When we consider youth ministry in the modern context, our minds likely turn to small group discussions, Bible studies, mission trips and worship services.
But during the past year, with our ability to gather together severely limited (if not removed altogether) due to COVID-19, effective youth ministry has had to find new methods and avenues for success. Effective youth ministry has been forced to occur outside the church walls.
But what does youth ministry outside the walls of the church look like?
In the past, many student pastors were able to be present in the local schools. They would eat lunch and attend sporting events and other events on the local school campuses. Many would have a meal or coffee with a group of students before or after school. In some contexts these options work, and in other areas this is difficult.
So what are we to do? Does it truly matter if we do youth ministry outside the walls of the building we worship in?
In Matthew 28:18-20, before He ascends to be with the Father, Jesus utters what is known as the Great Commission. In it, Jesus directs His disciples to make disciples “as they are going” into the world. This commissioning suggests that as disciples, and especially for student ministers, we are to be in the business of connecting with people, specifically students.
The question we must ask and answer is, “Do we go where the students are, or do we require them to come to us?” Is it one or the other?
It has to be both.
Take a moment to consider your weekly schedule. Do you have time set aside to be among your students in their own contexts? Do you allow yourself the opportunity to interact with others outside your church family in an effort to present Christ?
The students in our communities matter to the Lord, and they should matter to us as well. We must invest in the lives of teenagers all around us by whatever means are afforded us.
Investment can lead to influence. When we invest in others’ lives in their own contexts, it presents us the chance to influence them with the Gospel of Christ.
A quick Google search defines influence as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone or something.”
In order to have an effect on the students in your community, relationships must be established. For relationships to develop, there must be an intentional design to go where they are.
Being involved in the community enables one to recognize and meet critical needs that may arise. There are always spiritual needs. But often there are physical, material needs.
But regardless of the needs, presence in the community presents an opportunity to invest in the students of the community. This investment paves the road to meaningful influence.
As a personal example, my local high school requested I come in and perform mock job interviews for juniors. Interviewing well is a skill that can make a significant impact in a student’s life.
For an entire day, I have the opportunity to connect with students from my community who I otherwise may never meet. I am helping to meet the needs of the local high school and connect with students, which is a need for my church’s ministry. This is a win-win for both groups.
Have you considered asking your local schools what needs they have? Have you considered reaching out to community ministries, city organizations, etc.? Investment begins with interest. Take an interest in your community, and find ways to invest.
Ministry outside the walls of the church brings visitors to the church. When we are involved in the local community, we build relationships with those who need Jesus. We engage with them, ask questions and invite them into a relationship with Jesus and with His church.
Let’s be honest: The easiest thing to do is to stay around the church. We always have some tasks to be done: Bible studies to prepare, letters to write, phone calls to make, chores to be completed and church relationships to build.
But the call to make disciples requires that we look outside the walls of our worship centers. Jesus met His disciples not in the synagogues but in the streets and among the crowds. Why would we expect our disciple-making process to be any different?
Like the farmer in Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23), we are called to sow Gospel seeds everywhere we go in our communities.
What would result if a farmer only planted seeds in his own barn? He would likely find no success because he wouldn’t be able to produce enough crops to feed his family, much less earn a living.
The church will not grow to be the Gospel influence it is called to be unless we go outside our walls and connect with people.
Let’s make sure that we are sowing Gospel seeds outside the walls of the church as well as inside the walls. We are commanded by God to take the Gospel into the world. Let’s make it happen.