If you continually do what you’ve always done, you will always have what you’ve always had. – Unknown

The above quote has been my mantra for a long time, which is why I don’t allow myself, or the students I’ve led, to get to comfortable. I wanted my students to have more. This might be why my students said that pushing them (I would say leading them) out of their comfort zone was one of the qualities they appreciated about me.

In my last post I talked about how I raised the bar and set expectations for not just having a great youth program but because I believed students were living way below their potential and way way below what God had made them to be.

Part of creating expectations is creating opportunities to test your yourself. I challenged kids to go on foreign mission trips because I wanted them to see a different part of the world and expand their vision. Many of these trips were several thousand dollars which provided a second challenge, could they believe they could raise the money. Most of the kids who took that challenge found out they were worthy of other peoples support, prayers and saw God provide in incredible ways.

Pushing is an aggressive term, but asking a kid to do something they think is beyond them is not pushing, it’s challenging. I challenge kids because I see something in them they do not see themselves until they’ve done it. Challenging kids gives them confidence to try even greater things. Today it’s a mission trip tomorrow it’s applying to be an ambassador to another country. It can happen.

I challenged one young man to pray over the offering every week. I would ask, “Are you going to do it, or am I” and he would always say, “You got it”. This went on for what seemed liked months until one night, he said, “Ok, I’ll do it.” Today, that young man is in school and has no problem speaking or praying in public.

Jesus led his disciples out of their comfort zones

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Jesus did not force Peter out of the boat, but He recognized Peter’s faith and bid him to come to him on the water. As youth workers, we have to identify and challenge that faith in the teenagers we serve.

My call to teenager is always, “Get out of the boat!”. I was scared and hesitant as a kid. I was afraid to open my mouth, if you can believe that. My mother always said, “You want something, open your mouth.” I missed a number of opportunities as a kid because I would not answer the call to get out of my boat.

All of that changed when I accepted Christ and youth pastors and other leaders started to call me out to lead. I couldn’t get enough. I read, I prayed and I waited for opportunities to be used. I jumped at every chance that was offered. I was hungry to do more. Life out of the boat is addicting.

God bid me to come to Him and I did. God bid me to full time ministry, and I did. God bid me to trust him when I resigned my position six months ago and I did. Our kids need us to invite them to greater things or the only story they’ll have to tell is how amazing it was that someone else walked on water.

Jesus put his disciples in position to stretch

But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but that did not preclude him from asking the disciples to step up, to offer something. We cheat our students when we do not get them involved in the planning and execution of our programming.

They’re not too young. They do amazing things every day. All we have to do is find out what they are good at ask them if they’ll use that gift to serve the Lord and their fellow students. We have to be willing to say, “You feed them.”

I was recently coaching a youth worker and we talked about students sharing the devotion/message responsibilities. His concern, and rightfully so, that the students in question were too carnal to handle God’s word with enough care to deliver it will. I asked, “But what can they do? Can they bring food, play the game, etc? ”

If you want a student to show up, give them a job, preferably one in line with their gifts and talents with room for them to grow.

Jesus trusted them enough to leave them in charge

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”Matthew 16:21

It made no sense to leave my youth ministry job. Kids couldn’t understand, fully, why I chose to leave. Some of them were like Peter, “Never Paul!” I understood that, but I had been at the church for eight years and it was just time. It was time for both of us to fulfill what God had called us to.

Jesus had spent only three years with his disciples before He said He must go. No need to explain that Jesus and I are not in the same ball park, the evidence is glaring, but I also knew it my heart it was time for students, and leaders, to grab hold of leading this youth ministry at a greater depth.

Jesus trusted his disciples with the greatest commission ever given,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19

In spite of all their failures, betrayals, and future mistakes, He trusted them to preach the most important message ever given and not just preach but teach, follow up and lead others. How can we do any less with the kids we serve?

If you haven’t challenged your kids because you fear they will not respond, be patient. There will be plenty of no’s in your tenure as a youth worker. But, hidden among the no’s is a yes, or a few of them. Those yes’s will come from kids who are tired of hiding in the shadows and have been waiting to be led out of the dark.

If you’re interested in a real challenge, consider buying my book The Disciple Project and turn your meetings into a movement.

Next, Part Four: Making Disciples

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