Feb 03

Your youth group is an international mission agency

Did you know your youth group is an international mission agency? What you are doing today will make a difference around the world for years to come. Do you want to know how? The truth is that a significant number of the young people in your group today will not be living in your location in ten years time. People are migrating to different areas of the country and further afield more than ever before. This might be because of choice of university, gap year opportunities or new employment. This provides us with a massive opportunity, and a serious responsibility.

international mission agency

One of the difficulties with youth ministry is that it doesn’t pay for itself. Young people will not bring in more income to the local church. We have to realise this is the reality and see our ministry as missional, both in the now and in the future. Young people who come to faith today will, if discipled well, travel in their lives and be sharing their faith wherever they go. How exciting! So put on your international mission leader’s hat and use these ideas to help prepare them well.

1. Christianity is a relationship choice

We need to make sure that all we do is introducing people to God and enabling them to grow in their relationship with him. Too often we can be tempted to teach Christianity as more of a lifestyle choice. In the same way as some people choose to go to the gym, or keep fit, we teach church and Christianity. It is more than just a nice thing to do out of many other choices. We also need to be careful we don’t simply teach morality. I think this is a real temptation for some of our churches where ‘being good and polite’ is highly valued. We need people to meet with Jesus and to allow their relationship with him to grow and develop. That way lifestyle transformation will come as a result of the Holy Spirit being at work in them.

2. Teach how to understand and use the Bible

We need to make sure that when a person graduates from our youth work that they are friends with their Bible. They need to know how to read it (not simply cover to cover as with most books). They need to know how to use it to get help on difficult issues they might face and they need to know how to apply what they read to their lives.

Youth group sessions can often be the leaders giving their answers from the Bible to different life issues without showing how they reached those answers. In fact, the how is probably more important than the end answers, in many situations. Get the young people searching Scripture, debating what passages mean and allowing the Bible to speak directly to them.

3. Make faith sharing as natural as possible

Give young people the vocabulary they need to talk about their faith. Help them to think through what being a Christian means to them; why they are a Christian and the difference it makes. Provide regular opportunities for talking about how God is answering prayers, ways they are seeing God working in their lives and in the lives of those around them. The more we can raise young people to do this naturally, the more they will continue doing this as they grow into adulthood.

4. Make using talents and gifts an expectation

Similar to helping people use their Bibles, we need to help young people understand who they are in Christ and what they were created for. No one is an accident. Everyone is created on purpose and for a purpose, so helping them discover what this purpose might be is an essential ingredient of youth ministry.

Don’t allow your youth ministry to be consumed: people come, get what they want and go. We must be raising contributors not consumers. We want everyone to use the skills God has given them and to grow in spiritual gifts as they are given. Take time to go down a list of all the young people you lead and write down the talents and gifts you see in them, or you see the potential in. Make it a priority to nurture these skills and gifts. Help them to use them for the benefit of the wider church.

5. Don’t underestimate what God is doing

Protect yourself from getting too locally-focused. God’s plan is for the world not just for your town or area. Youthwork can be hard and slow. We can sometimes wonder if we are making any difference. God is taking what we do today and using it to grow his Church in the future. Praise God for the privilege to be involved in his kingdom building in this way.

We might never know, this side of eternity, the impact we are making or the ways the young people we lead will be used by God in the future, but we can be sure that if we do our best, God will honour it and not put anything to waste.

Who knows where your youth group today might be in ten or twenty years’ time. My personal experience has been to see young people go on gap years all across the globe, to study all over the UK (and occasionally further) and to end up living right across the UK and into Europe. I love hearing how they are involved in their local church wherever they find themselves and are trying to live out their faith in those locations and in their work places.

The international mission agency is designed to prepare people for mission and to send them out. Make sure you play your part in this.

What excited you about this idea? What might be some of the challenges? Please leave a comment or question below.