It seems like every conference I’ve gone to in the last year has had a common theme woven through them. The practice of discipleship keeps coming up. We Christians love to come up with discipleship plans and models. We are hooked on the idea that we can come up with the perfect methodology to make other people more like Jesus.
I have yet to find a passage in the Gospels where Jesus clearly defines the process of discipleship. In fact, Jesus’ plan of discipleship seems to be simply “Follow me.” It’s in observing, listening and imitating Jesus that we become like Him. Paul followed suit when he said, “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1 NLT)
So, this naturally leads me to the questions “What should discipleship look like in our youth ministries?”
If you’re looking for a five-point answer to this question then you can stop reading because I don’t have one. Instead I have a thought.
What if a key factor of the discipleship of teens is to normalize the Christian faith.
Let me unpack that. Normalizing the Christian faith does NOT mean that we live ordinary lives. It does’t mean that teens are unchallenged to take risks for the Gospel.
To normalize the Christian faith is to create an environment where teens see how the Christian life fits into their everyday normal lives.
Many of our ministries do the exact opposite. Think of the last evangelism push that you did in your youth group. Did you make a big deal about your students inviting their friends or talking to others about Jesus? Did you bring someone up and give them a big prize (as I have done in recent months)? I think an unintended consequence of these kinds of over exuberant celebrations is that we communicate that evangelism is hard and takes an extraordinary level of faith.
In discipleship we create an environment where they see that following Christ means a radical shift in what we think “normal” is. This radical shift leads to a new normal where prayer, scripture, sacrifice and sharing Christ happen everyday because of our new identity in Christ.
An example of normalizing is that over the past year, I’ve been getting into healthier patterns of eating and exercise. I had to break many unhealthy habits, including my love for cheese covered foods. Over the course of the year I have “normalized” my portion sizes and my food choices. Has it been easy? No way! But because I’ve become accustomed to my new normal and seen the difference it makes in my own life, I am changed from the inside out. When we normalize discipleship we communicate to our students that the Christian life is a way different kind of life, but it is available for everyone not just the super-spiritual.
For us, this means that this semester we are experimenting with normalizing the practice of evangelism. Instead of making it a big deal, we’re going to talk about it as if it’s an everyday occurrence. Instead of counting successes for our win column, we’re going to share stories of students trying (even failing) and we’re going to learn from it. Instead of coming up with a one size fits all method, we’re going to help our students feel natural talking about Jesus and addressing questions in everyday conversations. We hope that by not hyping up evangelism, more students will actually feel that sharing Christ is within their reach.
What about you? Is there an aspect of the Christian life that you would like to see normalized in your students? What are you going to do to make that practice a new normal for them?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]