A scripture that we use constantly is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our lives, too.” We use this when encouraging our leaders to pursue their relationship with their group of students and also in our GoCo settings as encouragement to our students to be intentional in the relationships they have with others by sharing not only the Gospel but their lives. At the very core, this scripture is a verse of thanksgiving. Paul is writing this, thankful to God for the community that has developed in Thessalonica and for the relationships that he has gained.
One of the cores of a Christ-following, intentional community on mission is that thanksgiving must spring readily from the lips of the people in the community. We have so much to be thankful for and people need to experience that joy as we share our lives with them. If thanksgiving isn’t regularly a part of the community then you need to ask: are you coming into God’s presence on a regular basis, is healing occurring, are lives being transformed, are you blessed by those around you, are you being a blessing to those around you, are you worshipping, are the lost being found in Christ? If this is happening in your missional community then you MUST BE THANKFUL to God! How can you not be thankful when all of this is going around you, in you, and through you? Just the simply fact that you get to share the Gospel with those who you are sharing life with should be enough to constantly be thankful!
Last week our team had the privilege of going to Atlanta, GA for the 3DM/Wayfarers Youth Ministry of the Future Workshop. These few days were geared towards helping various student ministries from around the country think through and transition into what it means/looks like for our ministries to be missional and to have a discipling culture.
There were several student ministries, as well as the Wayfarer team, that shared what they are doing in their ministries and how they have developed a discipling culture. One ministry has a Wednesday night middle school program that’s run by 150 high school students and those highschool students also lead small groups with the middle school students. Another ministry has students intentionally living the life of a disciple and discipling others at their school, as well as upperclassmen Huddling and investing in younger students. The final ministry shared about how they have over 45 missional communities with around 800 students that are impacted by the way these MC’s are actively serving and discipling those around them! We heard these stories about what God is doing through their ministries, students, and leaders and felt truly inspired by each of them.
Here are some of our BIG takeaways, or challenges, from last week:
- Your ministry must be Missional and Multipliable. This was a big one for us. Rich Atkinson from Sheffield, England shared this with everyone. For the missional part he measured this by what he calls, “The 4 C’s”:
- Contact – do you make contact with the lost?
- Community – does your ministry feel like a family?
- Connect – do you connect students to Jesus?
- Commission – do you send students to live out their faith? do you send your leaders to make contact with young people?
One of the most important questions for us was, “is your ministry multipliable?”. In this, Rich challenged many of us about the center of our ministry. Can our leaders do it, or have we made it too complicated that they think there’s no way they can possibly lead in the way that we do? And more in depth, is the ministry we run multipliable? Can it be reproduced and done elsewhere? The heart behind this question is that the most effective way to reach people and disciple them is to make what we are doing multipliable.
- How much of your ministry reflects Approval, Appetite, and Ambition rather than Jesus’ resurrection?
- Approval – this is often associated with the celebrity trap that many of us fall in to. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to become the next celebrity pastor. It’s very much part of our culture. This generally ends up with your ministry being built in a way that will cause others around you to applaud your ministry instead of your ministry being built on a faithfulness found in solely God’s approval. Dave Rhodes gives us this important reminder, “In the Kingdom, faithfulness trumps fame.”
- Appetite – as Jesus said ‘no’ to the devil’s temptation in the desert of turning the stone into bread, he was saying that he is dependent on God and not on what he can do himself. Is this reflective of our ministries? Do we try to run our ministry on our own self-reliance or out of a dependence on God? Are we helping our leaders and students get to a place of dependence on God, rather than a dependence on themselves or the ministry.
- Ambition – often times, in our ministries, ambition (although can be very positive) can take the form of ‘staking our claim.’ In our American, driven, culture, this means that we are prone to the ambition of having the biggest and best ministry in town; often comparing ourselves to the ministry down the road. Instead of trying to ‘one-up’ and letting your ambition drive you to a hard heart for the Kingdom, work out of your weakness. A couple questions you might ask are:
- What if the focus of our ministry was more the number of students lost in our city and how the Church can go after them, instead of how many showed up to our ministry?
- In line with the first question, how much of your ministry are you giving away to your leaders and students, releasing your own control over it?
- What is discipleship within your ministry and how do you measure it? Dallas Willard says that, “discipleship is about becoming who Jesus would be if he were you.” In that same vein, what if the measure of our student ministries was what Dallas Willard asks when he poses the question, “What is your process of making disciples and is it working?” Is what we do in our ministry helping students and leaders to become who Jesus would be if he were them and helping them to grow in both the character and competency of Jesus?
As usual, we would love your thoughts on these ideas that have been challenging us. Have you had success in any of these? Or, even better, failures that we can learn from? As you read these do you feel challenged?
We are looking forward to participating in the conversations that will occur this week at the Youth Ministry of the Future Workshop, put on by 3DM and Wayfarers. There will be some very gifted leaders speaking about the culture of student ministry they have developed.
Before we hear some of the conversations at this workshop, we are curious about your thoughts on what the ‘youth ministry of the future’ looks like. Is it continued amped out mid-week or Sunday night services? Is it small group driven? Is it high school students leading middle school students? Is it teaching based or discussion oriented?
Share some of your thoughts…