Are today’s youth ministries “deep?”
Are we developing “true disciples?”
I’m not knocking these inquiries at all. They’re good questions. But at the same time, I find the questions themselves curious.
A buddy of mine just emailed me and asked me this for a D.Min. project he’s working on. I found the question intriguing, specifically because of those “buzzwords” he used, words youth workers are tossing around a lot today, words like “deeper” or “true disciples.”
Here was his exact question:
What is it, you think/believe, that youth ministers should do to make their ministry’s “deep?” (In other words, what should they be doing to help develop deeper, true disciples of Jesus?”)
Okay. Confession: I usually don’t like to be philosophical. Those of you that know me are probably use to that, and they know that I like “practical.” So typically, my answer to a question like this would be something we can “do!”
Funny… this time my response was a little more philosophical.
Here’s my response. (Then I’d love to hear yours!)
It’s an interesting world we live in when we have to add qualifying words to a word like “disciples.”
Think about this. Our pastor says, “Hey, I want you to go and make disciples of Jesus.”
“Sure,” we reflexively reply. “Why the heck not!”
Being a clear communicator, our pastor clarifies. “A deep, true disciple of Jesus.”
Why did he have to go and say that! I just wanted to be a regular ol’ fake disciple!
In a world where words like “disciple” and “follower” mean very little, we’re finding that we have to define these terms, showing that we aren’t just saying religious words because “we’ve always said those words,” like the vows at the royal wedding. (Wow… did I just put that in print?)
How long are we going to continue saying what we don’t mean?
I saw a mom correcting her 5-year-old boy the other day. “Cameron, finish your sandwich.”
The boy frowned, pushed his plate away and crossed his arms. After a minute or two the mom glanced up at the boy sitting in front of the untouched sandwich. “Cameron, I mean it. Finish that or you won’t get any dessert!” She wiped the counter as she spoke, not even watching young Cameron.
Cameron looked at the sandwich again, not moving an inch.
After a minute passed, mom came and picked up the untouched sandwich and threw it in the sink. “What kind of cookies do you want?”
I wouldn’t eat the sandwich either!
Perhaps we should mean what we say. What if we just tell our kids the truth. What if we actually told our kids how Jesus defined a disciple in all four Gospels. (Seriously, how much of his teaching ended up in all four Gospels? This did.) “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23,24 NIV)
Whew. At least he wasn’t asking us to do something difficult.
Ask your kids what discipleship looks like in their world.
Ask them what a (dare I say “true”) disciple of Jesus looks like today.
Some of the students in our ministry might immediately think about positions of leadership. (I wouldn’t put it past them. Two of Jesus’ disciples argued about it. This mindset seems to be quite human.) If that’s where the discussion leads, maybe we should show them Jesus’ model of Christian leadership. Read them John 13 where Jesus takes off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Not exactly what we see from the artists accepting an MTV Video Music Award.
Jesus’ definition of disciple and his example of leadership didn’t require words like “deep” and “true.” They just were. His call to discipleship was deep. His commitment to servant leadership was true. His actions were all the “deep” and “true” we needed to hear.
I wonder if Jesus meant what he said… or… do we still get the cookie?
If you want my more practical answer, I don’t blame you! I think I like practical better. I wrote a book about what discipleship actually looks like. It’s called: “Ministry By Teenagers.”
QUESTION: What do you think youth ministers should be doing to help develop deeper, true disciples of Jesus Christ? How would you answer that monstrous question?
Posted on August 24, 2011