“Eat Your P’s: The Diet to a Firm Ministry Foundation”
by Glen Dawursk, Jr., Copyright 1996
The setting is simple. A small group
of people wait for the return of their alien master to take them to the planet Kolaff from which they originated. They believe that Jesus was the brother of
Satan and that we all can achieve the next level of being a god. They have an extensive website and they
actively recruit new members. They are
clean cut, family orientated, and morally seem to be the acceptable and normal
in every way You
may think I am talking about the Heaven’s Gate cult in
If our youth’s faith is based upon a sand foundation, Jesus said they will shift and change easily. But if they are based upon the rock of Jesus Christ, they will be able to withstand Satan’s fiercest attacks. But how do we accomplish this? How do we give youth who are often strong willed and desirous of independence and yet unsure of their place anywhere – how do we give them a strong foundation when they need it most? The best offense is a great defense! We need to give our youth Powerful People, Powerful Purpose, Powerful Praise, Powerful Programs and Powerful Prayer.
Studies show that this generation is more people orientated than the past. They consider lasting friendships and honest relationships to be the most important. For this reason, we need to have youth counselors, youth leaders, youth pastors, youth mentors, DCE’s, parents and grandparents who are more caring, sincere and honest than ever before. We need Powerful or Power-filled People who have the power of Jesus Christ working in them. These people are excited about the Lord, focused on youth ministry and seeking God’s blessings. But unfortunately, some people only brighten up the room when they leave. Mark Spitz who won 7 gold medals in swimming, said that the only reason he ever succeeded was because his coach kept telling him, “Mark, I believe in you.” Powerful People bring out the God given talents in others. Powerful people are rooted in the word of God and make their faith known through how they act. They are role models to youth and represent Jesus to them. Powerful People show Jesus not only in what they do, but also in how and why they do it. Today’s youth do not have to see something to believe in it. They prefer to feel it and they will vicariously feel Jesus through your actions. Powerful People are guided by the Holy Spirit to live and learn and love and lead this generation of teenagers through the muck our world has to offer them. They are constantly fed and they constantly feed others. It is a necessary cycle of Positive Re-enforcement for a Christian never attains full maturity. For Power People are humble people who do not work with youth expecting to solely teach them something, instead, they come with the attitude of “Lord use me.”
Powerful People breed Powerful Purpose. They have high expectations of youth but do not cloud their motives with self-gratification, self-embellished pride, or deceit. They offer opportunities for service and responsibility. Rev. Dr. Charles Mueller says that if we truly want to raise our youth accepting responsibility as adults in the church, then we should allow them to vote when they are confirmed. They should be mentored on boards and committees and developed into the next generation of church leaders for they are not the church of tomorrow, but rather they are the church today. Powerful Purpose means setting seemingly lofty goals, but creating reasonable steps to achieve them. Remember, our God may speak with a whisper to us individually, but He came in with a loud wind and spectacular tongues of fire for His church. God does not think small, and neither should we. Do not limit His power. Think build, plan big, and expect God to make miraculous things happen -- and they will! Nothing is impossible with God! Nothing.
We need to give our youth Powerful Praise. Not just a pat on the back, but rather we need an entire attitude adjustment. You see, praise to me is more than simply a congratulation or “at-a-boy.” It is an attitude of enthusiasm for youth, an attitude of optimism of what youth can accomplish and it is an avoidance of the seven last words of the church, “we’ve never done it that way before!” Walt Disney once said, “If I had an idea, I presented it to my board of directors, and if they were unanimously against it, I did it.” If we are constantly critical and not constructive, if we are pessimistic instead of purposeful, and if we are pouting instead of praising – then our youth will emulate our every concern. They will fulfill the destiny that we set before them. They will fail! In Galatians 5 we are reminded to bear one another’s problems; to support each other. Not simply with lip service but with life service, and not timidly, but enthusiastically. Norman Vincent Peele once said, “For great things to happen, you need enthusiasm.” For enthusiasm is contagious and optimism is motivating and when these powerful praises are from God, great things will happen to our youth and to our church; and Powerful Praise means thanking God in all things - including changes which we may not like.
Next, we need Powerful Programs. Today’s youth are confronted with more issues then ever before. In many families, they are expected to be the children and the parents. They are hurting and an occasional church Band-Aid will not help. To me, dinner without meat is just an appetizer and youth want more than just side dish ministry. They want meat, too. They want programs that challenge the world’s views and still offer fellowship and recreation. They want diversification, with Jesus as the common focus. No longer will youth simply join and actively participate just in the “youth group” or Walther League of the past. They now look for a youth program that will cater to their specific interests, and if they do not find it, they will abandon the entire ministry -- just like many post-Vietnam parents abandoned the church. However, Millenium youth want to be a part of a group. They desire to be inclusive; they just want the group to meet their needs. Teenage growing pains are experienced best as a group. A Spirit-filled Powerful Program will include sports, drama, music (theirs and the church’s) and technology. It will be current, relevant, and offer them responsibility. And it will be flexible.
The program is probably the hardest to maintain as it requires many Powerful People to make it work and it will change often. They MUST be Powerful People who are willing to challenge the youth through programs which breed responsibility through active learning. Today’s youth want to learn, but with the diversity in learning styles, the program must be multi-sensory. MTV and video games have molded today’s youth. They will not settle for haphazard programs. Just like their parents, they often want to be entertained and they often expect “spectacle” or pizzazz. They prefer big events to smaller projects and they avoid long-term commitments except in their relationships.
A Powerful Program can NOT be simply “the Trinity Bible Hour” service organization where we throw a 40 pound Bible on the chest of each youth. On the other hand it cannot be just a YMCA social club either. A Power “filled” Program must be a happy medium of both. It must meet the needs of youth through a combination of both sides and focus on the cross in between. Some youth may prefer to only have recreation and may want to avoid Bible study or topical discussions; but our ministry is one of sharing God’s love to youth and real love is getting youth to do what they should do, not always what they want to do. This is the greatest challenge of any ministry.
A Powerful Program must also be innovative. It must change according to the passing fad or youth interest, while still maintaining the focus on Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this can be difficult as we are programmed by society to think alike. Take the following quiz. Quickly right down your answer to the following questions. Pick the first answer that comes to your mind. Ready?
· Pick a number from 1 to 10.
· Write down your favorite basic color.
· Write down a piece of furniture.
· Write down a flower.
If you took 3, 5 or 7, red or blue, a chair or a rose – then you have been programmed to think alike and the majority of today’s youth are no different. They are programmed daily by MTV, movies, music, peer-pressures and public schools to conform to society’s thinking. Yet Jesus tells us to be transformed.
A Powerful Program encourages brain storming and new ideas. Try this activity. Below there are three rows of three dots. On the dots, using no more than four perfectly straight lines, pierce the heart of every circle. Do not retrace any lines and you cannot lift your pen or pencil from the paper.
Did you impose restrictions or limitations on yourself by drawing an imaginary box around the dots? No one said you had to remain within a certain perimeter. A Power Program will often times move outside of the status quo and go beyond our self-imposed boundaries. What may have seemed innovative in our day is old-fashioned to today’s youth. As adults, we need to be sensitive, flexible and willing to try their new ideas. However, despite our best intentions, sometimes a program may fail or seem to go nowhere. Powerful People just continue forward in the ministry, knowing that great growth can occur even when we fail. After all, a Christian is like a tea bag. He does not come to full strength until he is put into a little hot water. In youth ministry, it is not how many times you get knocked down, but rather how many times you get back up that counts. The first chapter of James tells us how we grow in times of testing. Faithful perseverance always pays off. (By the way, the answer to the dot puzzle is on the last page.)
Powerful programs also must have quality. I always tell my youth, “If you are going to do something, do it well, or don’t do it.” Do not settle for mediocre, strive to make every presentation, lesson, Bible study, lock in, servant event, tournament, youth service the best. God desires our best, only our sinful condition settles for less.
The most important aspect of building a foundation in our youth is through Powerful Prayer. Prayer by example; prayer by participation; prayer by just simply doing it! It needs to be in the leader’s life and it needs to be in the lives of the youth -- but it starts with the leaders. They need to pray specifically for youth daily. They need to pray daily for their youth ministry. They need to pray specifically for additional adult leaders who will participate as leaders, helpers or mentors. They need to pray for their program’s continued growth -- both spiritually and in numbers being reached. Jesus started with a core of just 11 spiritual babies and with His leading they matured into spiritual adults who with the power of the Holy Spirit multiplied into hundreds of new members. Powerful Prayer is a vital ingredient to spiritual growth in youth ministry.
Just like a triangle with God at the head, leaders on one corner and youth on the other, if we become closer to God and the youth become closer to God, then the leaders and the youth will become closer to each other. It really does not matter who the other corners are as long as they seek God individually, the two will prosper as a whole. That means parents can be at one corner and their children on the other. This is God’s solution for lack of communication, for dysfunctional families, for peer-pressures and youth apathy. Prayer is God’s solution to this generation and any generation of youth and it must be the core of building their firm foundation. Powerful People use Powerful Prayer to make Powerful Programs and Powerful Praise and Purpose Possible! But, Powerful Prayer is NOT just limited to the youth leaders. No! The congregation must also offer Powerful Prayer on behalf of the youth ministry programs. God says that he listens to our combined prayers. He listens to His people. You must also be one of the Powerful People who use Powerful Prayer to make Powerful Programs and Powerful Praise possible.
An aspect of Powerful Prayer is worship. Ministry as is our Christian Life is a continuous worship time with God. Romans 12:1-2 implies that even our thoughts give worship to God. From creation He desired for us to have a relationship with Him. This relationship brought praise to Him. If our personal prayer and devotional life are in sync and in relationship with Him, then our ministry will also become worship to him. Think of youth ministry as being worship and Sunday services will take on a new perspective.
I have recently added another essential “P” to my ministry diet. It is Powerful PR. I have found that the youth generally do not read the monthly church newsletter and only checkout the bulletin inserts when the sermon is boring them. They require innovative “in their face” promotion. A monthly or quarterly youth newsletter mailed to their homes is one approach, but the use of personal calls through a mentorship or chain calling approach also works. A youth group website updated regularly by the leaders and youth can also be a great way to inform them. Getting the e-mail address of each youth is a way to quickly share prayer requests, give directions, and inform then of upcoming events and Bible study opportunities. It allows you to keep in contact with your college youth and servant events. Plus, E-mail also allows for immediate response.
PR doe not just mean “Promotion” it also means “Public Relations.” It is essential that the congregation know what is going on in youth ministry. It builds support for the leadership, the program and most importantly, the youth of the church. The youth may not read the monthly church newsletter, but their grandparents do. They become the prayer, moral and financial support of the ministry. If you are new to youth ministry, I suggest that the first three people you befriend are: the secretary, the custodian and as many grand parents as possible. Their perception and their representation of your ministry to others will contribute greatly toward its success or failure.
A few years ago, a cult of 39 people committed suicide in
So, get out there and let God use you in His ministry to youth and as always, “Don’t forget to eat Your P’s.”