Jesus’ command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) also applies to youth discipleship. As leaders who regularly speak into people’s lives during their most formidable years, youth ministers must pay extra attention to the Great Commission!
When it comes to youth discipleship, I regularly share some reminders and challenges with our ministry team.
Emphasize these 5 key points for youth discipleship:
1. Our authority to disciple comes from Christ.
Your authority to disciple comes not just from the senior pastor. Christ, who receives all authority from the Father, gives us the authority we exercise in youth discipleship. When we exercise this authority, we’re tapping into the very same authority that God the Father has given to Jesus. Even Jesus himself didn’t grab authority from the Father. Rather, the Father delighted to give it to him. We must both accept and exercise authority with the same servant heart.
2. Youth discipleship doesn’t just happen in the church.
To make disciples, we must go and we must make. To go requires movement, and to make requires creativity. Jesus went from heaven to fully immerse himself in the sin-filled, God-rejecting world we brought on ourselves. He made and grew his disciples by preaching from boats, raising people from the dead, and putting a runaway ear back on a soldier’s head. Jesus was creative in discipleship, and we should be too!
3. Baptism should be our first aim of youth discipleship.
As youth ministers, it might be tempting to consider salvation our first aim. But salvation by itself isn’t what Christ commands us to work toward. Baptized young people should be our first aim in youth discipleship.
“The meaning of baptism develops out of this meaning of discipleship,” says John Piper. “If becoming a disciple of Jesus means dying to your old life and walking in newness of life with Christ as Jesus taught, then it’s almost inevitable that the symbolic act of that conversion should come to signify a death and resurrection.”
Baptism is about more than the occasion itself. It’s also about the death of our old selves and our resurrection with Christ. Sounds like a good first aim of youth discipleship to me!
4. Youth discipleship is about making kids more like Christ.
As the saying goes, discipleship is first about being and then about doing. If we aren’t observing all that Christ has commanded us, how can we expect the people we’re discipling to do anything different? We shouldn’t just lead young people toward our own special interest areas. We want them to become more like Christ. So let’s resist the temptation to turn them into mini-me’s.
5. You’re not alone!
After offering his final instructions on earth, Jesus didn’t just leave us to it. Instead, he promised to be with us always! That means when you’re facing a youth discipleship challenge that seems insurmountable, Christ is with you by his Holy Spirit. When a parent seems completely uninterested in a young person’s life, Christ is with you. When you bring the new church van back with a dent shaped like a frightened cow, Christ is with you. Always.
What youth discipleship tips and encouragement can you share? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.