The Next Generation: A Biblical Look at Student Ministries

Dr. Rick L. Holland Associate Pastor, College and Student Ministries Some Noteworthy Observations • • • • • • • • • Less than 10% of the Jr. High students in churches today will still be involved with church by their senior year of college. Crime and sexual promiscuity among teenagers is the highest in history. Recent surveys reveal that there is no significant differences in attitude or behavior between teens in and outside the church. More material on youth ministry has been published in the last decade than in the previous 50 years. The average tenure of a youth pastor is less than eighteen months. The percentage of teens who come from a broken home is the highest in history (between 5055%). Generally, the least theologically trained staff member of a church is the youth pastor. The general perception of youth ministry is no more than glorified babysitting. Yet, over 80% of people who give their lives to Christ do so before 25!

Contemporary Trends in Youth Ministry
1. Pragmatism • • • Wrong goals create wrong methods Success is defined by numbers, good activities, and involvement Church growth movement has confused the purpose of the church

2. Psychology • • • Wrong diagnosis leads to wrong action More emphasis is put on understanding the teen than understanding God Sin is not seen as the problem

3. Mysticism • • Spirituality and maturity are defined experientially rather than rationally (2 Peter 1:2-3) Charismatic influences on youth ministry have been confusing

4. Parachurchism • • • • Campus ministries have replaced the church as the primary place of spiritual identity (Matthew 16) Many of the best youth leaders have been lured away from the church to parachurch organizations Few parachurch organizations feed the local church Doctrine is devalued for the purpose of “unity”

5. Ecumenism • • • Doctrine is seen as a divisive issue and to be avoided for the purpose of “working together” Rodney King theology – “Can’t we all just get along?” The Gospel is devalued

6. Accommodation • • Students are let define and direct the philosophy of ministry Fearing consequences of doing ministry biblically, fun and entertainment become both the goal and the means

7. Postponement • • There is a survivalist mentality to “keep” the students in church until real influence is possible Jr. High ministry is not taken as seriously as it needs to be

8. Integration • • Making the church as much like the world as possible Are we trying to moralize the unconverted, or convert the immoral?


All of these mistakes are rooted in a tragic misconception. That misconception can be called the “Myth of Adolescence.”

The Myth of Adolescence
The age group which youth ministry deals with is commonly known as adolescence. Our modern day society has been identified as unique in history for classifying teenagers (ages 12 to 20) as a group of people called adolescents. What is meant by saying that a teenager is an adolescent is that he is no longer a child, but not yet an adult. Note Webster’s definition: “the state or process of growing up; the period of life from puberty to maturity terminating legally at the age of majority.” It must be noted here that this state called adolescence is a twentieth century, Western invention. Ours is the only culture in history to see three stages of development to maturity, namely childhood, adolescence, adulthood. All other cultures outside of Western culture and its influence, as well as history in general before the twentieth century, see only two stages in the development of maturity, namely childhood and adulthood. What we’ve done is create an unnatural state called adolescence where a person is not a child, yet not an adult. From where did such an idea come? In 1904 Dr. G. Stanley Hall published a book entitled, Adolescence: Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education. This is the first known treatise on adolescence as a stage in a person’s life. In it Hall argued that the stages in a child’s development parallel in mankind’s development in history. The thesis of his book is that the period between thirteen and eighteen is a crisis and stormy period in a young person’s life. Hall concluded that these years almost always include extreme inclinations for a young person to be very good or very bad. It was his book and these expectations that were the basis segregating school children by age for educational purposes. It was at this point that adolescence was invented. What should be made of such an arbitrary assertion? Consider the history of Judaism. Since the days of the Pentateuch, the Jews have celebrated the passing of a boy from childhood to adulthood in their Bar Mitzvah (Son of the Commandments) Ceremony. In other words, the Jews have held for centuries that at around age thirteen a person should be fully accepted as an adult in the religious community. We find Christ as a twelve-yearold going through a similar ceremony in Luke 2:41-47. The thesis of this study is that the teens to whom we minister are not adolescents; they are adults. Granted, they are “young” adults, but adults nonetheless. Physically, emotionally, and volitionally they have capabilities commensurate to adulthood. Yet, of all sources, the church (through youth ministry primarily) retards the young person’s spiritual development by not allowing or expecting him to be spiritually responsible or challenging him to the extent of biblical expectations or examples. We are not too different from Saul and the rest of the men of Israel who looked at a young teen named David as an insignificant youth (see 1 Samuel 17:33 and context) just before he leveled Goliath. If God put such stock in a “youth,” why don’t we? By creating this mythical state known as adolescence the teenager is in constant flux between childhood and adulthood since he is accepted fully as neither. This is a significant part of the teen problems in our society. It contributes greatly to the teen syndrome of seeking identity in peer groups, gangs, drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex. It also generates anger at parents and a general anti-establishment attitude. The problem is that in some contexts, the young person is patronized

as a child, yet in others he is expected to act responsibly as an adult. And we wonder why teens are so confused! The tragedy is that this tension is propagated in youth ministry. We try to keep our feet on both sides of the fence between children’s ministry and adult ministry by implementing elements of both while at the same time neglecting elements of both. The current assumptions and expectations in youth ministry have problems that must be corrected if we are to raise up a generation for Christ. I. Problems With Believing in Adolescence A. Adherence to the idea of adolescence promotes a low view of teens. The reason our teens are not living Spirit-filled lives is because we don’t expect them to. Our view of teens and their effectiveness in ministry is embarrassingly low compared to God’s view and expectation of teens. As we consider Scripture, it is clear that the Bible does not recognize adolescence. Certainly no Greek or Hebrew term represents such a stage. And perhaps we need only consider the following brief list of the significance of teens not only as adults, but also as the heroes of our faith. Throughout the Bible we see God calling and putting teenagers at the cutting edge of His work and trust. Consider Daniel and his friends, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joseph, Hezekiah, Ruth, Mary and Joseph, David, Josiah, and Mark. If God Himself put such great stock in teens, why don’t we? Because we don’t really believe that teens can be significant for Christ. We must call our young people to the standard of following Christ that the Scriptures require and expect of any Christian. Maybe our whole discussion can be summarized by stating that God’s Word is not age graded! Our goal must be to not only present Christianity, but expect Christianity out of our young people. B. Adherence to the idea of adolescence promotes a low view of God. Following on the heels of this first point, low expectations of the potential for spiritual maturity of teens reflects a low view of the heart and power of God. Colossians 1:28-29 reveals Paul’s passion for the maturity of the saints: “And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (emphasis added). It is the heart of God that every man be made complete in Christ. The point needs to be underscored that the students in our ministry fall under the category of “every man.” To underestimate students’ spiritual capacities and capabilities with regard to loving and serving Christ is to underestimate God. The Bible record is a testimony to the fact that God is quite pleased and capable to minister to and through teens. To back away from this emphasis is to back away from the heart of God. Either we believe God has the power to work through our teens or we don’t. The issue must be pressed to this point of trusting God at His Word. Buying into the cultural lie that adolescents cannot be spiritually responsible merely reveals a deeper problem, namely a belief that God cannot or will not use our teens to touch our world.

II. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Other problems or dangers with believing in the concept of adolescence: Low moral standards Low and little expectations Minimum or low responsibility–lack of accountability Prolonged immaturity Sexual promiscuity Irresponsible spending habits–debt Poor work ethic Wasted opportunities Irresponsible spontaneity Lack of self-control Identity crises (neither child nor adult) Problems in the home Laziness Substance abuse

Three words sum up the impact of “adolescence” on the life of a teen: • Confusion • Frustration • Rebellion

~A Biblical Approach to Student Ministries~
Ministry is war. The Church must constantly battle for her doctrine and her purity. Church history is a diary of the blood-soaked battles, which have been waged for the souls of sinners and the sanctification of the saints. But perhaps the most important arenas of conflict with the Enemy are the lives of young people. Especially targeted are the formative years of about 12-25. These are the most decisive years in a person’s life, yet often the most overlooked in the strategy of the Church. THE TRAGEDY OF MODERN YOUTH Our generation has seen unprecedented negligence in the shepherding of our teens. The headlines are daily filled with the gravity of this reality. We read of teenagers having babies at high school proms and dumping them into trashcans, shooting each other and their teachers, orchestrating drug transactions, and leading the culture in sexual advances. But that is the world, right? Are there significant issues with the students in our churches? Josh McDowell recently conducted an extensive study of evangelical churched youth. The study revealed that 66% lied to their parents within the past three months; 36% cheated within the past three months; 23% tried to hurt someone in the same period; and 55% had engaged in sexual activity by age 18 (Right from Wrong, Word Publishing, 1994). Many youth ministries and leaders are only making the situation worse. Instead of aggressively engaging in the battle over the souls and sanctification of our young people, too much attention is focused on the likes of pizza parties and finding good jokes for the next youth talk.

Youth ministry is not a party- it is a war! The Church’s light-hearted attitude toward the youth ministry is horrifically tragic compared to Satan’s serious strategy to capture the minds and hearts of our youth. The Enemy throws billions of dollars, an entire entertainment industry, a powerfully relevant music culture, and a seductive advertising conspiracy at influencing youth. He is clever, calculating, cunning, and creative. He has no intention of waiting until these young people are “old enough” to be influenced. He believes they are capable of great understanding, commitment, belief, responsibilities and influence. In short, Satan is focusing his most intensive firepower at the battleground of youth. Meanwhile the Church and youth leaders in particular are many times exasperating the matter. Our expectations of the spiritual capabilities and possibilities of our young people are woefully low compared to the Enemy. When we ought to be aggressively proclaiming the gospel and its power to our teens, we are too busy planning the next activity or delegating the next snack. Are we trying to impress these students or impact them? THE OPPORTUNITY IN MINISTRY TO YOUTH The Bible is not age-graded. Scripture nowhere gives teens a loophole to escape the commands, blessings, or responsibilities revealed in God’s Word. In fact some of the heroes of the faith are “youth.” Consider the likes of Daniel and his three friends, Joseph, John Mark, Ruth, Hezekiah, David, Josiah, and even Joseph and Mary. It should be no surprise after noting a list like that to hear the Holy Spirit say, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12). By using the word “example”, Paul is saying the youth can actually lead by virtue of godly character. It has often been said that “youth are the future of the church.” However, this is simply not true in the mind and heart of God. They are not the “future” of the church; they are the church (in part that is). Students are an integral part of its mission as well as a choice objective of its mission. Youth are the greatest untapped resource in the church. Paul affirms this in an unexpected passage. I Corinthians 7 is primarily known for its teaching regarding marriage and celibacy. Yet not so obvious is the fact that the youth in our student ministries fall into the category of being single (married teenagers are a rare exception). As singles they garner two advantages over married people. Singles/youth have unhindered opportunity (v. 32) and undistracted devotion to the Lord (v. 35). Unhindered opportunity is the hallmark of being young and unmarried. Think of what youth do not have to hinder their ministry for the Lord. No spouse, mortgage, children to feed and shepherd, multiplicity of bills for which to account, etc. Very little stands in the way of them being the most active arm of the body of Christ. Their concerns and interests are not as divided as they will be when they get married. Most of them go to a mission field every day called school with thousands of opportunities to evangelize and minister in Christ’s name. Athletics and extracurricular activities are invitations to “proclaim the excellencies of Christ” (1 Peter 2:9). Undistracted devotion to the Lord is the jewel of being young and single. Because teens are hindered and distracted by very little, their personal devotion to Christ can be greater than at any other time in their lives. At this stage in life, there are few suitors to compete with Jesus Christ for their first love. A genuine and maturing relationship with the Lord during the teen years is wellset cement for a life of ministry and devotion.

So how can we take full advantage of impacting and leading these young people? By implementing a biblical strategy for youth ministry. Please note that a “youth ministry” is very different from a “youth group.” A youth group is by definition group of youth while a youth ministry is a group of youth that exists for ministry. To develop such a ministry, identifying and defining the essential elements is the starting line. ESSENTIALS OF YOUTH MINISTRY Colossians 1:28-29 is an amazing treasure of ministry insight and instruction. The Apostle Paul provides a personal testimony about his ministry in 1:24-27. Then in verses 28 & 29 he concludes with a concise summation of his own philosophy of ministry. In these two verses we find six essential elements of ministry. Colossians 1:28-29 And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. 1. The Right Message: “And we proclaim Him” The content of Paul’s message was the person of Jesus Christ from beginning to end. His proclamation was permeated with love, wonder, commitment, and obedience to His Lord. The most critical error made in youth ministry is the neglect of preaching Christ. The church tends to preach to its young people a message of “behavior modification,” or “change,” or even a system of “what to believe.” Be sure that all these must be taught but only in reference to a love for Christ- HIMSELF. We have become the Ephesian church of Revelation 2. We are pretty good at teaching morality and worldviews, but are we proclaiming the greatness, glories, excellence, and all satisfying nature of the incarnate God in Jesus Christ? “Young people today don’t get fired up about denominations and agencies. They get fired up about greatness of a global God, and about the unstoppable purpose of a sovereign King” (The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 11). A youth ministry must have as its supreme focus the proclamation of “the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Youth ministry and church should be about God in the mind of a young person. They should expect to come and hear about Him, all about Him. From His greatness in grace and salvation to His greatness in condemnation and judgment. Anything less is making youth ministry a social club. The message to the youth of our world is clearly defined as the person of Jesus Christ. If we don’t communicate the right message, we will create the wrong allegiance. Students should be drawn to Jesus Christ- not the youth leader, to Jesus Christ- not the programs, to Jesus Christ- not the Christian way of living.

2. The Right Way: “admonishing… and teaching… with all wisdom” The proclamation of Christ involves two elements, one which looks at the negative side“admonishing,” and one which looks at the positive side—“teaching.”


The negative side of “admonishing” carries the idea of warning. Practically, we must be faithful and clear to give the warnings of God as recorded in His Word to our youth. Unbelievers must be told about the real and serious threat of an angry God, a hungry devil, and the devastating destruction of sin. Young people need to recognize that God and Hell are not myths and stories invented to keep children in line, but the most real of all realities. Christian students must be warned as well. The Bible unequivocally warns believers about the debilitating effects of sin, the consequences of forsaking accountability and fellowship of other believers, the gravity of the Lord’s table, and the results of an unexamined life. God and His ways are serious and it is the responsibility of youth leaders to lovingly implement this necessary negative element of ministry. Such warnings about the fear of the Lord should always be done with a shepherding compassion and concern. Equally important is the admonition to “teach.” This is the positive balance to the negative. As students are warned about negatives, we are to provide Christ’s instruction on life and godliness as the positive replacement. This is the “training in righteousness” of 2 Timothy 3:16. Teaching young people the truth is not popular. There is a compelling temptation and motivation to teach in a manner that makes the students “like” the teaching or the teacher. Paul calls this “tickling the ears” in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and charges Timothy to avoid such enticement. A God-honoring youth ministry should teach what the Bible teaches, all that the Bible teaches, and no more than what the Bible teaches. This is the parameter Paul built around ministry with the phrase “with all wisdom.” In fact the “message” of ministry and the “way” of ministry are connected in 2:1-3 as both being found in Christ Himself. 3. The Right Vision: “every man…every man…every man…” Our culture breeds an attitude of seeking the “best” and leaving the “rest.” This was never the heart of our Lord or the biblical writers. Jesus Himself chose faithful ordinary men who were not known for popularity, good looks, bank accounts, or great accomplishments. He looked and preached to the multitudes to find the faithful few who would follow Him. Here Paul sets his standard high and broad by seeking that “every man” be brought to maturity in Christ. Hence, a biblical youth ministry should have in its sights the vision that everyone it contacts would be moved closer to Christ. This means looking at every teen, discerning their spiritual condition, and attempting to spiritually mature them at whatever level they are (whether that be initial salvation or sanctification). Our vision must include “every man” in order find the elect and faithful. 4. The Right Goal: “complete in Christ” It has been said that if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. Paul knew exactly where he was taking his disciples. He had a specific target for them, namely maturity in Christ. The objective of ministering to teens is moving them to love, honor, and treasure Jesus Christ above all else. This is only possible when we are preaching the “Right Message” (see #1 above). All discipleship efforts are to promote Christ-likeness as well. Every aspect of a youth program should have at its core some element of pressing the issue of

Jesus. If our goal is truly to mature our students in Christ, it will dramatically influence what we do and how we do it. The goal of youth ministry is not to create a big gathering of kids, it is not to merely have fun, and it is especially not to create a social alternative to the world. It is to present the glories of Jesus Christ and train students how to enjoy them. The wrong goal will create a wrong strategy! 5. The Right Drive (Effort): “labor, striving” Paul’s exemplary ministry takes on deep, personal, and painful dimensions with two words in verse 29. How driven is Paul toward making people complete in Christ? Two verbs tell us. First, the word translated “labor” is kapiao. It means to work with wearisome effort, to work to exhaustion. The second verb revealing Paul’s effort in presenting complete disciples is “striving” from agonizomi. This word means to work to the point of agony (origin of our English word “agony”). When these concepts are coupled, the sense is that the passion to make disciples is an all-encompassing drive that taps all the human resources. Paul gave everything he had within himself as a willing sacrifice for Christ to achieve His purpose of maturing the saints. Practically, youth ministry is tough, very tough! It cannot be done in your “spare time” or “whenever you get a chance to do it.” Done properly, a ministry to students has enormous costs to both the pastor/leader as well as volunteer staff. It takes time, money, effort, discipline, and a “stick-to-it-iveness” that can only come from a commitment to a great cause. And there is no greater cause than helping young people love Christ. 6. The Right Might: “according to His power…” Though Paul exhausted himself for Christ’s purposes, his ministry was never exhausted because it was done in the sustaining power of God at work in him. In fact the text says that the power of God was working in him “mightily.” Christ promised that same power from His abiding Spirit to the church of all ages (John 14:16). Attempting God’s work without God’s power is spiritual fraud. And the most frustrated youth leaders are those trying to do spiritual work in the power of the flesh. Something more than our own natural efforts is needed to do supernatural work. We can access this divine resource only through the means of grace given by God. Knowing the Word of God fills the tool belt of our minds with resourceful promises and truth that energize our efforts with the power of God. And the most often overlooked link to the power of God for our ministries is the simple request for it in prayer. God’s work done God’s way according to God’s word with God’s consent will always ensure God’s enabling power. Colossians 1:28-29 reveals, in concise form, these six divinely inspired elements of a biblical philosophy of ministry. These elements are biblical directives that point a youth ministry towards the purpose of the church in general. In fact, a youth ministry must be a mirror and microcosm of the purposes of the church.

THE PURPOSE OF YOUTH MINISTRY The purpose of a ministry to students is really a specific application of the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is three-fold: • Exaltation: to exalt, prize, and honor God above all else (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:5-6,12,14; 3:20-21; 1 Pet. 4:11; Rev. 4:11) • Edification: to encourage holiness and fellowship among His saints, (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 2:19-22; 4:11-16; Col. 1:28) and • Evangelism: to proclaim the gospel to the lost through evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:14-32; 2 Cor. 5:17-20; 2 Tim. 4:5) all to the glory of Jesus Christ. These are not three random commitments. They are the three foundational exhortations of our Lord Jesus in His upper room discourse to the disciples. In John 15:4 He says, “Abide in Me”Exaltation. In verse 15 of the same chapter He says, “love each other”- Edification. And in John 15:16 Jesus says, “go and bear fruit”- Evangelism. Jesus’ own instruction reveals that these are to be the philosophical thrusts of the church. Likewise a ministry to students should have the same purpose and commitments. Teens desperately need to develop these three relationships (upward, inward, and outward) to find the satisfaction that so illusively evades their pursuits. They need to experience the all-satisfying greatness of God, the fullness of fellowship with other believers that encourages holiness, and the significance of representing Christ and His Gospel to a lost and dying world. Any ministry to students that wants to be Godward and biblical must fully engage each of these philosophical elements. And discipleship is the best conduit to transfer these passions to students. THE HEART OF YOUTH MINISTRY Discipleship is the heart of youth ministry. The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20, is a call for believers to make disciples. Simply put, this is the operation of leading people to faith in Christ and then helping them progress in maturity and holiness in Christ. Note that this is not merely the responsibility of the pastor, but of all Christians. In particular, students respond to discipleship more dramatically than any other age group. Mentoring is especially effective in the lives of teens because this is the age when they are most influenced. Inherent in the concept of discipleship is the idea that a youth ministry needs a team of leaders who have exemplary lives of character, content, and commitments. 2 Timothy 2:2 provides a model for the transmission of truth and faith through the discipleship process. This process is developed throughout the rest of the New Testament in two areas. 1. Teaching We have already demonstrated the vital element of teaching truth to students in a world where Satan is constantly teaching them lies. This is the formal part of discipleship. Students must be intentionally and systematically taught the Word of God. They need to have a biblical understanding of the nature of “all things pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:2-3).

2. Modeling This is the informal, natural part of discipleship. Teens copy what they see. If the lives of youth leaders do not match their message, their message is discredited. Students need to see leaders who are in the battle with sin, Satan, and self and experiencing victory. Perfection is not the goal; progress is. The need is not “quality” time that is controlled and artificial, but “quantity” time that is real and living. The disciple must see the discipler in the highs and lows of life to adequately emulate Christlikeness (Phil 3:17; 4: 9). DEVELOPING A BIBLICAL YOUTH MINISTRY PROGRAM So far we have discussed the elements and philosophy that should comprise a youth ministry program. But we have yet to specifically consider what this looks like in a local church. All of the elements listed above should be present in any ministry that seeks to operate according to God’s Word. These elements are non-negotiable. However, the specific program is negotiable and its form can vary from church to church and from time to time. Yet in determining a program, certain biblical principles should govern the decisions to create and maintain a God-honoring student ministry program. 1. Theology Biblical theology must control and saturate all that is done in the name of God. It informs us what to do, how to do it, and how to know if it is done right. This is the point at which most youth ministries make a tragic detour. Of all the programs of the church, the youth program is generally the weakest on theology. What a travesty! The most influential generation in the church is the group getting the most distorted vision of God and His ways. When creating a youth program, the following classical categories of systematic theology must not only be taught, but they must constitute the parameters of all programming decisions. • Bibliology Key Verses: Ps. 19:7-9; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; 1 Thes. 2:13; Is.66:2 God and His self revelation have complete and absolute authority over the actions and thoughts of every man. The Bible, the very Word of God, is without error and completely trustworthy. Everything a ministry chooses to implement must submit to the scrutiny of relevant biblical data. • Theology Proper Key Verses: Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11; 1 Cor. 10:31 All that God is is revealed in His attributes. They tell us what God is like, what pleases and displeases Him, how He rules His creation, and they define ultimate glory and excellence. This has particular bearing on a youth ministry program. Every aspect of the program must reflect the excellence and glory of God. It is to be God-centered, not mancentered. Because of His great character, His pleasure and honor are at stake with anything done in His name.

• Anthropology Key Verses: Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:23; 5:12; 6:23; 8:7-8; Eph. 2:1-3 The heart of man is not neutral. Scripture asserts that it is absolutely evil and wicked, bent only on sin. This is the most crucial diagnosis a youth ministry must make. Only when we admit to this desperate condition will we acknowledge our all-encompassing dependence on God. Though the students we minister to will experience many “problems,” the fundamental issue to deal with is sin before a Holy God. Then these other problems can be addressed in the shadow of the Almighty. • Soteriology Key Verses: Jn. 6:65; 15:16; Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 2:1-10 Following closely on the heels of the doctrine of total depravity comes the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in salvation. If man is truly dead in his sin (Eph. 2:1-3), then only God can initiate and affect the reconciling work of salvation. It is essential for any ministry to understand and communicate this Gospel including: divine sovereignty, human responsibility, and the Lordship of Christ. Statistics show that the majority of Christians submit their lives to Christ as young people. The importance of an accurate theology of salvation in a youth ministry program cannot be overstated. • Ecclesiology Key Verses: Mt. 16:18; 28:19-20; Acts 20:28; Eph 3 & 4 The church is so precious to Christ that he calls her His bride. He has ordained that the church be the primary means to advance His kingdom on earth. The danger of doing youth ministry is that the program can become something of a parachurch organization existing inside the walls of the church. Our youth programs must embrace and encourage the vision of the church in which they minister. One of the major goals of a youth program is to equip students to have lives committed to the local body. • Eschatology Key Verses: Jn 14:2-3; 1 Thes. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:58; Heb. 9:27; 2 Pet. 3:10-13 Jesus Christ has promised to return in reward and judgement. This is to be both a comfort and threat in the flow of our ministry to students. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:11 that this fact is a purifying reality for “conduct and godliness.” Hence, the challenge is to be steadfast and faithful, abounding in ministry. 2. Excellence Based on the overwhelming doctrine of God just highlighted, anything done in His excellent name must be done with excellence. I Corinthians 10:31 exhorts us to do everything to the glory of God. If something is done associated with our ministry, it ought to be done with every detail attempted in reflection our great God. The size of the program or its elements is not important, but how the worth of Christ is reflected is.


3. Relevance Paul’s ministry was characterized by an odd admission. In I Corinthians 9:19-23 he said, 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. 20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. His point was that effective ministry to those whom he targeted required understanding, identification, and pertinence. Such is true when ministering to youth. Youth ministry is cross-cultural missions. The Gospel can be presented and followed with relevance to our students’ generation, and that without compromise. Sensitivity and wisdom are needed from a plurality of godly leaders to determine whether the relevancy of a youth program has gone too far or not far enough. 4. Wisdom from a Plurality of Leadership The pattern for spiritual leadership that Paul underscores in the Pastoral Epistles is that leadership is to be shared. Some of the most serious mistakes and lapses in judgment in youth ministry could be avoided if decisions were submitted to the combined wisdom of a godly leadership team. Too many youth leaders are riding solo as they attempt to lead students. Included in such a team/lay-staff should be parents and elders/overseers who can provide wisdom and maturity for leading the ministry. 5. Leadership Characterized by Godliness Because anyone put into a leadership position will automatically become a role model, careful consideration must be made in choosing leaders/disciplers. Teens are naturally sensitive, thin-skinned, trusting, and moldable. An unwise, irresponsible, or immature leader can do serious and lifelong damage to a teenager. Since like begets like (Lk. 6:40), the church should be cautious when building a youth leadership team or choosing a youth pastor. DIVINE RESOURCES FOR YOUTH MINISTRY Shepherding young lives to the knowledge of and submission to Christ is a challenge needing supernatural means. The Scriptures affirm that any such seeking of God is the work of God (John 6:44,65). God has graciously given us some supernatural resources to accompany our faithfulness to the elements we have discussed. 1. The Holy Spirit The Spirit of God is both the source and resource to all spiritual endeavors. He was sent by God the Father to glorify and disclose Jesus (John 16:13-14). He is also called the “Helper” in John 14:26 and said to be the true teacher of all things pertaining to God. APPLICATION: With the Holy Spirit as our divine, living link to the throne of God, we may

request His help through prayer. Giving help to our weakness, ignorance, and inability in our praying is one of the precious promises regarding the Spirit of God. Not only is prayer a means of personal requests, intercession, and fellowship with our Lord, it is also a precious privilege given to the infantry to be able to speak with the Commander in Chief. The ministry is God’s war and He longs to hear from us in the trenches of His battles, as we need wisdom, strength, and courage. A youth ministry that is not built on prayer is built on mere human strength. 2. The Word of God The means of grace that God has given to the church to reveal Himself and His will is His Holy Word, the Bible. It alone possesses the wisdom and power to bring true repentance and change in a person’s life. We must teach and preach what the Bible says, all the Bible says, and no more than the Bible says when it comes to the issues of God and ministry (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16). APPLICATION: Because the Word of God is absolute and authoritative, we should study like God is looking over our shoulder and preach like He is sitting on the front row. The most important priorities of a youth leader’s ministry is to know the Word of God and to pray (Acts 6:4). A FINAL EXHORTATION Youth ministry is critically important to the present and future of the church. The years from about 12 to 25 mark the most influential times in a person’s life. The church must be strategic in its efforts to take advantage of this window of opportunity. Young minds need the best teaching and theology since the rest of their lives will be built on these early thoughts about the things of God. Anyone who wishes to involve themselves in ministry to students assumes serious and lifechanging responsibilities. May God equip His church with leaders who will equip His youth for His great glory and honor.


An Overview of Crossroads’ Philosophy of Ministry


Theology of Ministry The biblical convictions that determine and control our approach to ministry

1. The Foundation of Scripture a. The Authority of Scripture b. The Sufficiency of Scripture 2. The Glory of God 3. The Preeminence of Christ II. Strategy of Ministry

4. The Ministry of the Holy Spirit 5. The Depravity of Man 6. The Sovereignty of God in Salvation 7. The Priority of the Church 8. The Imminence of Christ’s Return

The spiritual relationships to be cultivated as priorities in our ministry 1. Upward Relationship (God) a. Worship through Proclamation b. Worship through Presentation 2. Inward Relationship (Believers) a. Edifying the Saints b. Equipping the Saints III. Outward Relationship (Unbelievers) a. Evangelism through Our Walk b. Evangelism through Our Words Methodology of Ministry The practical components that implement our theology and strategy of ministry The Corporate Level Sunday mornings Missions Women’s Ministry Men’s Ministry Music Ministry Winter Retreat Activities Prayer Ministry Visitor Ministry Web Site Tape Ministry The Bible Study Level Small Groups Discipleship Preaching Retreats Campus Outreach Prayer Ministry Activities The Leadership Level Training Shepherds Training Undershepherds Training Teachers Training Deacons Training Interns Training Music Ministers


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