Youth Group Culture: Creating Passion

This is the fourth piece in our series on youth group culture that asks the question, “How do we create a culture of participation, passion, and engagement in the broader church in our youth groups?” The third piece can be found here.

Everyone knows and has felt the frustration of perceiving that your flock just does not share your passion regarding the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In church and student ministry, when I notice a lack of passion for Christ in my students and/or leaders, I begin to beat myself up for it. I often run straight to self-condemnation and believe that I am not doing a good job for our students, resulting in their lack of passion and enthusiasm for God. The problem is me.

I mean, if the message is the greatest message in the world, and my students aren’t passionate about it, it is my fault right? This is the point where all the Bible verses should be coming to mind about how not everyone loves the Gospel, and there are those that are blinded by the enemy of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). However, the Bible verses do not always come to my mind because I am too busy rolling in self-pity about the present circumstances that seem too overwhelming. In doing this, I forget the words of the greatest missionary, Paul, who asked, “Who is sufficient for these things (2 Corinthians 2:16)?”

So, there is some encouragement here, that we can join the voices of the apostles themselves and struggle with them in these mysteries. However, is there anything we can do at all to stir up the affections of our students so that they might have some passion for Jesus Christ? None of the below is an automatic cure, but I have learned that you can always put up the sail in hopes that the winds of the Holy Spirit will blow.

1)  Pray

When I read something that doesn’t begin with the writer telling me to pray, I feel disappointed. In my experience, every minister and lay person in our churches, and the leaders on our teams, know that prayer is the most important thing. But we are not always doing it. Let me ask it in this way:  Have you, yourself, prayed for five students this week for more than five minutes? This question gives light to a vision of praying for our students – not just over a quick meal, but truly lifting them up in prayer and wrestling for their souls and hearts. If this is not taking place in our lives or in the lives of our volunteers, we should not be surprised to see little or no passion in our students.

2)  Model

I was in high school when a guy named Jay got up to preach his first Wednesday night sermon in our youth group. I was a Christian, but wasn’t very passionate about the deep things of God. The one thing I noticed in this guy was that he was very passionate and sincere about his pursuit of knowing Christ in a real and dynamic way. Jay loved Christ, loved the Scriptures, and always talked about what he was discovering in his walk with God. It was almost like Exodus 34:34, when Moses goes into the tent to experience God, then comes out to tell the people what He has seen and heard. For me I saw this in Jay every time he preached or when he took me out for some wings and sweet tea on Thursday nights. Jay was simply letting us look into his imperfect, but genuine relationship with Jesus, and it was very compelling to witness. To this very day, I still get off the phone with Jay (after catching up) having a holy jealousy as I hear his update on the latest book of the Bible that he is in and devouring. We need to open up our lives more to let the people around us see both the imperfections and our deep love for God.

3) Tear Down the Morality Nonsense

One of the things I am trying to do a better job of in my ministry is tearing down some of the terrible mindsets that play out in our students’ lives. We have told the next generation, “Do not go down the path of the world (the fun path), but go down the religion path (the boring one).” One of the biggest hurdles we have put up before our teens is the communication that sin is more fun than a relationship with Christ. Sin may have its ups, but most of your counseling is with people who played around with sin too long and are now in miserable circumstances. We need to teach awe of the reality of God, and that a real pursuit of Him through the cross of Christ is the one source of incredible joy.  This is the way we fight morality and gain a sincere passion for Christ.

4) Go After Their Idols

One of our callings in our own life and in the lives of our students is to always ask the Lord to point out the shallowness and futility of our idols. If we want to see our students become more passionate about Jesus, then we have to regularly show them that their idols are wells that hold no water. We are going to be passionate about something. Do not let anyone fool you into thinking that some are just not passionate people. I come across people all the time that will not speak about their relationship with Christ, but will spend four hours talking your ear off about their favorite sports team or hobby. The passion is there – we are just called to show them Jesus.  True Christians are those that have tasted and seen the goodness of Christ, and are passionate about it.

Join us for Rooted 2015, an intimate youth ministry conference, where we will explore how the good news of God coming to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ offers student ministers and teenagers, hope, healing and connectedness.  

John is the Pastor at Jackson Way Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. John is a candidate for a Masters in Divinity at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. John has been serving in ministry for the last 13 years as a Student Pastor. John's heart is to preach and communicate the Gospel to the world by serving the church and making disciples. John's writings have been published on The Gospel Coalition website, and The Vision Room website.

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