Youth ministry, student ministry, youth group, youth pastor, discipleship

Will You Help Me Become A Disciple?

By Doug Franklin August 21, 2014

When was the last time a student asked you, “Can you help me become a disciple of Christ?” My guess is that it’s been awhile. Now let me ask you a question: Can we make a student into a disciple if they’re apathetic about becoming one?

No. Becoming a disciple of Christ requires deep commitment and passion. That’s the whole point.

Think about this for minute: Students go to small groups reluctantly, but they are happy because their friends are there. Adult volunteers sacrifice their valuable time trudging through the material, happy to serve students. Parents don’t know what their students are studying or how it applies to their lives. They are just glad their kids are at church. And of course, when boards or senior pastors ask youth workers if they are focusing on discipleship, they are happy they can point to small groups. This seems like a win-win-win-win. In our small groups, everyone is happy. But no one is actually making disciples.

We have been playing this game in youth ministry for a long time. When all of those books came out about students leaving the church, we got worried. But did we actually change anything to deal with the issue? Many of us didn’t, because everyone in our churches seemed happy with our current “discipleship” programs.

Honestly, for your youth ministry to start developing true disciples, you will have to do things differently. And different has a cost. In 1997 Apple came out with its marketing slogan “Think Different.” What did they mean by that? Well, you could buy a Dell for $500, but if you wanted to “Think Different” it would cost you $1,000 to purchase the Mac. Change is costly. But if we truly value discipleship—real discipleship, not what we’ve turned it into—then the price to do things differently will be well worth it.

So what is it going to take to make disciples?

We have to stop treating discipleship like a bitter pill wrapped in cheese. When we try to smuggle discipleship into student’s lives, we shouldn’t be surprised if they eat the cheese and spit out the pill as soon as they go to college.

Instead, we must take one big step back and focus on creating in students a desire to be discipled. Unless students first learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, they’ll never be passionate about jumping into the discipleship journey. Why don’t more students ask to be discipled? Because discipleship is not even on their radar.

I’m not telling you to give up on students who don’t show a passion for discipleship. We must do what’s best for every single person in our ministry. But “apathetic disciple” is an oxymoron. Direct your discipleship building strategies toward those ready to make a commitment. For everyone else, keep trying to instill in them a passion to be discipled.

Tomorrow I’ll address three more essential pieces to the discipleship puzzle.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More