“If you want to ride a bike, don’t read a book, don’t watch a video” says Seth Godin in the majority of his podcast episodes, to promote his Akimbo workshops. He believes entrepreneurs can, and should create, in real time an that is what his workshops offer. Seth gives them the tools, the accountability and the encouragement build wha they want to build. Why don’t youth pastors do the same for teenagers when it comes to discipleship?
Because disciples are seen as students not doers. They are seen as those who sit at the feet of the master and learn until they are old enough, wise enough or mature enough to live out their faith in real time. Many youth ministries never offer their students opportunities to lead in their youth ministries so why should we expect them to lead, or live out their faith, outside of the youth ministry?
Youth workers want compliance, obey the rules, don’t mess up the program. This does not sound like how Jesus did it. He let his students do the ministry and fail at ministry like the time his disciples could not cast out the demon or Peter walking on the water. Jesus didn’t see his disciples’ failures as a poor reflection on Him. It’s what made Jesus a different kind of rabbi.
When you Google discipleship, these are the images you get. Charts, graphs, pictures of grow and some people sitting on the lawn reading the Bible. None of this is real discipleship, it’s what the church has done to make discipleship palatable to the masses.
If you type in youth discipleship, here’s what you see. More reading, photo ops and graphics. None of this is doing, it’s selling the idea of discipleship not the reality of discipleship.
Teens are leaving Christianity, or the church’s version of discipleship, because there is a disconnect between what youth ministry is presenting as Christianity and what the Bible say it means to follow Jesus. The gap between has to close if we want to see teenagers develop into full followers of Christ and not just cardboard stand ups of Jesus.
Teens no longer accept the substitute of fun meetings over a deep faith of living the gospel and youth pastors, like you, must lead the way.
Maybe it’s time to shake things up. When you bring up the word discipleship, do you want to conjure images of sitting in safe circles trying to get kids to be quiet while you teach or would you rather your teens think about reaching their friends, their school and communities for Christ?
The Disciple Project is a youth ministry strategy that raises up sitters and makes them doers of the gospel. My book details how to move your group from passive discipleship to active discipleship and it’s packed with outreach ideas, forms and how to turn your meeting into a movement. I hope you’ll check it out.