Is Discipleship Dead?
In a bizarre twist of events, I recently hired a former student of mine. I’m not currently in a vocational ministry setting, but it seems that the “ministry” opportunities just keep coming…Cody is in his early twenties, and he’s working for me as a field technician. He also interns at his church as an aspiring youth pastor, and I recently asked him how the youth ministry was going these days.
“Good volunteers are tough to find,” he said. “We have a lot of volunteers who have been there forever, and they just don’t understand youth culture these days. They sit along the walls during youth group and don’t even engage with students.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Youth are just not the same as they were when I was as student. So much has changed in just the past few years,” he replied.
“Really?” I said. “Like what?”
He proceeded to share with me the various trends he’s been observing in youth culture… views of authority, technology, social media advancements, family dynamics, and busyness. Cody was right. Youth culture has changed in just a few short years. It changed a few years before that. And it changed a few years prior to that, too. Culture is always evolving, but the hearts of students still beat with a longing for relationship!
Since its inception, the Church has been faced with what I would call a great “sleight of hand”. The culture is moving so fast, that some of us just sit back and stare. As if we’re watching a magician with disappearing objects, we sit there gawking, “Where did that go? Where did that come from? How’d he do that?” But the laws of physics don’t change… unless you’re God. The law of conservation states that matter is neither created nor destroyed. We know that the magic red balls don’t just disappear… they go somewhere.
Similarly, the need for relationship doesn’t just disappear because a student has six social media accounts, five year-round sports, four parents, three step-siblings, two youth groups, and an “I’m too cool for this” attitude.
Are today’s students busy? Yes.
Are today’s students facing new and unprecedented dangers? Of course.
Are today’s students lacking the social norms and etiquette that you grew up with? Likely.
But are students still craving the depth of relationship that Jesus offers? You bet.
Discipleship is not a trend that found its heyday in the past; it’s not a fad that needs to be re-branded. Discipleship is God’s “Plan A” for the world, and there is no other substitute.
“Discipleship is not a trend that found its heyday in the past; it’s not a fad that needs to be re-branded. Discipleship is God’s “Plan A” for the world, and there is no other substitute. ”
Good ol’ fashioned discipleship still works. And it will always work. But it requires engaging in relationship with people who might appear to be too busy… too distracted… too connected… and too mixed up with a fallen world.
Here is an age-old idea for discipleship: Invite a student to take a walk with you.
Get them away from distractions.
Leave your phone behind.
Ask more questions.
You talk less, while they talk more.
Then, when you have listened well (and I mean really listened) share with that student the ways that you see God at work in their lives. Call forth the gold. Challenge them where challenge is due. And then invite them to continue walking with you, following Christ, over the next few years that they are with you in youth ministry.
Discipleship is far from dead. Our culture may have changed, but our calling remains. Go therefore, and make disciples.
Looking for more discipleship tips? Download the LeaderTreks Discipleship Model and Video.
About the Author
James Racine is currently finishing the final year of his Master of Divinity at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. After serving for several years in full-time youth ministry, James worked in sales before crossing paths with Doug Franklin and joining the team at LeaderTreks. During his time at LeaderTreks, James worked to develop partnership […]