One of my youth ministry professors always liked to quote the proverb about leading a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. “That is true, she said, but you can feed the horse salt!” So how do we ‘salt’ the young people of this generation to even be interested in God in the first place? How do we help them begin a faith journey that ends in a restored relationship with the Father?
Over time and with much discussion, we have developed a process we think helps invite the young people of this generation into a restored relationship with God. It begins by helping people see the relevance of exploring faith and starting a journey towards God. We have been trialling and adapting this process with teenagers in the last few years and have been encouraged with how it has worked. And while the process is geared mainly for a group setting, I find myself using this process in my own conversations with people.
As we begin, we attempt to answer the question, ‘what does it mean to be spiritual?’ We try to show that all humans are spiritual. Each of us has a mind, a body and a soul and we all have thoughts and feelings that cannot be attributed to just the mind or just the body. We humans today spend most of our time trying to develop our mind or satisfy our body, but we rarely think about the spiritual part of us.
Most of the focus in this stage is on trying to ‘bubble’ up spiritual thoughts and feelings. We work through things like our response to suffering, our attempts to connect with someone or something bigger than ourselves and our questions about an afterlife. When one of these thoughts or feelings gets exposed, we point to it and say, ‘there, that is a spiritual thought or feeling.’
Key Question: Do you agree that you are spiritual?
Invitation: Do you want to talk more about how to be filled spiritually?
What difference does it make to have God in your life? As Christians, we believe the God of the Bible is the one to fill us up spiritually and complete us as humans. We spend time comparing and contrasting biblical, historical and modern examples of people who claim to have God in their life and those who claim to not want anything to do with God.
As we explore the life stories of people from Joseph (yes, the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat one) to Corrie TenBoom to Homer Simpson to Christian teenagers in our group we ask, ‘what difference does it make for these people to have God in their lives or not in their lives?
Key Question: Do you see the positive difference God makes in people’s lives?
Invitation: Do you want to find out more?
If ever there were a person to look at and consider what difference God makes in a life it would be Jesus. Jesus was a human who claimed to have God fully in his life. We are not trying to make the theological point here about Jesus being fully God and fully man at the same time. And we are not yet presenting Jesus as the one who takes away our sins to make us right with God. At this stage, we are simply presenting Jesus as a human who is the best example of what effect it has to be fully filled with God.
We show that because Jesus had God in his life, he cared for other people, he was actually a religious rebel, he helped and healed the sick, he was a good friend and he could talk directly with God.
Key Question: Do you want to have God in your life?
Invitation: Do you want to find out how to have God in your life?
(Incidentally if people say they do not want God in their life or don’t seem very interested, we say, ‘that’s ok, we still want to get together as friends. But there’s probably not much point in continuing to explore this if you are not interested in God.’)
If you want God to fill up your life, it is important we look more closely at the person of Jesus. Jesus is the one who can bring you to God. In this stage we present the key concepts of the gospel that most evangelistic tools and curriculum start with. We present the problem of sin, God’s eternal plan to rescue humans, our inability to get back to God on our own and Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
Some may think this is too far along the journey to bring up sin. They may argue that we need to start with showing people they are sinners. “Help them see they are on a sinking ship and then they will want to reach out for the life preserver”. But this isn’t really the issue we face. The young people I talk with are not reluctant to admit sin. (many young people I talk with want to share with me all the sordid details of recent sins they committed!) So the problem isn’t willingness to admit sin. The problem is again relevance. Why does my sin matter? If I do not see the point of having God in my life, the fact that my sin stands between us doesn’t really bother me.
Key Question: Do you see why Jesus is important if you want to have a relationship with God?
Invitation: Do you want to start a relationship with God?
If God has already figured out a way to bring me back to Him, what do I have to do? In this stage, we try to uncover perceptions about what has to change in a person’s life to allow God to come into it. We answer questions and continue to scatter in faith stories of Christian teenagers from our group. We help young people start a relationship with God by asking Him to be their rescuer and leader.
As I mentioned, we have been trialling this process and we have been encouraged by how well it has worked, especially in helping teenagers start thinking about God. We still have a lot of questions and we are continually introducing new methods as we go along to reinforce these concepts.
We invite you to share your thoughts and ideas as you try to help teenagers in your context make their spiritual journeys toward God.
Categories: Youth Ministry Resources