BY STEVE DUNN
I was talking with a youth pastor who has an effective outreach to the unchurched children of his community. Like all effective youth pastors, his first concern is to make disciples of children. He wants them to have a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ while they are still young.
But as he spoke, I heard another motivation for a children’s ministry that is clearly outward-focused in its vision and strategy. It had to be do with the health and faithfulness of the church. This is what he said, “THE CURSE of the internally focused church is that it develops internally focused children and internally focused teens. Without intervention the curse will be handed down from generation to generation.”
A typical youth group becomes a closed group, where the focus is on meeting the needs (and desires) of kids. It is what Ed Stetzer has called “a holding tank with pizza.” Given the tendency of kids to form and fossilize into cliques, outward focused youth leaders must instead teach kids to look beyond themselves. To see themselves as disciples on mission with Jesus. They need to learn what it is to be authentic disciples and they need to be given ministries that help out that discipleship into action.They need to see that their friends need Jesus and be challenged and equipped to help them make disciples of their friends. Not simply decisions, but functioning disciples. But again, they need not to be kids who are just getting together to have fun or to be protected from the world’s idea of “fun.” They need to learn to pray, read and understand God’s Word, discover their gifts and use them. They need to love Jesus and all the people Jesus loves.