I had a blast listening to Duffy Robbins speak (Duffy is a 36-year YM veteran) and since he wouldn’t let me video his sessions (which makes total sense) I thought I would rattle off as many of the concepts that he taught on so here we go….

When teaching or preaching it’s not what we say that is heard – but what is heard, will always be interpreted differently.

Being the youth pastor of a teenager is not the same thing as being the youth pastor.

Youth culture, technology and family systems have become significantly more complicated as the decades progress (IE – communities were built around the church, now it’s around malls)

We often say to kids “when I was your age” but the truth is that we were never their age because we live in a different age. I posted that concept online and a friend commented that Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing new under the sun and he believed this thought was wrong. I understand his commentary but I think the two thoughts can both be true (no I’m not making a relativistic statement) as they don’t necessarily negate each other. Feel free to think this idea through.

Here are three factors affecting the changes we see when adolescence begins

  1. Rapid childhood or adolescence as defined is all over the map (see adolescence schizophrenia) therefore defining adolescence is tough work.
  2. Rampant physical changes and cognitive changes vary significantly.
  3. Random choices are normal as there is no right and wrong, therefore maturity comes at different ages as each one learns to make good decisions at different ages.

Studies have observed that when a student’s family falls apart, those students form intentional friendship clusters to foster what they think they need in place of their family.

Autonomy and identity are two key words in the teenager’s development. We sometimes view these as forms of disengagement. Interestingly, many parents’ response to this disengagement is to try to call a kids bluff and as well be then disengaged from their students. This is so backwards since students need these adult interactions.

In light of all of these conclusions on adolescence, it is a fair question to ask if discipleship is even possible during these years. Duffy offered a series of standards that we are so often tempted to use as measuring sticks of discipleship (a careful student of the scriptures, an appetite for worship and prayer, the practice of scripture memory, being active in a local church, fasting, standing against blasphemy and ungodliness and having a firm grasp of basic theological truths amongst others)

The root of these conclusions however is that they are all found in the practices of the Pharisees which means discipleship has to go way deeper than all of these items.

9. How do we go farther in discipleship? Consider the following ideas.

  • –  The baby step principle says that spiritual growth almost always comes incrementally. For us, challenge kids in ways that get them thinking about discipleship in real life ways as opposed to “taking giant steps”
  • –  Rules never teach like relationships. This is the incarnating principle. Interestingly, if rules are the normal way to grow our kids, its going to fall apart, we need relationships to rise above the rules
  • –  If we want to foster relationships we need to listen and interact. Duffy offered the following acronym – The Listening FAD
    1. Focus (on who you are talking with)
    2. Accept (listen without communicating judgment)
    3. Draw Out (good questions will develop deeper conversations)
  • –  Real life disciples have a first-hand faith, so let’s make it our goal to help students articulate their faith and to develop their own intimacy with God.
  • –  Real life discipleship affects the heart and the head
  • –  The real issue in discipleship is how do students go from the spiritual highs to daily spiritual growth (Duffy said that sadly the last decade of youth ministry has looked too much to experiential happenings)
  • –  Real life discipleship is fostering daily everyday choices through their faith
  • –  Is your youth group like a giant year of “spring break”? Is it busy and always on the go? Perhaps productivity should be the goal instead. Consider other approaches that just seek to do bible study or that challenge students to be missional.
  • –  What you win them with in youth ministry is what you win them to
  • –  What if our goal was to help kids to become like Jesus? To do something other is like building a power plant that doesn’t produce electricity.
  • –  We get to help students no longer be children. This includes moving beyond childish notions about God. This does not negate child-like faith. This concept pushes against consumer driven approaches to ministry.
  • –  One of the strongest ways to teach and reach teens is by the teens doing it – This runs against the youth worker always doing it or even being the primary one to do it.
  • –  Shepherds don’t make sheep – Sheep make sheep – Shepherds feed the sheep so we get to prepare people to do this so that the ministry of multiplication might happen.
  • –  Encourage students to “speak the truth in love” means we don’t hold back the truth but we show love while giving the truth and it means that we don’t neglect love when speaking the truth.
  • –  Know that the more we go for deep, the smaller our ministry numbers will be because few want to go deep in discipleship.
  • –  Sometimes the most spiritual thing that you can do is very unspiritual – this is the work of relational ministry.
  • –  Duffy offered a pyramid chart to define or ministry pool:———————-
    Develop Level (looking beyond self)
    Disciple Level
    Grow Level
    Those that Come
    Pool of Humanity
  1. When there is no target group, the tendency is to program for the lowest common spiritual denominator
  2. Duffy’s final teaching session related to the challenge that we have to teach the gospel, and that this is the most important message that we will ever get to share.


Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.

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