Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.
Christianity is on the verge of extinction.
Let that sink in…I don’t say that to be an alarmist, but if we do not pass on the Christian faith to the next generation, then Christianity will become extinct. You take this into account and couple it with the last words of Jesus to make disciples of all the nations (Mt. 28:19-20) and you have the mandate that drives us in student ministries. This has always been our mandate. This has always driven me in ministry back when I started in youth ministry 20 years ago and here at Knox 11 years ago. This is why we want to emphasize our ministry is for everyone, not just those who go here. We want to reach them all with the Gospel, and we want everyone to grow into being lifelong disciples of Jesus. This can be messy. This generation has more pressure, more temptations, and more expectations than any generation before it. They are faced with this all the while not knowing what will be left for them.
You might have been a teenager once, but you were never them.
They are different.
So how do we try to go about reaching a generation for Christ who has increasingly turned its back on the church?
If you plan to reach the next generation for Christ, don’t ask them to believe what you believe, instead invite them to do what you do.
Let that sink in…Beliefs are a dime a dozen. This generation has seen every variety of spiritual beliefs you could imagine (and many you couldn’t imagine). They’re extremely turned off by people who don’t live what they claim to believe. This generation doesn’t want to hear about what you believe. They want to see your beliefs in actions. And if you’re daring enough to live like Jesus, you’ll have a shot at reaching the next generation. If your version of Christianity is limited to what you’re against, you’ll not likely reach many. If, on the other hand, your faith is so alive you must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and love the outcasts—all in the name of Christ, the King, you will attract interest. As strange as it might sound, if you truly live a missional and Spirit filled life, the young generation might join you and do what you do, then one day believe what you believe.
We teach what we believe and invite students to believe it as well.
We don’t water down the truths of Jesus, the Bible and what it means to follow Jesus. Just ask any high school student who attends our ministry. In fact worship, teaching, and small groups are at the core of what we do. We don’t focus on games, we focus on Jesus. We play a game here and there, but it is not why most students attend. I once ran into a student who does not come from a churched background. She was with a friend and we began to speak about our ministry. This girl invited her friend to come to our ministry because “Dave talks about real stuff.” To me this spoke volumes. We simply don’t sugarcoat the truth. This generation needs to hear it.
I guess you would say that we take a two-pronged approach to pass on our faith to the next generation.
We invite them to do what we do as we seek to follow Jesus ourselves, and we teach what we believe so that by doing and hearing they might believe. It’s a messy journey at times, but it is also filled with great joy. Sound intriguing? Come talk to me, let’s grab coffee or lunch. I would love to share more with you.
Oh, and that student who was involved in our ministry, who invited her friend because we talk about real stuff, she is currently following Jesus at Western and just spent the summer as a missionary serving the poor in the name of Jesus.