What are we discipling our students into? My answer is found in Colossians 1:23…that type of faith! Discipleship is developing a faith that sticks, a faith that is their own, a faith that is their foundation, a faith that is boldly shared with others…a faith that is at the heart of a true follower of Jesus Christ.
Here’s the thing, and I think you probably realized this, was that there is no 10-step process or whatever to producing true disciples. However, I do think there are 4 key concepts in discipleship of young believers.
- Knowledge – Proverbs is clear that we need knowledge before we can capture wisdom. Therefore, there needs to be Doctrinal/Biblical/Theological training, which can happen in small group, Sunday School, and youth group arenas.
- Relationships – There needs to be mentoring outside the context of the family. This is something that must happen, and is most commonly found in the small group structure. Chap Clark in his research for the book “Hurt” claims that each student needs 5 positive adult relationships to influence a young person spiritually. That is where youth leaders/sponsors can take their place…we are not asked to take the place of the parent…but I do believe we have value in being that assistant coach that helps the parent in producing Christ-followers.
- Connection – Do not neglect the importance of inter-generational ministry. While I do believe youth ministry needs to do a better job at allowing the family to be the voice and equipping the parents, but there is no need to abandon youth ministry all together (see movie “Divided” to find out more about this movement). However, I do think there is great value in integrating the students in the church: worship, children’s ministry, mission trips, older generation connection, etc. If there is a connection, a feeling that they can be used, and an understanding of how they can use their gifts in the church – then I feel they are more likely to stay. Say it with me…Connection!
- TIME – This is maybe something that we all miss. We’ve all heard the expression of how you spell LOVE is T-I-M-E. And although it is very corny, it is true. Very rarely do our students remember our lessons, but they do remember the time we spend with them both in church and outside church…that informal and formal time that I was talking about.