The Only Question in Youth Ministry that Matters

By Tim Downey December 31, 2014

I believe there is only one question that needs to be answered when it comes to youth ministry. Sounds simplistic, doesn’t it? It is a very simple question, yet the answer has profound implications for youth workers, parents, and students alike. The question is this: How will we move students towards ownership of and perseverance in their faith?

Without question, the preeminent issue at stake in the life of a student, or anyone else for that matter, is the grace of God. Apart from the drawing of the student by God, nothing else we do matters (John 6:44). And while we clearly cannot force the hand of God, we can however create gospel-rich environments. Here are three things to remember in doing so:

1. Ownership of the faith happens through personal discovery.

Students need to be given opportunities to personally study the Bible in ways that cause them to wrestle with the truths of Scripture. When students are not allowed to do so, we unknowingly set up teachers of the Bible to be the authority of Scripture rather than God.

2. Perseverance in the faith is directly linked to ownership of the faith (Hebrews 5:11–6:3).

only question_quoteWhen students are pampered or catered to, there is a significant probability of them walking away from the faith. On the other hand, environments that require faith in the sufficiency of God nudge students to depend on God. These environments are the most effective at creating faith that persists.

3. Ownership and perseverance are sustained through life-on-life investment.

These two characteristics seldom thrive in isolation. Each of us needs someone who will take the time to personally invest in us (2 Timothy 2:2).

These three ideas share one thing in common: you can’t live a student’s faith for them. That means not only teaching from the Bible, but also teaching students how to read it for themselves. It means challenging students when it might be easier to entertain them. And it means providing mentors (either yourself or other Christ-followers) who can engage in intentional discipleship, not just hangout time. Ownership and perseverance are accomplished through intentionality. What are you doing that is stimulating ownership and perseverance in the spiritual lives of students? I would love to hear your thoughts.

CC Image courtesy Raymond Bryson on Flickr.

About the Author

Tim Downey

Tim Downey is an Associate Professor of Youth Ministry, specializing in the areas of discipleship and leadership at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. For 30 years, Tim has served the Christian community as a youth pastor, missionary, college professor, and international speaker. He and his wife, Kaye, have three daughters and one granddaughter. Tim…  Read More