Your Mid-Year Youth Ministry Checkup

I’m not a hunter, but I’ve got a son who is. A few weeks ago he took a couple of hours to head out to friend’s farm to “sight in” his rifle. It’s a process of getting everything lined-up so that when he pulls the trigger he can send an accurate shot toward his target. That’s about all I know about hunting. . . that and the fact that you do want to hit your target. Conversely, the secret to ineffective and even dangerous hunting is simply to just “take a shot”. . . haphazardly. . . and hope that you bag something. The picture that comes to mind here is that scene from the trailer for the film Vice that’s been running during commercial breaks. You know. . . the one where Dick Cheney shoots a friend. If you’re in youth ministry and you’ve got a couple of down days over the holidays, why not sit back and prayerfully ponder how well you’re doing at choosing your ministry target, along with how well you’re doing at hitting those targets. I speak from experience here when I say that it’s easy to fall into the habit of just pulling the trigger in an effort to keep busy in ministry.
There’s a dead guy I oftentimes read. . . one of our spiritual forefathers whose actually quite wise. . . who recently challenged me regarding my own life, family, and ministry. He got me thinking about my own need to pause and ponder. Jonathan Edwards might also serve to challenge you as you think about what you want to see happen in your youth ministry. Simply stated, I would hope that we all want to be about the business of nurturing faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who will continue to grow in discipleship for the remainder of their lives.

During a recent conversation with my buddy Greg Stier, I heard Greg passionately phrase this goal in this way: “I’m praying for revival in this generation of students. Greg’s words hung with me over the course of the next few days. . . enough to push me to read what Jonathan Edwards had written in his The Distinguishing Marks Of A Work Of The Spirit Of God.

Edwards says that there are five marks of genuineness in revival. And as I read through each of the marks, I realized that each mark has to be a part of how we do youth ministry. Take a look at each and consider how you might do a better job. . . post-holidays. . . of doing youth ministry in ways that are characterized by all five. And then, watch God work!

Exalts Jesus Christ. Are you doing ministry in a way that glorifies and lifts of the Lord of the Universe to His rightful place? The cultural narrative is teaching kids to exalt, pursue, and worship all kinds of idols that become ultimate things. Is Jesus Christ and His redemptive work ultimate in your youth ministry?

Attacks The Kingdom Of Darkness. The Scriptures tell us that we aren’t in a battle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. I fear that all too often we downplay and even ignore the reality, presence, and relentless work of the enemy. Are you pushing back with Gospel truth on the lies that weave in and through culture and young lives? Are you helping your students see that there is an enemy and that this enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy?

Honors The Scriptures. Our youth ministries must take the Scriptures seriously, and they must teach kids how to seriously and correctly engage with Scripture in ways that lead them to hear what God wants them to hear from His Word. . . rather than a crazy interpretation based on feeling, opinion, poor exegesis, and a sketchy hermeneutic.

Promotes Sound Doctrine. Yes, this one’s about theology. And no, “doctrine” is not a dirty word. You must be learning theology yourself and then pouring what you are learning into kids’ lives. Choose carefully, looking to learn from sources of sound doctrine that offer a corrective to so much of the theological fluff that’s out there today.

Involves An Outpouring Of Love Toward God And Man. Ultimately, this isn’t just head knowledge. It’s a knowledge of God that fuels our love for God and for those who have been made in His image.

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