16 comments

  1. Great thoughts, Adam. I think we can even take it another step to remember that it’s all about God and not about us. Youth ministry is part of so many student’s faith journey — but it is not the only way students are involved in discipleship – before, during and after their time in youth ministry.

  2. Hey Adam, that was really kind of (although I do see it marketed everywhere) a foreign concept to me, the idea that discipleship is a closed-ended thing.

    I became a Christian in high school and my discipleship process began as a relationship with my Young Life leader. Maybe I’m one of those “fortunate” people that this has happened for.

    Here is what got me thinking though, when we take the time to make it about the process for one or two teens at a time, that doesn’t just shape their walk with Christ today, it shapes their theology from today on forward.

    I’ve had the benefit of being in ministry just long enough now where I have been able to see a few of the teens that I discipled pick up the “relay baton” and begin that process with some people younger than them. Awesome stuff!

  3. @chris- I think there is a general assumption within YM and YM academia that youth ministry is a primary discipler of students. Many book/curricula are goal oriented to focus on “what do we want students to know before ____.” Not that I pretend to know a ton of people’s philosophy of ministries… but many YPs aren’t thinking of a long-term relationship with students… but one that is quite short term.

  4. Awesome post. This idea of open-ended discipleship is exactly the kind of ministry I’m all about. I’ve seen the programmatic form of discipleship, which was a prevalent paradigm in the evangelical churches I’ve been a part of. When I used the term “discipleship,” it used to bring up ideas of 12-week one-on-one Bible studies. It took a significant paradigm shift to see discipleship as simply following Jesus together, more like tending a spiritual garden than putting students through a spiritual factory.

  5. Very well put brother. You put into words the very thoughts I have had over the last few years when it comes to “discipleship.” How can we ever expect a new believer (or even an older one) to fully understand what it means to follow after Christ in a quick 12 week program. Jesus didn’t do it that way, and neither should we.

  6. I’m semi-fighting this battle currently in my local church community. I threw out the high school Sunday School program because it didn’t work, i.e.–some kids showed up, slept through the lesson that was taught, and then went to church and slept again. The education team always had to beg and plead for teachers, and then they lectured the kids instead of teaching them. So, I ended it and replaced it with a mentoring program. Those involved LOVE it, but I’m still getting flack from some parents on the absence of Sunday School. It’s the mindset of church = Sunday School = discipleship = good people. (Of course, these are the same parents who didn’t make their kids attend SS when it existed…so I just ignore them. Politely.) 🙂
    It’s slow-going in the transition, but it’s worth the bickering and the pettiness to see those students (and the adults) study the Bible and ask questions and learn to follow Jesus together. They’re learning that being a Christian has more to do with Jesus than filling a seat on Sunday morning.

  7. @chris I understand what you mean, but from a personal perspective discipleship is something that is constantly going on, I never went to a discipleship ‘course’ as such, but i was still taught by my leaders while i was growing up about the so called Christian way. And your right I am teaching younger ones myself. The point is I am still being taught by my leaders and by different leaders. Their insight into different issues and things still help me. It’s like it doesn’t end, a never ending cycle. Even with some kids who are now leaders (scary) they still come to me looking for advice on living, and they are teaching kids themselves. It’s like we are a big family.. oh wait we are..

  8. I absolutely agree that discipleship is open-ended. Or at least how I understand the process of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Kirk is absolutely right when he says it is all about God and not us. If I am making disciples of Jonathan than I am working against what I am trying to do as a youth pastor.
    I know it’s really super, obvious to make that statement, but I think it is incredibly important to remember.

    With that in mind the discipleship process is something that is part of God’s unfolding revelation to me. I’m not sure there is anything wrong with using programs to help in that process. (I can look back to my youth ministry days and point directly at one program, Experiencing God, as extremely important to my discipleship process) Yet, the most important discipleship that God has shaped me with has come through close, time intensive relationships. I try to model that today, but maybe I am not as intentional as I should be. I also know that as a youth pastor that I can’t expect to do that for more than 3-5 of my students. Even if I were in a tiny youth ministry I would need at least one more person and for me that challenges me greatly in my job, because it is hard to get adults to show up and be chaperones…how can I ask them to be disciplers?

    So, Discipleship in my paradigm comes from two processes the transmission of knowledge and wisdom. I realize that both terms are extremely loaded with meaning, but I guess another way of saying is you teach head knowledge and heart knowledge. You also teach in a formal setting and then you teach from your life’s setting.

  9. the beautiful thing about open ended discipleship is that we cannot control or determine the end results of our discipling.

    andrew root in his book revisiting relational ym, argues that relationships are the starting point and we shouldn’t and cannot expect any immediate results.

    do any of you guys/gals think about the students we are discipling (in the open ended sense) wonder if they will ever get it? the closed ended discipleship model is so nice, neat and tidy and can measure results very quickly.

  10. Jeremy said, “open ended discipleship is that we cannot control or determine the end results of our discipling.”

    So true this is why I try not to use economic metaphors when talking my relationships with my students. I am not investing in them so that I can expect to get something back. I tend to shy away from even using the words, because of what I intend when I use them. Instead I go simple and say I am loving on my kids like Jesus loved on his folks. Now if I can just make my words and actions line up…

  11. I think by open ended I really meant as far as a time commitment went. Also, I think that those high teaching times, Sunday school, Bible memory, etc. are all parts of being a disciple… just not the end all, be all of discipleship.

    Another component I’ve really been thinking about, as far as longitudinal relational thinking goes, I can’t get past the value of mutuality. that seems to be key… just don’t tell parents!

  12. Great post, man! I totally agree. Programming discipleship is a weird concept to me, too. I don’t think I have any answers here… tried to do student discipleship unsuccessfully for years and feel like something is finally clicking with our current group now. I think a big part of it is the relationships that have formed and have been building over the years. I hope to keep on building upon the current platform that’s been started and pass it on from these kids’ lives to the younger ones.

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