Discipleship IS the Priority in Youth Ministry

The first church that I served in was in a small town in southern Virginia. My first week on the job was a cold February Monday. My first task, plan the winter retreat quickly followed by the Spring Conference at a regional Christian college. Now, at the age of 21, my awareness was not as sharp as it was when I was 31 (not yet 41, but I can smell it) so I did not recognize that what I jumped into had a long history of

running discipleship programs, trips, and events for the teenagers in the church. This is not my chance to vent about a crazy first church experience. On the contrary, my first church was a carbon copy of hundreds of churches around the state who spent most of their leadership energy in the youth ministry trying to dream up new ways to get teenagers to want to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is a cycle that still continues today. Ask ten youth pastors what the highest priorities are for their student ministry and I bet you will hear things like…telling students about Jesus, or reaching unsaved kids, or seeing students personally own their faith, or produce students that know God’s Word. All of those things and more will roll off their lips. But the real answers can be found in taking an evaluative look at what those same youth pastors spend their time doing day in and day out every week of the year. What we youth pastors spend our time on the most is often what we really value the most. And our calendars reveal what we spend our time on the most.

My fear is that, although we know how critical it is, we do not have a solid direction for the discipleship ministry that we have with our teenagers. We keep manufacturing church clones who can spit out the right answers but they can’t reproduce the life of Christ in any of their peers around them.

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