Bible-shaped Youth Ministry

Early in ministry we had a young couple come along to our church and join our small group.

After six months, as we were about to begin our prayer time together, Shannon told us that she had some exciting news. She had become a Christian. She had become a believer.

Well, you could have heard a pin drop and a couple of us had to be helped up off the floor. Everyone was surprised.

On one hand, the surprise was because of how uncommon it was to see someone become a believer. On the other hand, the surprise had to do with the question of how. How had she become a Christian? What had happened for to turn her to belief in Jesus?

As as we talked Shannon explained that through coming to the group every week, meeting with us and reading through the Bible together, she had seen the truth of Jesus. It was the Bible—read and discussed each week—which spoke to her and drew her to faith.

Through coming to the group every week, meeting with us and reading through the Bible together, she had seen the truth of Jesus. It was the Bible—read and discussed each week—which spoke to her and drew her to faith.

I can’t remember what we were explicitly studying during that season, but I do know that we were walking slowly through a book of the Bible, verse-by-verse, section-by-section. Through this experience I, and I’m sure the rest of the group, came to realise not only in the importance of the Bible but its usefulness as well.

The Profitable Word

In recent times, I have found it helpful to reflect on the usefulness of the Bible—in particular, the way it is used in (and shapes) our youth ministry. Second Timothy 3:16-17 has been particularly helpful. I’m sure you’ve read it before:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is (1) a reminder of the reality of ministry, and (2) an encouragement for us in ministry.

As we move through the letter we come to learn that Timothy is going through considerable hardship in his ministry. With this in mind, Paul exhorts Timothy to continue to remember the word of truth, seek godliness, and grow in maturity: in life, in faith, and in leadership. Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel (1:8-11) and to continue in the sound teaching he has been taught (1:13-14). Paul pleads with him to make sure his foundation is sure; that the doctrine he teaches is based upon the Apostles and the Scriptures, and that he passes this on to others.

In the immediate context Paul reminds Timothy of his own investment in teaching, counselling, and training Timothy. From 3:10 we learn of how Timothy has imitated Paul’s teaching, conduct, way of life, faith, patience, love, and steadfastness.

Once again Paul encourages Timothy to stick to the teaching he has learned from childhood in 3:14-15.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

So Paul reminds Timothy (and us) how useful these scriptures are …

First, the Bible is useful for salvation.

Like the story I shared up-top, the Bible speaks into the hearts of men and women.

It reveals who God is, it reveals our sinfulness and unworthiness, it reveals the love of God for his creatures and creation through the person of Jesus, and in this it reveals the way to salvation.

In our youth ministries the Bible is useful in bringing young people into saving faith. Through the scriptures God speaks his truth, working this truth into the minds and hearts of our students, giving them the wisdom needed for salvation (3:15).

In our youth ministries the Bible is useful in bringing young people into saving faith. Through the scriptures God speaks his truth, working this truth into the minds and hearts of our students, giving them the wisdom needed for salvation

Second, the Bible is useful for teaching.

Teaching makes up a large part youth ministry. Preaching, short talks and devotions, leading Bible studies, reading the Bible one-on-one with students or leaders, or involvement in other areas of church life, means there is a large portion of teaching prepared for and delivered in youth ministry.

Yet with all the stress of events, meetings, agenda items, camp organisation and the like, it is possible—even if we don’t want to admit it—to forget to use the Bible in our ministries. I would hope that you use the Bible in preaching and when you lead a Bible study, but I know that it is all to easy to spend more time finding the right YouTube video.

In any teaching capacity you have, whether at a parents meeting, in your volunteer leaders meeting, in your one-on-one meet-ups, I encourage you to use the Bible. To teach from the Bible during each and every part of your ministry.

Third, the Bible is useful for counselling.

A number of older people I know regularly refer to the Bible in their conversations. This was highlighted for me recently, while I was on a short-term mission team. One of our young adults commented to the older gentleman on our team about how common it was to hear him quote Scripture in conversation. It may not have been rebuking and correcting all the time, but it was certainly wise counsel given through a biblical lens.

How great would it be to foster and cultivate this kind of counsel in our youth ministries?

The use of the Bible isn’t just for the youth talk in our mid-week program but it is useful in conversation, correcting, and giving wise counsel to our students. The usefulness of the Bible impacts the way we advise, care, and love our students, not only publicly, but privately as well.

Fourth, the Bible is useful for training.

You will know as I do that the Bible doesn’t talk about every task required in youth ministry. Our youth ministry programs, our communication strategies, our organisational techniques. This is all necessary administration.

But when we have leaders and interns, students and people learning from us, I wonder what they learn from observing how we operate? I wonder what picture of ministry they observe through observing us? Do they see that the Bible is more important to us than these other things?

This year has been an exciting year at our church, as we’ve managed to begin an internship program.

In thinking through the plan for the year I wanted it to be explicit in teaching that the Bible is our main trainer. It won’t be me, nor will it be the projects undertaken; nor will it be the readings. My highest priority for these young leaders is to have the Bible shape and train their understanding of ministry. As we work through the Bible together—particularly the pastoral letters—it is my hope that the Bible will do its work and help them understand and be formed for gospel work.

In this way the Bible’s usefulness is not only for the tasks of teaching, counselling, and training. It is mightily useful in helping shape the teaching, counselling, and training as well.


Some helpful resources for a bible-shaped youth ministry include:

Gospel-centred Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson

Re-modelling Youth Ministry: A Biblical Blueprint For Ministering To Students by Christopher Talbot

No Guts, No Glory: How To Build A Youth Ministry That Lasts by Al Stewart


Photo: pxhere

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