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Toward a youth ministry that makes disciples (part 3)

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Not all youth ministry activities are created equal. If our goal is to take a self-willed knucklehead and turn them into a disciple, it not only takes time (Jesus took approximately 1500 hours with his), it takes engagement in life-changing activities. In my April 8th blog, we looked at…
By Seth Barnes

Not all youth ministry activities are created equal. If our goal is to take a self-willed knucklehead and turn them into a disciple, it not only takes time (Jesus took approximately 1500 hours with his), it takes engagement in life-changing activities. In my April 8th blog, we looked at Jesus’ teaching method. I’m going to say some stuff here that sounds too rigid – please understand this is an initial stab at putting some definition on a squishy, relational process that must be grounded in love.  You can’t turn it into a system or you’ll squeeze the life right out of it.  The history of the church is the history of Jesus-followers doing what Peter tried to do on the Mount of Transfiguration and straitjacketing the Spirit with systems.  I’m not going there with this blog – so cut me some slack in advance.

Let’s look at six activities available to us as disciplers and assess which of Jesus’ methods they employ: spiritual coaching, ministering together in small groups, counseling, ministering in large groups, teaching, and hanging out together. I’m going to multiply each activity times 2 to give it a score.

I rate spiritual coaching (2 Tim. 4:2 stuff discussed in earlier blogs) the highest – through one-on-one coaching, you can teach, model, let them try it out, debrief, and let them replicate the process with someone else. So, it gets a 10. Just hanging out, by contrast, doesn’t do any of these, but it does build trust, so I give it a 1. Of course, in the process of hanging out, you can move into spiritual coaching. And of course, you have to hang out a lot to earn the trust to be able to coach.  So, like it or not, you have to do a lot of hanging out.  Occasionally in life you get to “go for the spiritual jugular,” but usually, disciple-making moves at a pace dictated by trust, and trust takes years to earn.

Following this logic, here is how I rate the activities:

Spiritual coaching                              10

Ministering together in a small group   8 (this does not mean Bible study – that is teaching)

Counseling                                         6 (explaining, trying out, and debriefing)

Ministering in a large group                4 (explaining, modeling)

Teaching                                           2 (explaining)

Hanging out                                      1

A lot of youth ministries focus on the least productive activities according to Jesus’ model: teaching and hanging out. If you want to make disciples that last, you have to do what Jesus did and invest the kind of time that Jesus did.

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