ministry Evangelism means we show a non-believing student the complexities, richness, landscape, and reality of what it means to be a follower of Jesus before he/she signs the Christianity lease agreement. Youth ministries need to reverse their priorities by immersing non-believing students into faith (discipleship) before presenting the convent agreement (Evangelism).[wpfp-link]