Dangerous risks…Formidable odds…Mortal peril…Shifting alliances…Dead-of-the-night escapes… Rumblings of revolution! Sounds like an intense, high-paced action movie plot, doesn’t it? Or…are these really powerful youth ministry insights?
Or could it be that high stakes, long odds, shifting alliances, high drama, accelerating change and turbulent times might also describe the typical high school student’s life?
But weirdly enough, (Riverdale and Stranger Things aside) what we’re actually recounting with this litany of intense challenges and unsettled times is that very first, small, ragtag band of Jesus followers as described in the book of Acts.
God forgive us if we’ve ever approached the book of Acts like it’s an irrelevant, dusty collection of old stories about people who ran around in robes 2000 years ago! The early disciples and your teenagers might have more in common than you thought…they both represent the kind of unskilled, overlooked, underestimated bundles of potential that God loves to use to confound the wise and change the world.
Youth Ministry Insights: Prayer, Power, Determination and Duct Tape
Those early followers of Jesus managed to turn their known world upside down with the revolutionary message of the gospel! How did they do it?
Prayer, Holy Spirit power, focused determination and duct tape (which is the symbolic stand in for their can-do attitude that improvised, adapted and overcame regardless of the obstacles they encountered). They embodied the 7 Values that undergird every effective “Gospel Advancing Ministry.” From the first page to the last page of Acts, the book drips with the relentless pursuit of the mission of Jesus.
Youth Ministry Insights: How to Program Your Priorities Acts-Style
So what can you learn from these revolutionaries whose stories fill the pages of Acts? Focus, focus, focus. A few short verses in Acts 6 actually bring the importance of focus into clear focus for us (pun intended). Let’s take a closer look…
At this point in the life of the early church, things were chaotic and a little out of control. People were putting their faith in Jesus in droves. And along with the influx of new people came new challenges. Some of the people were grumbling about not having their needs met and not being treated fairly. (This never happens at your church, right?)
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4).
In response to the rumblings of discontent, the apostles could have gotten caught up in the minutia and micromanaged every aspect of the problem creating the churn. They could have poured hours of effort into designing a food distribution ministry—a legitimate need—but they didn’t. They delegated some ministry responsibilities so they could stay focused and take care of their top ministry priorities.
What were their top priorities? When you look closely at this passage, you see evidence of all 7 Values being prioritized…
Value #1: Intercessory Prayer – They programmed prayer.
Value #2: Relational Evangelism – They programmed evangelism, because part of the ministry “of the word” is evangelistic in nature.
Value #3: Leaders Aligned and Modeling – They had built into leaders who reflected these same values as evidenced by results described in Acts 7 and 8.
Value #4: Disciple Multiplication – All of this is a result of the fact that “the number of disciples was increasing.”
Value #5: Bold Vision – This rapid multiplication was an outgrowth of the bold vision Jesus laid out in Acts 1:8.
Value #6: Measurable Biblical Outcomes – Feeding the poor is definitely a biblical outcome, as is the number of disciples being multiplied.
Value #7: Programming Priorities – Since this is a key passage for programming your priorities, it’s hard to miss this one!
As a result of the apostles’ relentless commitment to programming their priorities, the early church was a gospel advancing powerhouse. They didn’t let other priorities, or other people’s priorities, hijack the plane. Instead, they delegated other duties to qualified leaders and kept their eye on the end goal.
In the same way, you must program these 7 Values into your daily schedule, weekly programs and annual calendar. This is the only way they will truly become ministry priorities. So here are three simple programming ideas you can implement right away.
Youth Ministry Insights: 3 Ways to Gospelize Your Programs
Idea #1: Give the gospel every week. When you give the gospel weekly, both evangelism and discipleship are happening simultaneously! Jesus’ message is being shared and you’re discipling your Christian students by modeling how to bring the gospel up. As your teens hear your salvation segues each week, it will help them learn how to think about virtually every conversational topic as an opportunity to point people toward Jesus.
Idea #2: Create space for teenagers to share Gospel Advancing stories. Whether you call it “Take 5 for THE Cause” or simply “Open Mic,” this is a time where teenagers can share stories—good, bad or ugly—and pray for each other about the real life gospel conversations they’re having with their peers!
Idea #3: Spend actual time praying for the lost in your meetings. Make room for the power of God in your programs, by making room for prayer in your programming!
What dominates your schedule dominates you. If you don’t purposefully and passionately incorporate the 7 Values of a Gospel Advancing Ministry into your programs and your calendar, they’re just empty words.
This article about youth ministry insights originally appeared here.