The Holy Spirit is the only one who can refresh, renew and revive His church. But he stands with matches ready to set your teens’ hearts on fire. It’s interesting to me that you never see the word “revival” in the New Testament, perhaps because it should be the normal Christian life.
Sadly, it is not.
Too often dead-eyed Christian teenagers whose hearts are filled with apathy instead of fire fill our youth ministry meetings. With rolling eyes and heavy sighs many of them endure the lessons and enjoy the games. They keep showing up so we keep juggling flaming poodles (so to speak) to keep their attention. But down deep inside we want to taze their cold hearts into beating hard and hot after God.
So what is our role in seeing revival break out in the midst of the deadness? Can we do anything about it? The answer is a resounding “YES!!!” Here are 5 action steps you can take to unleash the force of revival in your youth ministry.
1. Pray with passion.
Intercessory is not just the domain of little old ladies and those “crazy” intercessors we sometimes meet. It should be the standard operating practice of every believer.
Acts 4:31 gives a micro recipe for revival, “After they prayed the place where they were meeting was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and went out and spoke the Word of God boldly.” The building was shaken with the power of intercessory prayer and then the city was shaken with the power of the gospel message.
Are you interceeding on behalf of your teenagers? Do you pray as a staff for them? Is intercessory prayer something you practice with your student leaders? Is prayer a big part of your youth ministry program or do you use it as fairy dust to sprinkle on your meetings but then depend on the latest, greatest curriculum to produce the real change?
The revival I’m witnessing unfold in power-packed pockets across the country are happening where the youth leaders are committed to intercessory prayer. They are looking to God to light that fire not a strategy or a program or a method. And God is igniting their strategies in ways they never expected with results they could have never dreamed of.
Start taking prayer walks or shutting your door for 30 minutes a day or whatever you have to do to start making intercessory prayer a personal priority. Make prayer the first thing you do as a staff for your teenagers. Make time to pray for all the teenagers in your youth group and revival at their schools as part of your student leadership team meetings. Make intercessory prayer the engine of the train that drives your youth ministry efforts not the caboose.
2. Identify and recruit the 10%ers to join you.
“Scientists at (RPI) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.” Science Daily July 26, 2011
Look for the teenagers, adult leaders and fellow youth leaders who are excited about revival to join you. Too often we waste a lot of energy trying to get every teenager on board with our vision. Go with the goers and pray for the others. Wasn’t this the strategy of Jesus? He ministered to the crowds but poured 3 1/2 years of his life into the high will/raw skill disciples. The result was that 11 out of 12 of them changed the world.
The parable of the Sower reinforces this principle in a powerful way. Some seeds we sow will land on hard hearts. Others will get choked out by worldliness. Still others will die due to lack of spiritual maturity. But those precious few seeds that land on good soil will produce 30, 60 or even 100x’s what was sown. The lesson? Go with the “growers” and pray for the others.
Take a look at your student leadership team and adult youth staff. Are they 10%ers? Are they all in? If not, it might be time for a shake up. Once your 10%ers get 100% on board with this vision they’ll inevitably impact the rest of the group.
3. Pursue non-legalistic, grace-drenched holiness together.
“’Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’ In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” 2 Timothy 2:19-21
God only serves revival on clean plates. So scour your soul and keep all your 10%ers encouraged and accountable to do the same. We must be fighting the good fight of holiness together. Let’s keep our talk, habits and hearts pure. When we do this God will be inclined to use us to start a movement of transformation in our communities.
But do this in a grace-filled way. I read accounts of some of the great men of God in earlier awakenings who longed to see revival so much that their well-intentioned pursuit turned into a guilt-filled drudgery.
Just two days ago I read this account in Tullian Tchividjan’s must-read book, One Way Love, about a man of God who pursued revival but got frustrated by his own apathy,
“Samuel Johnson, the great eighteenth-century thinker and writer, documented in his diary his efforts over the years to fight sloth by getting up early in the morning to pray. He wrote:
1738: “Oh, Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.”
1757: “Oh, mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”
1759: “Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth.” 1761: “I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again.”
1764: “My indolence since my last reception of the sacrament has sunk into grossest sluggishness. My purpose is from this time to avoid idleness and to rise early.”
As you pursue holiness with your 10%ers remember it should be fueled by grace, not by guilt. We are called to a happy holiness not a sour sanctification. The joy of our salvation should drive the excitement of our sanctification!
4. Inspire and equip your teenagers to clearly share the gospel.
One characteristic of every revival is that it explodes externally into the community around it. The gospel advances through on-fire teenagers and youth leaders into classrooms, cliques and school cafeteria tables.
Are you relentlessly challenging your teenagers to share the gospel? Have you equipped them to do just that? Is the gospel you’re presenting good news or has it been muddied up by terms that are unclear or inaccurate?
A key way of inspiring your teens to evangelize is to tell stories of changed lives in every youth group meeting. Have teens share stories of how the gospel changed their lives or how God is using them to change the lives of their friends through the gospel. In my opinion every youth group meeting should have at least one story of how the gospel is changing lives.
If God provides the spark for revival then stories provide the fuel to keep it burning. (This is why we love the book of Acts by the way…it’s full of these kinds of stories!!!)
5. Don’t just make converts but make disciples who make disciples.
The goal is not to just get a bunch of teenagers to say “yes” with their mouths but to say “yes” in their hearts. We must equip our 10%ers how to lead other teenagers to Jesus and then equip the ones who do to grow and go as well. This discipleship multiplication starts with evangelism but culminates in new believers multiplying more new believers.
How do we do this? We get the new believers equipped in evangelism right away (along with the other spiritual disciplines!) Yes we want to get them growing but the best way to do that is to get them going. We must get them going to their friends, family, classmates, teammates and co-workers with the good news.
The first thing that happened to those who were baptized with the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Acts 2 is that there tongues were set on fire with the gospel message. As a result 3,000 were added to their number that day. When our teenagers have a chance to lead someone to Jesus they should immediately be equipped to share this life-changing message with others.
Too often churches are tempted to just put them in a 12 week course that ends up exegeting the excitement to evangelize right out of them. Yes they need sound doctrine. Of course they need to learn key components of the Christian life. But they can learn these on the way as they are sharing the good news of Jesus with those they know.