Thursday, December 4, 2014

A New Model of Discipleship

Yesterday myself and 3 other local youth ministers gathered at a local school to hangout and eat lunch with our students. When we finished we reconvened at a local wing restaurant to hang out and as most youth ministers do, talk shop a bit. One thing that stuck out in our conversation was discipleship and what that looks like now. We can all agree that the current model of youth ministry discipleship is broken. We learned that the '90's style of youth ministry as it is often referred to was great at evangelism. In the 90's we got really good at getting kids in the doors and presenting the Gospel and getting their 'get out of hell free cards' punched. What we were left with were a lot of students (my generation by the way) who had seeds planted but the roots never grew deep. This isn't always the case because I'm here and am a result of good discipleship BUT the majority left the church because of shallow roots. 

So we talked about what biblical discipleship looked like. It really got me to thinking about what discipleship worked in my life and how it matched up with Jesus discipleship strategy. I've came up with a few common denominators.

Parental Discipleship:
Looking at what Jesus childhood probably looked like, knowing how Jew's historically passed on their faith. We know that Jesus' earthly parents taught him scripture from and early age. We know Jesus prayed the Shema and was taught these things at an early age. 

Most current research supports the fact that students who's faith sticks typically have parents who teach, support, and nurture their child's faith. Teens may say that their parents have no influence on them but statistics show otherwise.

Mentor Discipleship:
Jesus had the 12 disciples but we know He was closer to three and was extremely close to one. We know the power of one on one discipleship. We can see this in Paul and Timothy. We know the power of an older mentor and a young student. 

When you have a one on one mentor discipleship relationship with a student that student gets the condensed teachings. In a large group settings our students are getting a over arching view of what we are teaching, we just cannot condense everything and reach everyone in a simple lesson. When we have that one on one mentorship we are able to really unpack teachings and show them what being a Christian means.

Experiential Discipleship:
Jesus not only taught the disciples, he sent them out to put their faith into practice. Not only did Jesus do that but He often did it without a safety net. He didn't walk around the with the disciples all the time and hold their hands while they cast out demons and spread the Good News. He also told them they would fail but if they failed to knock the dust off their feet and keep on keeping on. 

Jesus knew the power of on the job training. How often do we turn out students loose with no safety net? I'm not advocating just turning students loose on something with no oversight as far as their own safety, but I am saying students should have more ownership of the ministry then we often give them. Experiential Discipleship revolves around students experiencing Jesus on their own. We not only just set up a mission trip but we give them opportunities to lead and experience Jesus on their own.

Self Discipleship:
The disciples did not stop growing in their faith when Jesus ascended. We know that they gathered together for prayer and the reading and studying of scripture. We know that they grew on their own. Students who want their faith to be unshakeable after high school should learn certain habits to grow on their own. Things like a consistent prayer life, consistent reading and studying of scripture, constantly sharing their faith. Notice I say consistent, if they only time that a student does these things is at youth group, they are in trouble. 

As youth ministers we should encourage and equip students to do this on their own. Provide resources but not only that. We should be checking in individually with out students and checking on their spiritual growth and encouraging them along.

We have this misconception that discipleship is lessons and head knowledge. That if we teach a lesson we are discipling teenagers. This couldn't be further from the truth. Teaching them the Bible and the Gospel are certainly part of discipleship but we know that head knowledge is only part of the battle. Students have to put flesh on that knowledge. So what does the new model of discipleship look like? I'm not sure we've found it yet but it should certainly include these aspects. Until next time! Just keep swimming! 

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