Low and High Hanging Fruit in Youth Ministry

We all want the students that we work with to come to know Jesus in a mature way. Yet, to our dismay, there are times when some of the students that we work with, seem to lack faith, or lack knowing Jesus in a way that would be marked by what some would call, “spiritual growth”. And, as this lack of growth seems to be occurring, we can become dismayed and even feel like we’ve failed them.

As I considered that possibility, it made me want to share some things that have encouraged me over the years regarding these moments.

First, there are several factors that contribute to someone’s openness to following Jesus. These factors include the faith of a student’s family, positive and negative experiences that students have had with the church, the impact of traumatic experiences that they have had in life and a host of other variables. And because these factors vary from student to student, some students are more ready for faith than others.

Second, years ago, I taught a class on evangelism (I can’t even site the material I used anymore) but one of the concepts that stuck from the class was that how on average it takes 25 different points of contact from other Christians before someone becomes open to having faith in Jesus. In short, what they suggested was that if someone comes to faith, it’s often because they have had multiple interactions with different Christians over the years with life events like one person showing them kindness, and another person inviting them out for lunch or perhaps another who seeks them out during a moment of struggle or grief. As I consider this concept and students who appear to show little evidence of knowing Jesus, this brings me comfort to know that while they haven’t revealed to me that they believe, that their time in our youth ministry might be one of those 25 different connecting points.

Third, in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”  These words reflect the sentiment that I named in the previous paragraph. Isn’t it good to know that God’s word is showing us this same thing?

Here are two follow up points that I think are good about it often taking multiple contacts before someone desires to follow Jesus.
  1. We have come to realize, often, when a person comes to believe that they have had multiple contacts with other believers, that reality helps to take the pressure off us to feel like we are solely responsible to get people saved.
  2. And as a follow up to that, the leading of others to faith is not reserved for just the super star evangelists, it’s something that all believers get to participate in.

Considering all of this, I want to share with you something that I heard while I served at Triumph Lutheran Brethren Church years ago overseeing their youth ministry. I heard multiple times of how Pastor Kirk Militzer had implanted into the DNA of ministry that “fun” was to be a regular part of much of what they did. (And this is something that I too have always valued).
And when I asked him if I could site him in this, he said “yes” and that this is his “11th Commandment.”

When “fun” is present, it helps to create a place where students can feel safe, where they can feel at home with one another, where they can let down their guards and a host of other things.

Can I encourage you to know that the “fun” things that you do in your ministry are not wasted moments?

Can I encourage you to know that these “fun” things can help to build bridges with students who might seem to have no spiritual interest?

Can I encourage you to know that by having “fun” it can help students to have a positive perception of the church?

Can I encourage you to know that ones coming to faith is a process and that for some, it’s a longer season than it is for others?

Can I encourage you to allow your ministries to be places where students at the very least have a positive perception of?

Sometimes fruit falls quickly from their trees, and sometimes it requires extra time and effort to harvest.
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