The ‘HOW’ of Youth Ministry: Relational Discipleship

A relevant and redemptive youth community is a place where space is created for the Holy Spirit to bring transformation in the lives of teens to the glory of God.

1. Discipleship without relationship is a myth.

Discipleship can’t happen without relationship. Jesus is the model in this regard, spending multiple years of his life and ministry equipping His close friends in following Him. We have no reason to think that when He instructed them to “make disciples” the method of doing so would change. Effective discipleship doesn’t happen simply through downloading content or creating environments or frameworks for response, it happens through relationship animated by the Holy Spirit.

The myth of discipleship without relationship carries with it an empty legalism. Teens learn how you want them to act and what is acceptable and unacceptable. If they want to be included in the community, they feign those standards. This develops duplicitous Christians who may in reality be children of hell.[1]

2. Relationship without discipleship is selling out.

Relationship without discipleship is church without Jesus. It’s a social club where interested teens can belong to a group of people committed to themselves. This doesn’t seem all that bad, since there are probably worse things that a teenager could do with their time in our culture today. The problem arises when this kind of community is church affiliated. If God didn’t exist and the Bible wasn’t true, there would be no problem at all. But those aren’t options open to us.

Relationship without discipleship is church without Jesus. Click To Tweet

When a “relationship without discipleship” community is founded within a spiritual entity like the church, you run the risk of falsely assuring people. This is the kind of youth ministry where the Matthew 7:21-23 crowd cut their teeth. Becoming friends is great. Following Jesus is greater. Becoming friends and following Jesus together is the design.

3. The swinging pendulum is how teens lives meet gospel roots.

Pendulum

Church people tend to categorize youth ministries one of two ways:
1) The fun youth group that is real surface-level
2) The serious youth group that teaches the bible

These false assumptions stem from the idea that authentic relationship and transformational discipleship can’t coexist. Don’t tell Jesus that.

In reality, relationship and discipleship operate like a pendulum that is held by the gospel and moved by the Holy Spirit. There are times when it swings more heavily onto the side of relationship. The entire purpose of this is to create momentum for this pendulum to swing high on the side of discipleship. The back and forth of this pendulum dictates that the more relationship is developed, the more discipleship; and the more discipleship occurs, the more relationship develops.

Should youth ministry be ‘fun?’ Yes. These are teenagers with eternal souls.

Should youth ministry be ‘serious?’ Yes. These are teenagers with eternal souls.

[1] Matthew 23:15.