What REI Reminded Me About Growing Disciples

REI recently launched their #Optout campaign. According to USA Today:

REI is taking direct aim at the frenzied consumerism that dominates the holidays with a message to do the exact opposite of what Black Friday demands. (Read more HERE)

I personally like REI, and I applaud what they are doing (even if it’s a PR stunt), but it’s a reminder that consumerism is something to watch out for in every area of life, even youth ministry.

Teenagers will come to your youth ministry looking for something. It might be a great time, deeper relationships or just an escape from reality. As youth ministers, we have to embrace this type of consumerism; however, we cannot allow teenagers to stay there. In the end, we have to help them:

MOVE FROM CONSUMERS TO CONTRIBUTORS

To help your teenagers move from consumerism to contributors:

GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO INVEST

If you want your teens to become contributors, give them opportunities to serve inside and outside the church. Allow them to be a part of the team that feeds and fuels the church.

On top of that, challenge them to give to the church. Tell them what happens when they give, show them what it can fund and celebrate what giving has already done.

When teenagers invest their time and treasures, they will take coming to church a little more seriously. You just need to challenge them to take that step.

HELP THEM DEVELOP A SPIRITUAL TOOLBOX

Disciples practice self-care. They know what the church can give them and they know what they can give the church. To help your teens become growing disciples who are growing disciples, give them a spiritual toolbox.

While there are thousands of tools available find the ones that have the greatest impact for personal growth. Have your leaders share what’s impacted them and make them constantly available.

ELIMINATE CONSUMER-DRIVEN PROGRAMS

Your ministry needs to equip, empower and inspire the teens to go beyond their comfort zone. While you can have time to entertain and engage, you need to make your programs about something deeper.

To take away consumerism from your programs, build it on relationships. Connect the teens with adults who will speak into their lives and challenge them to go out and grow in their faith journey.

GIVE THEM THE BIG PICTURE

Jesus did not come for the healthy, he came for the lost. It’s a truth that your teens need to hear. They need to know why the church exists. They need to understand that it’s not about them.

Help them see the big picture by talking about reaching the lost. Give them a vision of what the church could be and commission them to be a part of it.

Teenagers coming into your church are looking for something to feed them, and that’s OK. But if they stay in that consumeristic mindset too long, they’ll grow frustrated, and even apathetic. Keep them engaged by asking them to be contributors.  

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Chris Wesley
Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.