In a youth group it is highly likely that youth leaders will recognise the following profiles of young people. The question that will be asked is: How can we minister most effectively to such a diverse group of individuals?
1. Ministering Matt
Matt is a matric teenager who has been a Christian for many years and he has a clear understanding of his spiritual gifts. He serves in the area of leadership on the youth group's leadership team. He is always present at our leadership meetings and not only attends leadership training opportunities, but will let us know when he or we need further training. His needs are: opportunities to serve; guidance in using spiritual gifts; training in leadership; and skills for one-on-one mentoring.
2. Working Wendy
Wendy is a mature Christian who enjoys serving other people. She has been through more Bible studies and heard more sermons than she can remember - she now enjoys putting what she has learnt into practise in a lifestyle of service. Her needs are: skills to serve others and identification of her spiritual gifts.
3. Believing Bob
Bob has been a Christian for about a year and is a regular attender of youth groups events. He enjoys learning about basic Christian doctrines and enjoys telling his friends at school about Jesus. His needs are: an understanding of basic doctrines; the development of spiritual disciplines; and a passion to serve and evangelise others.
4. Newly-Converted Nick
Nick was brought to the group by Bob last month and during one of the gospel invitations made a decision to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour of his life. His enthusiasm and love for Jesus is infectious. He went through a brief phase where he doubted his salvation, but now he knows that he is a child of God. His needs are: assurance of salvation; habits of spiritual growth; and baptism and witnessing.
5. Seeking Steve
Steve came with Nick last week to a youth group social event. He expressed an interest in finding out more about Christianity and particularly whether Jesus was who he claimed to be. His needs are: a positive experience of community; unconditional love and acceptance; and hearing the message of salvation.
6. Pre-Christian Pete
Pete is a friend of Steve. He has never been to a youth group event in his life. He went to a funeral once in a church but considers the church to be a place full of sincere but misguided people. He has a passion for music, especially alternative rock, and he spends a lot of time in a local club. He believes that all truth is relative and that when it comes to morality, whether something is wrong or right depends on how you feel. His needs are: an awareness of his need of salvation; a positive view of the Church; and a re-evaluation of his world-view.
How do we effectively minister to this diverse group of individuals???
A number of programming strategies have been attempted to effectively minister to youth at different levels of spiritual commitment:
1. One Event
Many have tried a one-event-fits-all approach where they try to make connect the seeker with other believers and with Christ and at the same time try to get meet the needs of the other five levels as well. This strategy makes use of different timing to reach different levels: (a) different elements in an evening; (b) different evenings of the month; and (c) different terms of the year. However, on closer consideration it becomes clear that it is still an ineffective way of programming for all the levels.
2. Few Events
A second strategy uses a few events aimed at different levels. Here it could be (a) an unintentional approach where the youth group reaches out to unchurched youth and the Sunday School or Youth Church nurtures believers. However there is no overarching strategy or flow from the one to the other. Or it could be (b) an intentional approach where the youth group designs and implements two or three events aimed at different commitment levels. Invariable, although this approach is much better than a one-event-fits-all approach, it will still result in people being left out.
3. Many Events
This is quite obviously the best approach for programming that reaches people at each commitment level. Here a different event or programme is offered to target people at each level. There are three options here: (a) unrelated events - where different events are offered but there is no clear though as to how people progress through the commitment levels; (b) related events in a process - where people are tracked as they move from one level to the next; and (c) inter-related events - where people are tracjed as they progress through the levels and where the different levels interact, ie. mature Christians are involved in Seeker events that help them grow spiritually.
The following diagram shows how these different approaches measure up:
The secret is to design a strategy for ministry that targets people at each possible level of spiritual commitment and that moves them from the lowest to the highest level. The Commitment Level Model is a strategy that urges youth leaders to continually develop their ministry among youth until they have many inter-related events in place that reach youth at each level.
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