How to Disciple a Teenager Well
In the ’90s, youth ministry was so focused on “effective outreach” that often “effective spiritual growth” was moved to the back burner.
This went on for about a decade, until the church had to begin doing triage with kids who had been raised in the church, but never discipled to own their own faith.
Now, the most common questions I hear from youth workers and parents are:
“How can we equip teenagers to truly live out their faith in a world full of distractions?”
“What is the secret to helping kids own their faith by the time they move out on their own?”
“How do you actually disciple teenagers today, connecting them with positive adult role models who will mentor them on how to walk like Jesus?”
A few years ago, in our book Ministry by Teenagers, my good friend David R. Smith and I addressed the proverbial elephant in the room: the growing number of teenagers raised in the church who will walk away from their faith during or shortly after high school. It’s a sad reality, one plagued by conjecture of “what the real problem is.” Rather than throwing stones, David and I offered some tried and true methods to disciple teenagers, help them live out their faith in word and action, giving them opportunities to serve on their own as well as in a student leadership team.
But what does this specifically look like?
In other words, we can use words like “disciple” and “mentor” all day long, but what does this look like with teenagers in the church today? Simple questions like, “What discipleship material works well with today’s kids?”
I think that’s what my blog reader Rich was asking:
I’ve been reading your book Ministry by Teenagers, and I totally love it. I’m going to be modeling my student leadership team after those principles this school year. It’s been a tremendous help as I seek to give my SLT some structure, direction and purpose.
I did have a question for you. What kind of discipleship materials do you recommend for the student and mentor to use?
Good question, Rich. This blog is a good format to give specific and current examples of effective discipleship material. I find that there isn’t just one rubber-stamp, “catch all” discipleship material that I use. It really depends on the kid, their gender, their age, their maturity, their passion, their questions, their struggles…
So, I really try to adjust the content to the kid.