We are a few months from the heart of Disciple Now and Youth Retreat season. By now you probably have your curriculum and speakers figured out. As we wrap up our preparation, I would like to challenge you to consider one change to your schedule that can have a huge impact on your students.
What are you doing with your Saturday afternoon? This is usually where we offer a break from Bible studies. Early in the history of Disciple Now, we would schedule hours of recreation. Then after all the sweating and hopefully burning off lots of energy, we let them clean up for what we anticipated would be a great night of worship and spiritual decisions. It’s not a bad idea. If that’s what you choose to do, you’re not a sinner. I would like for you to consider if it fits the theme of your weekend? How does recreation move your students closer to your ministry goals? You might think that recreation brings them closer together as a group. I think there is a way to use the time more effectively and accomplish not only the fellowship goal but also a spiritual growth goal as well. This year, schedule time for ministry service or local missions.
Feet to Faith
The goal of discipleship is to create life-long followers of Jesus Christ. As stated in a previous post, this is more than sitting in a classroom learning information about Jesus. It’s about walking together living the Christian life. If the second greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is “love your neighbor,” then giving students the opportunity to practice could lead to a future habit. We don’t need spectators, but active participators in the Gospel.
Be intentional about your service opportunities. This is more than filling a couple of hours and doing something nice. This is part of a plan. Help students consider how what they are doing can help them in the future. While I’m partial because I am one, I would love students see the benefit of serving the Lord by dedicating themselves to full-time vocational service. While most of our students won’t surrender to ministry, they can discover the value of their gifts and talents and how they contribute to society. As part of our discipleship process, our ministry team should help students make these connections.
For example, we did a backyard Bible club on Saturday afternoon for a local neighborhood. I had an 8th grader who was a natural at working with children. I made sure she understood her giftedness. Little did I know years later, she would serve faithfully in our children’s ministry in high school and then go on to get an elementary education degree.
Life skill preparation
Students desire to learn how to do life. Volunteering teaches life skills. In a 2018 study in Sustainability, students were more motivated to volunteer if it meant they would learn something that could help them in the future.
If life skills are to be learned, we need adults who know these skills to work alongside our students. The adults don’t have to be your youth workers; they can be other adults in the church who could teach a life skill. This is an incredible opportunity for you to involve others in your ministry and connect your students to the church body.
One year, we did 30 Hour Famine. For our service project, we wanted to take stuffed teddy bears to the local women’s shelter. I asked one of the ladies in our church that was a seamstress if she could help us learn how to sew. She premade the bear patterns and sewed enough of the bear so we could stuff them. All we needed to do was sew the ends. For a youth minister and a group of students who had never sewn before, it was enough frustration to learn how to thread the needle! We learned a valuable skill and to appreciate the work of a seamstress. This peaked the interest of students who wanted to learn more.
Yes, there is great benefit for the students by doing missions and service instead of recreation. There is also a great benefit for you as the youth minister. Youth ministry receives a poor reputation for being the fun and games ministry. While those are important, you and I both know that is not who we are. However, it is often what gets the most exposure. Take this opportunity to brand your ministry for what we want to be known for: a ministry that makes disciples who impact the community.
Students always share their life experiences through social media. You can take pictures and share via your social media outlets, too. There is also the human element. The people you are ministering to will see your ministry for what it needs to be. The adults from your church who are outside the youth ministry will also have the opportunity to see your students in action. They will then go back to their small groups with a better perspective on what youth ministry can accomplish, especially when it’s intentional about impacting the community for Christ.
Missions and Service Ideas
Whether you are in a rural or urban setting, there are plenty of options to choose from. Below is a short list that for the most part takes very little preparation. It means a phone call to see if they need the help and then adjusting your schedule around when they need you the most.
- Serving food at a homeless shelter
- Organizing a community food pantry
- Cleaning at a women’s shelter
- Playing games at a nursing home
There are a few ideas that might take a little more preparation and advanced planning
Cleaning a house or yard of a senior adult widow and widower in your own church
Carrying out a Backyard Bible Club at an apartment or neighborhood.
This is not about logging community service hours. Students need to see the purpose, or it’s another thing on their schedule. Help students see the impact they make on others and how it can impact them, too. How can these students do be replicated in a career choice? What skills do they learn that will help them in the future? Remember, we are making disciples not successful ministry events.