Growing Spiritual Self-Feeders in Your Ministry

By Taryn Phiri December 1, 2016

To spoon-feed a child is expected, but to spoon-feed an adult is unheard of.

Except in youth ministry.

Sure, we’ve been known to come up with some creative youth group games, but a closer look at our youth ministries might reveal that spoon-feeding goes beyond game time.

With the best of intentions, we’ve given students what we think they need, but we’ve forgotten to teach them how to spiritual feed themselves. It’s like we’ve spent four years teaching our students how to drive, all the while never letting them sit in the driver’s seat. And now we have a problem; our students don’t know how to follow Jesus.

Four fundamental shifts in our thinking may help to turn our youth ministries away from spoon-feeding toward growing and developing spiritual self-feeders.

From Hearing Truth to Discovering Truth
We know how to take a Bible story, make it come to life, and highlight a teachable moment that directly applies to our students. We speak the truth, and our students hear it. But what if we took things deeper? We can move from students hearing truth to discovering truth by showing them how to read the Bible themselves. At LeaderTreks, we teach several Bible study methods. These methods challenge students to ask questions, take note of principles, and make specific applications. When you teach a student to discover truth, they’ll no longer be utterly dependent on your teaching, but they’ll be able to feed themselves spiritually.

From Talking About Sin to Making Space for Confession
Most of us make it a priority to teach on sin multiple times throughout the year, but there’s a difference between talking about sin and giving students an opportunity to confess their sins. My church’s youth group recently hosted a prayer and worship night where we talked about the reality of sin followed by a time of confession in pairs. By setting this time aside, we paved the way for our students to respond to the truth that had been presented. When we give students opportunities to respond, we teach them to be not only hearers but also doers of the Word.

From Passive Prayer to Active Prayer
We need to safeguard against becoming the driving force behind our students’ prayer lives. Our students may pray when we ask them or invite them to, but when they leave our ministries, what kind of prayer life will go with them? A self-feeder possesses the tools for an active prayer life that is consistent regardless of their surroundings or circumstances. LeaderTreks trips and journals walk students through the ACTS prayer method, which challenges students to write out their prayers and look for ways that God has responded. Because of their interaction with the prayer journal, many students walk away from our trips ready to make prayer a part of their daily lives. Teaching students to pray on their own and particularly outside of youth ministry will help us develop our students into self-feeders.

From Talking about Change to Living Out Change
Discussion should be a core component of every small group, but a small group that is growing self-feeders will utilize discussion to drive students towards action. We can typically get students talking about their reactions to a passage of Scripture or their thoughts about how they should live differently, but we need to help them go beyond talking about change to actually living it out. That means leading them to make specific and measurable action steps that have a clear who, what, when, where, and how. Until a student understands the application process, they’re unlikely to seek out ways to apply Scripture on their own.

We simply can’t have a world full of spoon-fed students; take away the hand that feeds them and they’re likely to starve. Instead, let’s raise up a generation of spiritual self-feeders who know how to discover truth, confess their sins, devote time to prayer, and apply Scripture to their lives. It’s very likely that God will use those self-feeders to bring much needed change to our broken world.

About the Author

Taryn Phiri

Taryn Phiri grew up in various states across the East Coast and the Midwest, but now she and her husband, Jerry, are happy to call Glendale Heights, IL their home. After studying International Development at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, Taryn served at LeaderTreks for many years as a trip leader and training coordinator….  Read More