If you scan through any youth ministry Facebook group or online forum, you’ll notice some questions coming up again and again. Some are on the practical side, like “How much pizza should I order for my group?”, or “What’s the best summer camp to attend?” Others are a little deeper and harder to answer in 160 characters or less, like “How do I navigate a pastoral transition?” or “What’s the best way to disciple my students?”
It seems like everyone is searching for the best way to disciple students – as if it’s an untold mystery; a secret code that we haven’t cracked. It may come as a surprise, but the secret to student discipleship really isn’t a secret at all. In fact, it’s best exemplified all throughout the New Testament by Jesus Himself.
Jesus was present.
The simplest and most powerful marker of Jesus’s ministry is that he was in the middle of it. He was in the house when the four men lowered their friend through the roof to be healed (Mark 2). He was on the boat during the storm when He calmed it (Matthew 8). He was in the room when He brought the widow’s son back to life (Luke 7). He was (and is) present for regular moments that result in powerful ministry.
We are inundated with tasks and expectations in our ministry every week. Those things are important and certainly have their place. However, do not discount the power of simply being present with your students with no agenda, no program, no checklist. Sometimes we experience the greatest life change when we least expect it.
Jesus pointed to Scripture.
Jesus was around, and when He was around, His motive was clear: to preach the Good News and point people to the Kingdom of God. In the Gospel records alone, Jesus referenced the Old Testament over seventy-five times. He knew the Word and lived by it. People knew what they were getting when they hung out with Jesus, and they were drawn to it.
If we want our students to be discipled, we have to live like Jesus – stay consistent in their lives and constantly point them to The Word. Live in such a way that students feel safe to ask questions, to explore, to doubt, and to own their faith. The greatest gift we can give our students is an example of someone pursuing a real, vulnerable relationship with Christ, while encouraging them to do the same.
(P.S. To answer the first two questions…it’s usually smart to account for 2.5 slices per student. Some will eat less but some will eat way more – it’s youth group science. As far as camps go, check out Never The Same Camp. You won’t regret it.)