"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics The Priority of Youth Ministry

The Absolutely Incredible Potential of Youth Ministry

Dr. Dann Spader

When we enter the new millennium, America will have more than two million teenagers than it had at the beginning of 1991. That fact alone excites me as I attempt to grasp the incredible potential of youth ministry. Years ago as a new youth pastor, I read James S. Stewart's book The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ. In it I found this statement: "Christianity began as a young people's movement. In thinking of Jesus and His disciples, that is the first fact to make quite clear. Unfortunately, it is a fact which Christian art and Christian preaching have too often obscured. But it is quite certain that the original disciple band was a young men's group. Most of the apostles were probably still in their twenties when they went out after Jesus." Since Christ focused on young people while He was on earth, I have decided to invest my life in reaching the youth of North America.

Over the years people have often asked me when I'm going to get into "real" ministry. For me, the "real" ministry happens as you influence youth who have a whole life ahead of them to live for Christ. I can truly say that I am involved in a ministry with unbelievable impact. D.L. Moody once sent a group of people out to witness in the city of Chicago. One man came back to report that two and a half people had become Christians. "Two and a half people, what do you mean by that?" Moody asked.

"Oh, it's simple. There were two adults and an eleven year old boy -he's the half."

"If you want to keep statistics like that you've got it backwards." Moody said. "The one-half would be the adults, because half of their lives are gone. The boy has his whole life ahead of him to live for Jesus Christ."

What are we doing as Christians to reach this generation? Research shows that over two-thirds of the Christians in America today made their decision for Christ before the age of 18. However, a recent Gallup poll showed that 65% teens could not list four or more of the Ten Commandments. Only one in three could name the four Gospels. This shows the lack of penetration of the church into the youth culture. There are signs of movement by the church to come closer to God's heartbeat for reaching His young people. Recently in Atlanta, youth leaders from 16 states and Canada met specifically to pray for our nation's youth. Their concern, after two days of intense prayer was that "We recognize that a national state of emergency exists in North America with our youth. Over 53% of our world's population is under the age of 20, yet we have failed in our attempts to reach them for Jesus Christ." We violate what Jesus said in Matthew 18:10 when he said, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones."

As Christians, we often react against the youth culture, rather than responding to it with the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. Much like the disciples in Matthew 18 who tried to prevent children and young people to bother Jesus, we miss God's best. I see signs that God is mightily at work among young people today. Last September over two million teens met around the flag pole at their schools to pray for this nation in the "See You at the Pole" prayer event. In March over 1.5 million teens shared their faith with their friends in a nation-wide evangelistic outreach event called, "See You at the Party." In July over 200,000 teens met at the Washington Plaza in our nation's capital to pledge their lives to personal purity in the "True Love Waits" campaign. I see signs of an awakening taking place among youth of America that is unprecedented in our history. This generation has the incredible potential of one teen by one teen impacting this country with a mass spiritual revolution.

I know the potential of praying for a single young person. In the rural Midwest years ago a lady named Vi, developed a deep concern for a next door family. Vi prayed for courage to go next door to talk about what it meant to know Jesus Christ. While in the middle of her trying to pour out her heart, the father walked in, heard what was happening and literally threw her out and told her to keep her Jesus to herself. Vi went back to her home, deeply broken and concerned feeling she had failed. Later that afternoon, when she looked out of her backyard window, she saw a young boy from that family playing with her son. She vowed, by the grace of God, to pray for that young man every day. She said to herself, "At least I can do that." Later that young man went to high school and college. While at college, that young man came to Christ. He then went into the ministry and has since led several members of his family to the Lord. Two are on the mission field and one regularly and actively leads people to Christ on a daily basis. God used the prayers of Vi to touch that family in a special way.

I know because I was that boy.

If it were not for the prayers of Vi, I am convinced that I would not be where I am today, leading a youth ministry devoted to the Great Commission. Teens of today need adults in their lives who will pray for them. As you see those teens in your church, in your neighborhood, or in your home, are you praying for them? That may be the only prayer they will ever have said on their behalf.

I often read Isaiah 40:11: "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom." This reminds me of John chapter 21 and Jesus' message to Peter. For the longest time when I read this passage I thought Jesus was only talking to Peter about shepherding His sheep. As I studied this passage further, I discovered that two out of the three responses Jesus gave to Peter were "If you love me, care for my lambs." Loosely translated it means "to care for the young sheep." This reminds me to keep close to those who are close to God's shepherd heart-the young people. This next generation will have one million more teenagers than when the numbers of Baby Busters peaked in 1976. There will be more young people Jesus desires to bring closer to Himself. We must never think of ministry to youth as something less than significant.

Within the next ten years we will see over 31 million teens who need to hear about the transforming love and grace that Jesus Christ has to offer. When God asked, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Isaiah answered, "Here am I, Lord, send me." I pray daily that there will be many adults and young people who heed the Lord's call into full-time youth ministry. I believe this new generation of Baby Busters will have an incredible faith. This will only happen if we reach them with the love of the Lord through the lives of people who radically commit themselves to reaching this next generation. [end]


Dr. Dann Spader is Executive Director of Sonlife Ministries.

Sonlife Ministries

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