1 John 1:1 says:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
Look at what this passage says about how John and the other disciples encountered Christ: They heard Jesus. They saw Him. They touched Him. Think about the purpose the disciples’ lives had all because of their deep and abiding understanding of who Jesus was. This understanding was based on a full picture, a three-dimensional one, influenced by being physically present with Jesus, and by the things they heard Him say and saw Him do.
How does this passage of Scripture speak to us as those who have been tasked with shepherding the spiritual development of teenagers?
Of course, we can’t take our students to a place where they can literally hang out with Jesus. So, in light of that, what can we do to help our students develop a fuller understanding of Jesus? To know Him in a way that is transformative? How can we help Jesus come alive from the pages of Scripture?
We can look to John’s words as a guide …
Your students can’t hear Jesus teach, so they must hear Scripture. If today you were told that the only resource you had available to you in your youth ministry was your Bible, you’d be OK. In fact, we might all be better off. Teach the Bible and teach it well. See Scripture not as a one-dimensional, stale account of historical facts, but as a sensory-rich experience in encountering God.
Students can’t watch Jesus preach and perform miracles. Bummer. But, they can see you modeling the amazing effect Jesus has had on your life, and the lives of other meaningful adults. This can’t be overstated. Students must be led to see how knowing Jesus has changed you, their parents and other adult volunteers in your ministry. Modeling Christ is one of the most effective ways of showing students Jesus’ transformative power.
Students can’t touch Jesus. But, students can be the touch of Christ. Your teenagers need to live out their faith in a way that is sacrificial and servant-like. They need to be serving in homeless shelters, nursing homes, food banks and rebuilding projects. By being the touch of Christ, by seeing the impact it makes on others, and by feeling the joy that comes in Christian service, your students will understand that God and His ways are more than stories in an ancient text.
We can’t physically put teenagers in front of Jesus.
But with the help of the Spirit, God’s Word and a living and active faith, we can introduce our teenagers to a Jesus who is alive and relevant to their lives.