7 signs of deep youth ministry:
Often in ministry we can be tempted to think in terms of width. How wide can we spread the message? How many people can we get to attend our events. It’s also important however to think in terms of depth. What are we doing to strengthen the faith, gifting or character of those we work with. Here are 7 signs that may show how “deep’ your youth ministry is going.
Deep Youth Ministry helps young people to know what they believe.
Our primary purpose is to help young people believe. To help them discover and decide whether or not to connect with the truth about Jesus and to give this believe substance so that it can remain when the circumstances of life test it. It is crucial that our young people can understand the gospel and the difference Jesus makes in their relationships with God, with themselves, with others and the world around them. This faith must not be abstract, but be rooted in the everyday realities and contexts in which they encounter.
Are we revealing a Jesus who emerges from scripture or a version of God from our own thinking?
Is what we’re doing forming or undermining an orthodox faith?
Deep youth ministry comes as we teach young people to interpret the Bible and find meaning and identity for their lives in it.
We are a generation with more access to the Bible than any generation previously but we read it less than previous generations. Perhaps this is because in practice we have turned Scripture into a collection of proof texts about moral issues, an instruction or guide book, or maybe even a history book rather than a text that reveals a God who has moved, is moving and will move. Perhaps we’ve seen it as interesting rather than world forming.
Deep youth ministry helps young people to do more than simply use scripture as an information and knowledge source, rather it draws them in and gives them skills to interpret the Bible in relation to their lived experience. It enables the Bible to be relevant, teaching its relevance and application for a life lived with Jesus.
Are we simply using the Bible as an information source or a moral guidebook with young people or are we helping them to become interpreters of the text?
Deep youth ministry needs to be rooted in deep encounter.
Alongside helping young people to believe and interpret, youth ministry needs to be rooted in encounter with God. This is where faith becomes real, where God breaks into their experience and reality. One of our tasks is to facilitate moments where the otherness of God has potential to be present. This could be times of worship, waiting, or praying, or could be creative activities at one extreme or silence and reflection at the other, but young people need these moments of encounter to connect them to the Trinity.
Are you deliberately creating space in your sessions for the otherness of God to break-in?
Deep youth Ministry creates space for a language of faith to develop.
Young people need space to articulate what they believe. Research suggests that young people who seem to have a deeper faith are those who can articulate what God has done, what God is doing and what God might do in their future. As such young people need regular space to talk about how God has been involved, or even absent, in their recent lived experience. This is more than sharing their testimony of how they came to faith, although this is often a great starting point, rather it is about encouraging young people to regularly reflect on the little everyday ordinary moments they have with God alongside the out of the ordinary moments. It is to help them notice what God is doing so that they speak it out, whether they are moments where God blesses or God is disciplining them. It is about helping young people to involve God in their story and giving them space where that story can be articulated, either one to one, in small groups or in larger settings
When was the last time you heard a young people talk about something God had done in their lives?
Deep youth ministry seeks to encourage young people to give their lives to contextual mission.
Young people with deep faith tend to be those who are willing to engage in mission. As a result deep youth ministry should be looking to pull young people into something that helps them change the world around them. This may be acts of kindness, an Alpha course, or some on-going evangelism or service project that sees them encountering and sharing faith with those outside of the church. Whatever it is, it is about creating concrete, current and contextual opportunities for mission. These opportunities must be more than talk, theory or simply possible ideas in the future. They must also sit within the context of the area you are serving in. Deep youth ministry gives young people the opportunity to serve and reveal Jesus where they live, and amongst people they regularly encounter.
What are the concrete and current opportunities for young people to engage in mission in your context?
Deep youth ministry is concerned with the future of each young person.
Too much youth ministry is reactive to the moment and gets focussed on helping young people to survive the difficulties, issues, hurts, pains and joys of growing up at the beginning of the 21st Century. But deep youth ministry is not concerned with simply looking after them for the few years they are our responsibility. Rather Deep Youth Ministry is about helping them grow and be shaped towards a future that is rooted in a God who calls them, creates them and crafts them into new selves in Christ. Deep youth ministry prepares young people to live out this identity both now and for whatever future may come. It calls out their God given identity, their Spirit given gifts and talents and equips them for life with Jesus – both inside and outside of the church. Deep youth ministry seeks the God given potential for each young person and helps them engage as individuals in a communal and personal discovery of what their future with God might look like.
Can you articulate who your young people are becoming in Christ?
7) COMMUNITY / family
Deep youth ministry is more communal than individual.
It’s not that deep youth ministry does not value individuals – it massively does – but in deep youth ministry all the above components are rooted in community. Our goal is help young people find themselves in community. As it is in community, not isolation, that people discover who they are, how they might need to grow and change, and how to be honest, vulnerable and authentic. The heart of the gospel is a reminder to love God and love others and this can only be worked out in and through relationships with each other. Deep youth ministry therefore creates a community where young people can go deep and be deep, where they can practice, love, forgiveness, perseverance, patience, kindness and where they can be honest, real and authentic without feeling judged and rejected. It is about creating a climate where they don’t have to put on masks or engage in the pretence of the airbrushed world we live in.
How are you fostering a sense of deep, honest, loving, forgiving community?
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