Youth Ministry in the Power of the Spirit

A youth ministry without the power of the Holy Spirit presents a neutered God. Nothing in the book of Acts leads me to believe that the Holy Spirit has stopped working among us. So, it may be a good idea for us to ask: what does it mean to be a youth ministry operating in the power of the Holy Spirit?

First, a Holy Spirit-driven youth ministry will be Christ-centered. In eternal humility, the Holy Spirit presents Jesus and gives glory to God. The Holy Spirit raises Jesus from the grave and invites us to worship Him. Youth pastors who do not cultivate a dependency on the power of the Spirit will not remain Jesus-focused for long. Instead of cultivating outward-focused humility, they will cultivate self-congratulations, and automated pats-on-the-back.

Second, powerful Christ-exalting preaching is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was poured out in unprecedented power in Acts at Pentecost with tongues-speaking, and that in itself is incredible. But it is when Peter stands up and calls for the attention of Jerusalem that thousands are saved. No less miraculous, and no less powerful, is the Holy Spirit-fueled gospel-centered sermon that Peter preaches, showing Jesus in Joel and the Psalms. If we want power to attend our preaching, we must rely on the Holy Spirit. 

Third, allow me to be a little more controversial. To be a youth ministry operating in the power of the Spirit is to be a ministry operating in the miraculous. 

In Acts, the Holy Spirit always comes in power, normally in gifts of prophecy or charismata. Men and woman, young and old on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18); the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8-9); the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-7); the churches in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and Thessalonica (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 1:18; and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22); and presumably all other churches throughout the ancient world (1 Corinthians 14:33) all prophesied when the gospel was preached and the Holy Spirit fell. More than this, Acts recounts that the believers in Rome, Corinth, Samaria, Caesarea, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Galatia all experienced the charismata in tandem with gospel proclamation. 

While there is much here, this tells us, at minimum, two principles that may help guide us in our understanding of what it means to be a student ministry operating in the power of the Spirit: 

1. The miraculous is proof of the certainty of our message: Jesus died and was raised. Indeed, this is exactly why Luke wrote Luke and Acts and recorded these miracles (Luke 1:1-4). Similarly, if our gospel proclamation is not attended by the power of the Holy Spirit seen in salvation, sanctification, and mortification, then our youth ministries have neglected the fullness of God. 

2. These miracles do more than merely attest that what the apostles are saying is true. These miracles are also meant to encourage our faith and encourage us to pray for the same. The God who has done the much harder thing—raised souls from the dead, clothed dry bones in sinew and skin—can certainly do the simpler acts of healing us when we are sick, guiding us through a tough decision, and giving us wisdom in counseling. Ultimately, my last point is my first point. Being driven by the Holy Spirit results in deeper humility, deeper dependency, and deeper reliance on the power of God to save, direct, guide, and lead.  

Youth ministry done in the power of the Holy Spirit must start by us looking away from ourselves. Let us look to God as the One who has it all, look to Jesus who gave us access to ask, and look to the Holy Spirit to apply God’s power to us and our students. 

Seth Stewart is a husband and a dad, and after a decade in student ministry is now working as the Editor-in-Chief at Spoken Gospel. Spoken Gospel creates online resources that point to Jesus from every passage of Scripture. Seth spends his day writing, speaking, and being his family's chef.

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