The Harvest: Youth Ministry With a Purpose

the harvestWhat is the point of youth group? Is the purpose to walk away feeling great about who you are, to experience an emotional boost for the rest of the week, or to have fun and enjoy some awesome music? What if you were told that the purpose to your life has nothing to do with you? It is not about your wants, your needs, your desires, and your priorities! It is solely about what God wants and desires of you!

While I believe many of these things are important and can happen, it cannot be our main priority! It cannot drive us to do what we do. We must be driven by a desire to see students draw closer to Christ! God may need to pick us up, shake the craziness out of us, and cause us to see Him for who He truly is!

Jeremiah 29:11-14 – 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

So often we stop at verse 11, and we miss that true purpose comes out of us calling on the name of God and fully relying on our relationship with Him! Our purpose in ministry must be all about Jesus! It is not about striving to be perfect or filling ourselves with tons of knowledge so that we have all of the answers. Instead, it is about us forming every part of who we are to fit exactly what Christ desires of us.

Sometimes that means we have to say no. Sometimes that means we have to understand we are going to mess up. Sometimes that means we are not going to have all of the answers. And sometimes that means our lives are going to seem pretty messed up!

So often we celebrate numbers and become focused on fun, entertainment, food, environment, atmosphere, and so much more. Although these are not bad things, they can cause us to lose sight of who Jesus is! We stop asking Him what He wants us to do! We stop relying on the Holy Spirit to direct our messages and conversations. We become consumed with details and schedules that we miss the opportunities right in front of us! We rely on our own strength, our own power, and place much of the win on our shoulders, instead of dropping it at the feet of Jesus. We can talk a good talk while our heart gets eaten alive.

Even in the midst of success, we have the tendency to take our eyes off of what God has for us. How much of your focus has actually been on hearing from Him and living out what He is calling us to do? We can fall into the trap of leading from a selfish vision – focused on growing a ministry that is fun, exciting, and full of students! Don’t get me wrong, those are good things, but is Jesus visible in and through the success of our ministry?

Matthew 9:35-38 –35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

We must pray students experience the awesomeness of a relationship with Jesus, but we cannot water down the Gospel in fear some may be offended! What if your youth ministry was attractional based on God’s Word and not because of an emotional feeling everybody can walk away with? What if your students were to truly be a part of something greater than they could ever imagine? What would it look like for each one of your leaders, parents, and students to begin living out community and discipleship at the level Jesus desires?

Are we encouraging our students to grow in a deeper relationship with Christ? Are we asking our students the tough questions of accountability? It’s good for us to be there to help our students through difficult circumstances with family, friends, and life itself – but what they need is a large dose of Jesus! Our students don’t need another friend, they don’t need another motivational charge – they need Jesus!

We cannot water down the Gospel! Our focus and must be to share the truth of God’s Word with everybody we come in contact with! Our desire is to see students radically changed based on the reality of a relationship with Christ, not based on anything we could do or say! We cannot desire create a cool crowd, just to put butts in seats. Our desire must be to see lives changed because of the truth and reality of the cross!

3 thoughts on “The Harvest: Youth Ministry With a Purpose

  1. Great Article! I agree that the primary focus is encouraging/facilitating youth to draw near to God so that He will also draw near to them (James 4:8; Isaiah 55:1-3; Isaiah 55:6-7; Psalms 145:18; Psalms 100:2-4; Micah 6:6-8; et.al.) Could a reasonable extension of the purpose of youth ministry be to facilitate the building of strong relationships within the body of believers (the church) as teens transition to adulthood — ultimately leaving mom and dad behind, but not abandoning the church or the value of genuine Christian fellowship (not segmented by age)?

    Consider that as parents we are called to protect the children who are put in our care, to raise them in the word (Dt 4:10, Dt 6:1-9, Dt 11:19, Ps 78:4-6, Ps 127:3-5, Pr 22:6, Eph 6:4, Col. 3:21, Heb 12:9-10). AND that we (all of us) also have a responsibility to counsel/mentor youth based on scriptures (Isaiah 1:16-17, 2 Timothy 2:22-26, 2 Timothy 3 and Titus 2:6-8, et.al.) whether the issue is lying, cheating, stealing, extra-marital sex exploration, or substance abuse, et.al. The goal is to help them maintain purity, increase wisdom and stature (Ps 1:1-3, Jeremiah 17:5-8) and therefore, to be prepared for their ultimate vocational calling.

    Since many church attenders see dedicated teams handling outreach and discipleship of youth thru obvious programs like Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, “outdoor adventure clubs” (i.e. “scouting-like” programs, et.al.) and “youth groups” do they fail to recognize the calling to mentor, apprentice and disciple youth for their active roles in church ministry as adults? Does the main body of church members provide a constant hand of help, love and connection that can make a difference in young people never leaving the church by re-focusing their personal goals from greed (wealth, power, social position, intellectualism) to God instead?

    Consider our explicit calling toward fellowship and interpersonal relationship — 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV –“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV – “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”; Hebrews 10:25 ESV –“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”; Hebrews 10:24 ESV –“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,”; Proverbs 27:17 ESV –“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”; Galatians 6:2 ESV –“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

    If we’re (all) engaging young people, teaching them, granting them material responsibilities within the church to serve, they’ll have connection and a reason to remain committed to their own community (even if they leave for college for a couple years). Without material and interpersonal connection, there is no community in their mind or heart, is there? Do you apprentice teens in work of worship ministry, or merely let them watch? Has an eloquent teen read the scriptures out loud from the pulpit during a service, lead the responsive reading, offered a testimony, sought and led prayer for specific ministries or causes, or do we reserve that only for “older men and women”? If church participation is all “look but don’t touch” there’s no bond or connection that drives them to remain. Ultimately, their connection to Jesus is to serve – not just on a faraway mission field, but right at home – prepping to raise a strong family (with understanding of biblical parental roles and responsibilities), mentoring others, performing service within the community that also builds real relationships with real people, sharing in the responsibilities of prepping and executing worship services, etc. As you correctly pointed out, we desire our students/youth “…to begin living out community and discipleship at the level Jesus desires…”

    Again, a great job on the article — got me thinking!

    1. Much of the success we have seen has come through the relationships between students and our adult leaders – whether it is through a mentoring relationship, discipleship, or one of our student leadership trainings. We challenge our entire church to mentor students – both within the school system and within our student ministry. Some of the best leaders I have ever seen where adults who caught the vision of what God was doing in and through our students.

      Our church also does an incredible job of empowering students to lead. We have students involved in our worship team, children’s ministry team, and entire creative arts team. I am a huge advocate of seeing students serve as today’s church, not the church of tomorrow. We have a student internship and a student leadership team that is made of up students either feeling called into ministry or actively serving in high level leadership roles.

      Thanks for the comments! Love the discussion and the encouragement!

  2. That’s great news. I am glad that you’ve celebrated success through relationships and mentors. I’m also happy to hear how your church has done a great job — it’s an encouraging light to the rest of the “church at large” that investing in youth, today, is investing in the church of tomorrow!

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