I have spent nearly 20 years working with young people and seeing trends, styles, cultures and influences shift and change dramatically.
I’ve concluded that reaching out to young people boils down to a few simple principles that remain constant in the midst of change.
1. Create an embracing attitude.
Our ministries need to embraces the lost. Unless we do so, it won’t matter how good our curriculum is, how talented our worship team is or how relevant our latest sermon series is. If our students, families and leaders reject the awkward, lost and broken, we’re doing little more than hosting a Christian social club.
Do all your students look and act the same? If so, it may be time to teach them the big picture of reaching the lost and accepting those who are new to faith or have no faith at all.
2. Create an equipping process.
People must be discipled. I would go so far as to say that discipleship often starts before people know Jesus. It’s a relationship that starts with where they are and walks with them on a journey.
Our ministries should have a system that deepens relationships with Christ and other people; believers must learn the basics of faith so that they are building on a solid foundation. As people see that they are making progress and growing spiritually, they are often sold on discipleship for a lifetime.
3. Create an entrusting environment.
Students, even children, can and need to lead. They need to be entrusted with speaking out and owning the ministry both inside and outside the church walls. This concept is important if we want to keep younger generations involved in our churches.
Students as young as 8 years old are taking initiative and getting actively involved in global causes. It is not unreasonable to think that they can run our soundboards and lead Bible studies. If we don’t give them a place to lead as they are able, the world will.
The beauty to these keys is that, once they are established, they become self-perpetuating. You will naturally see the lost seeking be to be discipled, learners seeking to lead, and leaders seeking to help reach the lost.
Looking for a must-read book on student ministry? I recommend From Survival to Significance by Troy Jones (WinePress Publishing). Written in 1999, this book was given to me as I first began my journey as a youth pastor. Its principals have stood the test of time, and still apply to how we reach and raise up young people to this day.