In the last few blogs, we’ve discussed some basic truths that should impact our youth ministry decision making and programming. We’ve talked about the realities of life, an active faith, and a focus on Jesus and not church culture.
When talking about salvation, I’ve caught myself saying that “Jesus comes to live in your heart.” It’s not biblical, and we should be glad. Jesus is not in our heart, but in heaven. He is reigning and talking to God on our behalf while waiting on God’s command to return for his saints.
What is biblical about salvation is more powerful than a little Jesus residing in our heart for relationship. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead now lives in those who put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. (Romans 8:11) Growing up Southern Baptist, I’ll be honest and say I didn’t hear much about the role of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I did a lengthy study of Acts and the Holy Spirit. Then, I began to question and seek answers to the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.
Our students do not need to wait until they are adults to discover the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Imagine, giving your life to Jesus for salvation of sins. Then believing it is up to you to live it out on your own until you get to heaven. When persecution or hardship comes from making that choice, how difficult would it be to do it alone? It would be impossible. The weight of it would be unbearable.
Now consider having the God of the universe, not in heaven watching as a spectator, but sending himself through the Holy Spirit to walk through persecution and hardship with you. It would make it endurable. It’s like facing the bully in elementary school, but your high school brother shows up to give support and intimidation.
The Church Problem
The church can create a weakening of the Holy Spirit in teenagers in one of two ways. The first is the “you’re not old enough” culture. In essence, what is being said is, “I know you gave your life to Jesus but the Holy Spirit is not strong enough to work in you. He’ll have to grow on you for a while.” So students are saved, believing they have to sit in the waiting room of Christian experience before they are allowed to participate. In the meantime, Satan is working overtime to steal their joy and create confusion so they will either be ineffective as adult Christians or reject the faith altogether.
Another phrase I have heard from the church is “Students are the future of the church. It’s the youth minister’s job to keep them happy, so there is a church after I’m gone.” Our prideful hearts are saying, “I know teens have salvation through Jesus, but I can’t let go of my control of the situation and let the Holy Spirit work in your life.” Research shows that students are leaving the church because they are not connected to the larger body of Christ. It’s entirely possible that part of the problem is adult pride.
The church is missing the opportunity to empower students to walk in faith with the Holy Spirit because of the unnecessary and often unbiblical limitations we place on teenagers. Here are a couple of solutions to implement in order to free your students of the burden of walking the Christian faith in human strength and the shackling of adults who want to hinder spiritual growth.
Youth Ministry Solutions
Teach the proper role of the Holy Spirit
Make students aware of the role that the Holy Spirit plays. I don’t have the time to go into all of them, but I will give you a couple of topics you could use to teach about the roles of the Holy Spirit. 1) The Holy Spirit reveals to us God’s truth (John 14:15-31). 2) The Holy Spirit helps us to live boldly for Christ by working around us to accomplish God’s will. (Acts 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-8) 3) The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, which leads to the recognition to repent from sin (John 16:7-11).
Help students see the active work of the Holy Spirit
Students often see coincidences, but what if they were more than coincidences? What if God was working in the little things like having someone text and encourage them when they needed it the most. Do students recognize and celebrate when God answers their prayers like healing for a grandparent? God’s work in the little things and in the big things happen because of the work of the Holy Spirit on earth. Our own awareness of the Holy Spirit’s work will help our students see his work. We will have to be diligent to point it out so they can learn to recognize his work themselves.
Empower students to walk in the Holy Spirit
If students have found faith in Jesus Christ, then they need to be empowered to walk in it. This includes discerning truth and decisions, evangelizing and discipling others, and discovering their own giftedness to determine their purpose in God’s kingdom work. The Holy Spirit has given them everything they need to worship, live for, and share Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As student ministers, we need to not only shepherd our students but also champion them as viable members of the church. The Holy Spirit that lives in adults is the same Holy Spirit living in students. They only difference is experience and wisdom that comes from experience. Students will never have that experience unless churches provide them opportunities to live out their Christian faith.