Many young people (and people of all ages, in fact) struggle with the idea of sin. I’ve had countless conversations with junior and senior high students about their habitual sin patterns. Kids tend to think, “If I can’t stop sinning, then what’s the point of stopping?”
These young people have prayed, sang, gone to camp, read their Bible, and frequently attended church and youth group. Yet they still haven’t seen any life transformation. Their desire to stop sinning is dead.
Their logic: I love Jesus, and I love to sin. Somehow kids think it’s okay to live this dual lifestyle. That’s a very confusing logic for any adult youth worker to understand.
The problem? These students don’t know how to live out the text of Romans 6 and 7. Kids think living the Christian lifestyle is nearly impossible. They don’t know how to answer the question: How can I pursue righteousness when I can’t stop sinning?
How to Respond to “I Can’t Stop Sinning”
Many youth ministries rely on “sin management” (a term coined by Dallas Willard). If we just get students to be good, then our programs are all good. As a result, our students to think their relationship with God is all good. This is a classic case of behavioral modification. We are all guilty of trying to engineer perfect behaviors in every teen that walks through the door of our church.
Mid- to late-adolescents’ brains are like a Ferrari car without brakes. Their neurons just don’t know how and when to stop. So students will expectedly make a lot of dumb decisions and mistakes.
The goal of ministry to middle and late adolescents is making disciples (Matthew 14:20) who authentically walk with Jesus in the context of Christian community. This goal has four key implications.
Student must know, love, trust, and therefore obey Jesus.
1. Students know Jesus Christ.
This is where Bible study fits as a strategy for increasing knowledge. Students cognitively really know Jesus.
2. Students love Jesus.
Knowing Jesus compels kids to express their love for him. They have no problem showing affection toward him through prayer, worship, evangelism, service, and spiritual disciplines.
3. Students trust and therefore obey Jesus.
Students need to be obedient to Christ. Faith (Greek “pisteuo”) literally means to trust. The key to growing closer to Jesus is to trust him. It’s always about trust, and obedience falls under trust.