Posts Tagged ‘youth’

A number of thoughts have been running through my mind since the whole Mavuno poster issue surfaced on social media. This has made me think a lot about Youth Ministry and how we tend to do it. This also came up during our Raising the Bar Conference in Kisumu last week. These are just a few things that we need to think about:

  1. What is our Aim?

Working with young people in whichever field can be and is always exciting; they are young of course, energetic, fun-loving, visionary, easy-to-get-along-with (with a few exceptions) and as long as you are pressing the right button, you will always have them by your side.

Now when it comes to the Church, what is the whole point of having a youth ministry? Why do we have it running? To keep them busy… for fellowship… because church X down the road is also doing it… because the Church leadership said so… or because they are usually bored when they come to the adult service? Each church has it’s own aim, which is a good thing but thinking again about it, ‘What is the one thing that we want to achieve in these young people?’ What is our aim- the end result?

Looking at 2 Corinthians 3:18

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding [or reflecting] the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is Spirit.

It’s clear that the aim of the apostle’s ministry is Transformation. This is our aim also as gospel workers. This gospel transformation happens when we; a) Behold and reveal/reflect the Glory of Christ and the result is that we; b) Become like Christ, we grow in Christ-likeness. This is all made possible not because of our effort but because of Christ’s working in through His Spirit.

So, the biggest thing it seems is to point people to Christ, see how glorious He is and as we prayerfully seek Him, He works by His Spirit lifting off the veils covering people’s eyes so that they can behold Him. Then in the end, there’s a transformation that happens and we become more and more like Him. This is no small thing.

I wonder whether this is still our aim in many of our youth ministries! If gospel transformation isn’t our aim, then perhaps we need to rethink!

     2. How do we Get People? Where do we get them from?

Now that we know our aim, the question then is where do we get the people we minister to? For some, you simply inherit what has been passed-on to you from your predecessor, for others, you have to start from scratch and look for people yourself. Also, are we just targeting those who are already churched or we are also targeting the un-churched?

The dynamics of dealing with different groups change. You have to know how to ‘connect’ and make the gospel relevant for them. I think this is where Mavuno Church are good at- making the gospel culturally-relevant but the danger is that in doing this we make the gospel culturally-subservient and the result is no gospel at all but conformity to culture! Yet, as Dan Strange would say ‘Jesus (and the gospel for that matter) is the subversive fulfillment of every culture’ The gospel speaks to culture affirming what is good & godly and rebuking what is bad & ungodly!

Reading from the famous Great Commission passage Matthew 28:19, it’s clear that Jesus calls His disciples to make disciples of all nations- be it churched/un-churched, Christian/non-Christian, white/black. And in making disciples, they do it by baptizing them and teaching them. What are they teaching them? All that Christ has commanded- basically, the gospel.

Notice what is happening here, as disciples, we go out (not to attract people to us) to make disciples by calling them to obedience to the gospel of Christ Jesus. The gospel is attractive and sufficient to bring in and save those whom God has called to Himself. But what we’ve done is that we have replaced the gospel with packaging.

What has happened now is that it’s not just the gospel that matters but the packaging; we’ll do everything we can to make sure that we get our packaging right- just come as you are, we’ve got an awesome band, we’ve got a great charismatic speaker, we’ve got smoke machines, we’ve got a nice welcome team, or we only sing hymns, we’ve a great ‘swallowship’ so come along, this is gonna be great!

Of course these things are good but the danger is that we’ve ended up putting our trust in them rather than in the power of the gospel to save.

This is where our confidence lies:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Rom. 1:16

So, if we are to get people, let the gospel attract them! Don’t add, don’t subtract from it. Of course you’ve to make it relevant and not boring- this is a chapter for another day!

     3. What do we do with them once they have Come?

Now that we know our aim very well and we know where and how to get the people, what next is what do we do with them? How do we structure our programme? What do we include/don’t we include?

Tim Hawkins gives an important principle, which I’ve found very helpful; “Whatever you use to attract students (young people) to your group, you’ve got to use the same thing to keep them there.”

If you used friendship as an attraction then you have to stick to that. If you used fun/outdoor activities then you have to keep doing that. If you used sports, watching the English Premier League then you have to keep using that. If you offered therapeutic sessions then you have to continue with that. If you’ve promised me something then the next Sunday I come and you don’t offer it to me I feel short-changed, so you’ve got to give what I want just as you said.


What about making the gospel our main attraction! It’s gloriously beautiful!

In the West particularly, the tendency is to start with other things then once people are in, we can now introduce the gospel. For us here in East Africa, our thinking has been like ‘the gospel is for non-believers, once they are Christians, use something else, give them something else.’ We call this discipleship but it’s discipleship minus gospel. The result has been many people end up ‘backsliding’ then we wonder whether they were really ;born-again’ in the first place or they reacted to our gospel presentation rather than the gospel itself!

The gospel is the way in and the way on. Start with the gospel, keep on with the gospel.

     4. How do we Measure Success?

In the corporate world, there are a number of parameters to use to measure success and it’s for you to choose among the many options available which one will suit you. The other day, when doing appraisal of how my work has been for the last six months, on of the things I was asked to do was to rate myself on how I had grown spiritually. I found this so hard because I just didn’t have some real ‘Spiritual-meter’ to use. This is the dilemma we usually find ourselves in when thinking about the success of our ministry.

So, we go for these options:

  • Numbers—Our success is measured by the more people we have in our group. ‘We begun with 10 people, now we are 100, Praise the Lord’
  • Activities—The more the activities the better we are. ‘This year we must plan for a trip to climb mount Kenya’
  • Keeping them—None of the people we have I the group should drop out. Do all we can at whatever cost to ensure that we keep them
  • Joining Ministries—this people must join ministries- praise & worship, mercy ministry, ushering, prison ministry need people and therefore these guys have to be there too.
  • Empowering them to be better people- This is a big thing in our context where we focus on the ‘me’ and how to unleash the power within.

These are important things but not the most important because that is not exactly what Christ requires. the thing we should be looking at is when Christ returns, are we gonna be found faithful? Are we and the people we serve growing in their Christ-likeness? Is there passion for evangelism? Is there a realization of one’s own sinfulness and the need to depend on God’s Grace? Is there love for others? In short, is there evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives? Even more to this is having an eternal perspective of things where we are looking forward to that day when the Master will tell us ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ This is/will be the true measure of success!

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