With the beginning of another “season” of youth ministry kicking off at the start of another school year, it’s always good to do a bit of self-examination that results in a resolve to tweak and correct ministry-course where necessary. Perhaps you, like me, are thinking through the need to re-boot some good habits and best practices that tend to soften up over time.
One of the most necessary tasks of youth ministry is to make sure our theology is on-point by being faithful to God’s Word and the correct interpretation of His revelation of Himself. I often-times remind myself that we’ve got this one short window of time to speak into a kid’s life. . . a time where they are more inquisitive, impressionable, and vulnerable than ever before. They are locked in the developmental process of identity formation (Who am I?) and the shaping of a worldview (What do I believe?) that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. My responsibility before God is to get it right. Getting it right serves to form them. Getting it wrong will de-form them.
At the heart of our need to be theologically sound is the balance between Law and Gospel. We need to get that right.
This morning in my daily practice that I call “Dawn With The Dead” (spending at least some portion of my morning routine reading a long-deceased saint), I read this updated version of Patrick Hamilton’s (1504-1528, burned at the stake in Scotland at the age of 24, all because of his faith in Jesus Christ) words on Law and Gospel from his Treatise on the Law and the Gospel. They set us on a course to get the balance right in our teaching and leading. They are words that might even be regularly used as a kind of creedal statement to read out loud and in unison with your students on a regular basis. . .
The law points to sin: the gospel remedies it.
The law condemns; the gospel redeems.
The law is a word of wrath; the gospel is a word of grace.
The law fills us with despair; the gospel comforts.
The law says, “Pay the debt!” The gospel says, “Christ has paid it!”
The law says, “You are a sinner!” The gospel says, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The law says, “Make amends!” The gospel says, “Christ has made amends for you.”
The law says, “God is angry with you! The gospel says, “God loves you.”
Let’s be sure to get this right. . . in our own lives as we look in the mirror, and in the lives of our students as we prepare them for a lifetime of faithfully following, loving, and serving their merciful Savior.