How to push a spiritually apathetic teen to be spiritually passionate

Deep and Wide Youth Ministry

In yesterday’s video about evaluating ministry by journey or destination, I posed the question of how we help move students from being spiritually apathetic to being spiritually passionate. A youth worker named Jeff Boose was browsing my site, reading about the Deep & Wide ministry values that my youth ministry is based on, also asked the same question. If you’re not familiar with Deep & Wide, there’s a more detailed document about it at Dare 2 Share’s website. Also check out the LIVE YM Talk we did with Jason Lamb about Deep & Wide youth ministry.

Jeff asked a very important question:

What are the steps you take to get students from apathetic to passionate?

I think the arrow on the chart that moves kids from apathetic to passionate could be titled “obedience.” It follows the role and responsibility Jesus gave to us teachers in Matthew 28, “…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”

The best term I can come up with that explains this is “pushing them toward obedience.” A lot of people don’t like pushing kids spiritually because they’re afraid the teens will rebel against it or be turned off, but I see kids who are being pushed in every area of their life except their spirituality. Their athletic coaches push them hard physically, their teachers push them academically, their jobs push them to perform, etc.

When it comes to pushing a teenager spiritually, that first hump from apathetic to interested is the hardest. That takes a lot of pushing. It’s where we come along side the teenager and say, “Hey, I know you may not care about this spiritual truth, but just try it. See if it works. See what might happen if you just obey what God says whether your like it or not.” If the teen does try it in obedience because of your persistance and they see the spiritual principle they’re experimenting with work out as the Holy Spirit guides the process, they become a bit more interested because they see that this God stuff isn’t just a bunch of ideas in an old book Pushing them to obey in the next area of life is a bit easier because they’ve already seen how God’s Word works when they follow Him. When they do it again, they start to become a bit excited about scripture, and soon they’re passionate about following and obeying the Lord in other areas of their life, as well.

Here’s the kicker: Someone who is genuinely passionate about something cannot help but share it with the people around them. I hear a lot of men talk very passionately about fishing, hunting, and car engines. It’s like they wrap their entire identity around those activities. Although I care nothing for any of those things, I can’t help but be a bit intrigued to listen to them talk about it just because they’re so obviously passionate about them.

When someone is truly passionate about obediently following the Lord, when they wrap their entire identities around Him, they contagiously share it with the people around them. This is one way that going deep into God’s Word fits hand-in-hand with going wide.

For me personally, the hump that pushed me from being apathetic to interested was sharing my faith with my peers in high school. I didn’t care to share Him at all, but when I was more-or-less forced to do it by an adult youth leader, I was pushed to obey the Lord’s command to share my faith. When I did so, I saw how following Him in obedience, whether I wanted to or not, really worked in my life and the life of others around me. I couldn’t help but become a bit more interested. The more I shared my faith, the more spiritually excited and passionate I became.

The deep and wide values work hand in hand. They cannot be separated as so many ministries do (i.e. small groups for discipleship, big events for outreach), but that’s another topic for another day.

Posted on April 6, 2010

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