His name is Iliya. He was an atheist. At least he had been two weeks earlier when he had first come to youth group and (somewhat politely) mocked it. This night he stands up and passionately describes the love of God that has flooded his heart and passionately urges other students to give themselves more completely to Jesus. The most beautiful part: he was led to Christ, not by an adult leader, but by a student. In fact, he was the fifth generation of student to be led to faith by other students in the group. It is an example of remaking youth ministry as youth who do ministry.
Let’s continue the dialogue about a youth ministry that starts from a new center: The view of what we want our students to be and do (both as individuals and as a community) when they leave us. This stands in stark contrast to attendance and conversion numbers as our primary goals for students. I have called it ancient-future youth ministry. Feel free to call it something else. What I am proposing is not new to me…or to any of the other authors that have been saying much of this same stuff. It is really the church for 2000 years called back to it’s roots, but embracing our place in our current cultural context. Here are the core values that we program from in our context…
Our Mission: To raise up a faithful Christian generation that is leading the church and changing the world.
Our Vision: To be Christ-centered youth ministers who use our spiritual gifts to build and equip teams of volunteers who join us in going where youth are to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and to guide, serve and disciple youth in the Anglican tradition.
Our core values are that our ministries will be…
- Incarnational: We GO! We start in student’s world. We follow the Great Commission and “go” engage students. (Matt. 28:19-20, John 1:1-14, Col. 1:21)
- Transformational: We Proclaim the transforming message that “Christ has died, Christ is risen. Christ will come again. (Eph. 2:8-10, 1 Pet. 3:18, 1 Cor. 15:3-5, Rom. 1:16)
- Formational: We Walk…along side and teach students by our lives. Connected to the historic body of Christ, we stand on the shoulders of giants-back through time. As part of God’s family, we utilize the ancient wisdom and experience of the church…spiritual disciplines, the Christian year, monastic practices, etc.
- Integrational: We Work to see youth fully integrated into the life of the local parish and the world. (Eph. 3:19-22, Eph. 4:12-14)
- Sacramental: We worship with students and artfully engage students in worship, using both ancient and modern forms, to engage with God on the basis of his great narrative that rewrites both our very view of life as being birthed from (Baptismal) and sustained (Eucharistic) by God in Christ as revealed in Scripture.
Imagine what would such a group create in student’s commitment to the faith: In their commitment to the Scriptures, the unchurched in our communities, and the broader church community.
As a result of our Christian convictions we will do the following…
- Evangelize – We will Share
- Meet unchurched students in their world.
- Clearly proclaim a relationship with Jesus.
- Give regular opportunity for students to respond.
- Believe and teach that knowing God is the best, most joyful, purpose-producing gift we can give students! Way better than soccer.
- Disciple – We will Teach
- Theological method: Scripture,Tradition & Reason
- God-filled lives…taught by God-filled worship: shaped by ancient patterns, rhythms and liturgies.
- Sacramental understanding
- Prayer (all seven types, BCP)
- Scripture and being shaped by the narrative
-Open it & use it. (Get the same Bible for everyone!)
-Memorize it. (Ps. 119:11)
-Understand it. (Exegesis & hermeneutics)
-The Big Picture of God’s story starting in Genesis
-Teach passages rather than cherry picking topics
-Give them tools to read daily at home.
F. Integrity: have “one life”
G. Growth is joy producing and enjoyable (fun)
3. Serve – We will Act
- Servant hearts: family, school, church, ‘hood, world
- Work for justice (Luke 4:16-21)
- Teach students to use their spiritual gifts
- Appreciate & celebrate other Christian traditions
4. Develop Christian Leaders – We will replace ourselves
A. Recruit leaders (from within and without the church)
B. Develop, train, serve and equip Christian leaders
With these principles in mind We will run high grace/high expectation groups in which:
-All are Welcome. A multi-ethnic, multi-economic community (John 17:20-23, Acts 11:19-26; 13:1ff.)
-All can be Transformed– Discipleship is for all (Matt. 28:19)
-All should become Evangelists (Rom. 1:16 )
-Our attraction will be the power of God on display. (Acts 2:42-43, 2 Pet. 1:16, 2 Cor. 2:4-5)
What might this look like? I am not exactly sure. I would guess that it will be contextual and be a bit different in every different church. It wouldn’t be easily packaged as a model. Did the Apostle’s follow a script?
Swing for the fence- your students and leaders will surprise you!
It’s up to us. What will you do?