Effective Youth Ministry Press Blog
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This blog is designed for anyone who wants to think seriously about youth ministry. It is for: fulltime youth leaders, part time youth leaders, volunteers in youth ministry and those who are thinking about youth ministry in the future. The goal is for us to think practically and strategically, with our Bibles wide open. Remember, it is crucial that the word of God shapes our methods and not only our message in youth ministry. Read on…
Get into the word, not into the theme
It seems that the phrase “Bible study group” is a common part of ministry. Many youth ministries have Bible study groups. It is, hopefully, a time to get into the word of God. However, do they really get into the word?
I know of many groups that call themselves a ‘weekly Bible study’… however, they don’t appear to study the Bible! They study a modern Christian book, followed by topical DVDs, followed by a movie with a theme they discuss etc. Sometimes these can be good things to do, but they are not a replacement for the Bible! This kind of group is not a ‘weekly Bible study’.
This seems to be a pattern for many, many churches and youth groups.
Isn’t a Bible study a group where we … study the Bible? Is it all that difficult to open up one of the great books in the Book of Books and go through it? Sure, it can be tricky. Yes, we have to do a bit of prior preparation. And, it can lead to a difference of interpretation and even get a bit heated sometimes… but Bible study is GREAT. It is living, active, shapes our thinking and what we believe. It keeps us on the narrow road and informs our actions. If we keep this away from the people in our churches and youth ministries, we do so at our peril.
Here’s a suggestion for youth leaders: run a study in the book of 1 Thessalonians. This is the earliest letter that Paul wrote, it was written to a group of recent converts, and is filled with teaching and exhortation that is not all that difficult to understand. When you are done, look at the book of Job. The first two chapters will capture the interest of most young minds. Spend a week or two on the long discussion in chapters 3-37 and then focus on God’s response at the end of the book (ending with the Epilogue in the last chapter). Great stuff and (almost) guaranteed to thrill your small group. You could then move on to a themed study that comes from the word of God: Who is Jesus? or What does the Bible say about suffering?, these would be great topical studies based in God’s word.
After opening the Bible for 6-8 weeks, if you want to ‘take a break’ for a week or two, go and grab a DVD on relationships. But this is the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
If you are not into actually opening the Bible in Bible study maybe you should call your group something else. “Theme Study Group” perhaps? Or, “Topical Response Group”? Or, even “Modern Author’s Opinions Thinking Group Discussion”!
What exactly is a “Biblical Youth Ministry”?
A few years back a number of youth groups realized that the ‘old way of doing things’ just wasn’t working. The entertainment-based youth group meeting, designed to attract youth, wasn’t attracting youth. The pendulum, which had swung too far towards attraction, was now swinging back. In fact, for some groups, it swung to what was seen to be the opposite direction. That is, it went to ‘solid Bible teaching and prayer’. This was said to be a ‘Biblical Youth Ministry’.
Other groups realized that they needed to beef up the content in their time devoted to studying God’s word. Therefore they moved to having longer, more in depth Bible studies—a good thing by the way. However, they then referred to themselves as ‘Biblical’ simply because of Bible studies had been inserted into the existing program. Groups would still keep the “fun stuff” (rowdy games and activities) but then have a good time in the word of God. This for some reason, made them ‘Biblical’. In my experience, this is common in places like the U.K. and Australia.
What is ‘Biblical’?
It is important to realize that a youth ministry that wants to see itself as ‘Biblical’ must be a group that seeks not only to understand the word of God, but to live it out as well. And, do this corporately. (Think, James 1:22, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.) For example, you cannot study Colossians 4:2-6 and then run a youth ministry where there is never any devotion to prayer!
A youth ministry that seeks to be Biblical is a youth ministry that seeks to run on the principles, exhortations and models of practice that are revealed in Scripture. As I have said earlier, we must not only be committed to the message of the Bible, we must be committed to the methods revealed in the Bible.
So, here’s what I am trying to do… and it takes constant effort, I must keep reading my Bible and:
- Make a note of any exhortation that is given (e.g. Col. 4:2). (Please remember that exhortations are almost always written to a group of people not simply one person.)
- Make a note of any example of a model that is given (e.g. Acts 2:42-47).
- Try and figure out how to “youth-ify” this in my setting. In other words, how do I do this in my youth group in a way that is appropriate and helpful. I want to take this exhortation, and/or this model given to me in Scripture, and make it a regular part of my program.
If we can do these three things, we are on the way to becoming ‘Biblical’.
The aim of good youth ministry
Our goal as youth leaders must be simply to help young people to live out 2 Timothy 2:22 (“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart”). We must strive, with wisdom, diligence and strategic, Biblical thinking, to have youth ministry that equips and encourages young people to flee those aspects of life that are spiritually unhelpful and harmful and,pursue those things that our Lord wants for us. And according to this verse, young people must do this in a pack of other believers.
The question with youth ministry is always…how do we accomplish this in our practice? We will unpack this as we go.