“When do we get to do the stuff?” When I first heard that statement by John Wimber it changed my whole life. I knew all the Bible stories from growing up in church, but this idea that I could be a part of the movement of God had not really crossed my mind. I knew it was good to be nice, help old ladies cross the street, read my Bible and pray. It was doing the things that Jesus did like heal the sick and move in power that I wasn’t quite so sure about. So I went to the Bible and started to investigate how Jesus would go about “doing the stuff”. As I looked through the stories, Jesus came alive. He was more then a teacher. His love moved him to bring the Kingdom of God to the people around him. I always knew that there was more to being a Christian then just being nice. The good news is that we really do get to “do the stuff.”
Now as a youth leader, I try to spread the passion of doing the kingdom ministry to teenagers. Not only do I want them to experience God in our meetings, but I want for them to give it away as well. So how does this happen? How do we get our young people to be giving that away? How do we help our community have an encounter with God? Well, I’m no expert, but let me highlight a few things that have been working for us.
Love your community. It starts with you and your youth loving the community around you, and I mean really loving them. In Matt. 9:36 it says, “Jesus was moved with compassion when he looked over a crowd of people.” You have to look at your community and be broken for them. Moved in such a way that you can get past your fear and just go.
This is often easier said then done. There are so many things that distract us from letting our hearts be committed to our community. One thing for many young people is that they don’t particularly like their hometown. They want to see the world beyond where they grew up. Go to places where everyone doesn’t know them. Another stumbling block is being distracted by the endless “good causes” to jump into. Though many of these causes are awesome, we have to teach our kids not to spread themselves to thin.
To overcome obstacle that stop us from loving our communities we must remind ourselves that no one else can help our community but us. The Church is the hope for this world. I tell my kids that they are the only hope. No one else is coming “to save the day”. The Church is it.
Start small. Pray BIG. You have to start somewhere. You can only teach theory for so long. Pretty soon you have to get out in your community and start “doing the stuff”. A great place to start is with what is already going on within your church. Talk with leaders of other ministries and see if they could use some teens to help. I am always encouraging our teens to jump into children’s ministry, worship, help with clean up, car care, food pantry or whatever else is going on. It’s good for them to be a part of serving, especially in activities that are not teen focused. When they serve in the church, they become more involved in the church at large.
Anther great way to get started is prayer walks. This gets everyone out in the community asking for God to bring His Kingdom.
Spend time in God’s Presence. This is very important. You need to encounter God personally in order to share him with teenagers, and teenagers need to encounter God to share Him with others. Something changes in us when we are in the presence of God. You still have to do training to equip your youth to do kingdom work, but the primary place to find those tools is in His presence. Remember the Kingdom is better caught then taught. Make space for your youth to encounter God.
Be ready for the long haul. There is no magic teaching, event, conference, or special guest that will change everything over night. Talk about the Kingdom every time your group meets. Talk about the adventure that is before them. There will be ups and downs, but the pay off is so sweet.
Here is a story that happened which illustrates the benefits of being persistent with teenagers. A while back I was going to the grocery store in our community to get some last minute snack for youth group. In these times I also keep a look out for young people that I can bump into before group and invite them. As I was walking in, a young guy who I knew was walking out. This was an 18 year old guy who I had consistently invited several years earlier, but he had never really committed to church and pursuing God. We stopped and talked small talk for a bit and connected. I invited him out to youth group, but he said he had to work.
Then as we parted ways, I yelled back to him, “Hey, a few of us are going to go pray for people after group tonight. You should come out!” Later that night, to my surprise, he showed up. That night, as we drove around looking for someone to pray for, something changed in Him. We were sitting in the parking lot of a hospital because of a word of knowledge that one of the guys had of a women carrying a sick child at a hospital. After staking out for 15 minutes or so, we saw a woman carrying a young boy. Now our blood was pumping. “So who’s gonna go?”, I asked back to them. Almost instantly, the young guy I met at the grocery store earlier and the guy who had the word of knowledge were out of the car. After ten minutes or so they came back all fired up. Both of them were telling how they got to pray for the little boy and comfort the family. To this day, that young guy that I bumped into at the grocery store is still a part of the youth group. He comes every week and is growing leaps and bounds.
Stories of teenagers who are out “doing the stuff” of the kingdom are so encouraging to me. They help me realize that as a youth pastor, my job is to equip students to do ministry, not just do ministry myself. This week, empower a teenager to go out and “do” the stuff of ministry, and stand back to be amazed.