Five things your students need to know before graduation (The Gospel)
So I’m in the midst of a major ministry shift. Which is a bit of an understatement to say the least; it’d be like McDonalds announcing that they were going to move from Big Macs and fries and start serving tofu and bean sprouts. The transition in my heart began slowly and grew exponentially over the past year causing me to take a hard look at my ministry and my calling. What I came to find is that despite my love for the next generation and my heart for youth ministry, the number of former youth group faithful leaving the church continues to increase. Now I am in no way claiming that I know all the issues and reasons that this mass exodus continues to increase but I do think that how we handle the time we have with them can make a difference. So as a fifteen year veteran of student ministry transitioning to chase the generation that we missed the first time here’s the five things you should teach your students before they graduate.
Number one: The Gospel
I remember the days where we sang all the hokey worship songs in our junior high youth group, you know, Pharaoh Pharaoh, River of Life, I’ve got joy, etc. but that was in the late eighties early nineties and then everyone realized that, “Hey, I think maybe junior high students possess the ability to actually worship.” and from there “normal” worship songs began to filter into the services and culture of junior high ministry. I bring that moment up because whether we like it or not youth ministry has become much more legitimate in not only importance but also in its approach and depth of teaching. Hopefully, gone are the days of pizza parties and shallow cheesy lessons that stress the importance of being good. As we’ve grown in our understanding of youth and moved into more “mature” topics we have to fight the temptation to do war with the behaviors of our students and dig into the root of their lives.
I can speak first hand on this topic since I would ashamedly admit that the better part of my ministry consisted of these types of urges during my invitation times. I would give an opportunity for those who did not know Christ to give their lives to Him, and then for those who already had Jesus in their life I’d offer up some try harder, don’t have sex, stay away from parties kind of challenge and close. What I’ve found is that not only is each succeeding class more Biblically illiterate than the one before but they are equally Gospel illiterate. Sure they know that Jesus died on a cross and they think that belief in that can keep them out of hell (it can’t, James 2:19) but that’s where it stops, and unfortunately, whether we assume they know it or we just don’t clearly present it, we aren’t communicating the amazing truths of the Gospel.
There are far to many truths in the Gospel to be summed up by my feeble minded self, and so let me share one of the best definitions of the Gospel I’ve heard;
“The just and loving Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the Resurrection so that all who trust in him will be reconciled to God forever. – Dr. David Platt
It’s a bit more than Admit Believe Confess isn’t it? This Gospel will not leave you the same, this Gospel provokes a response either for or against it. It requires repentance, it demands surrender to the Lord of Lords, and it is imperative that to partake of it will cost you your very life. This is what our teens need desperately to have proclaimed to them, that from cover to cover God is calling them to come and die, so that they may truly live. Matt Chandler in his book “The Explicit Gospel” writes concerning the Gospel in the individual:
“It says something personal about us: “We are rebels.” It says something specific about this rebellion: “Christ has made atonement.” It holds out a promise requiring individual response: “If you will confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised hi from the dead, you will be saved.”
Above all things make sure your students graduate knowing the magnitude of the Gospel.
What do you think? What would be your one thing you’d make sure students hear before graduation?