Within evangelical circles there’s a lot, I mean a lot, of talk about gospel-centeredness. This is by no means a bad thing, and God has personally used this movement in my life in which I have gleaned much from the wisdom of those advocating this movement. So when we think about being “gospel-centered,” we want to make sure that we are placing the gospel at the core of every area of life, specifically within the church and in it’s various ministries. To this area, youth ministry is no exception. Students can be taught this concept, and youth ministry leaders can model this concept before them. Here are a few ways to make sure the gospel is at the center of your youth ministry:
1. Make Jesus the Hero of Your Preaching. If Jesus is not the Hero when it comes to our preaching, then we’re probably giving our students a moralistic gospel. Instead of focusing on how your students can do better, focus on Jesus, the One who makes them not just better, but new (2 Cor. 5:17). We tend to get wrapped up in behavior modification, which constantly says “Do better” but when we look at Jesus and what He offers us in the gospel, He says, “It’s done” (cf. John 19:30). This truth has the power to change lives. I grew up with conception that the gospel changed me at conversion, but then I had to work really hard to gain God’s approval from then on. This can be a very frustrating way to live! Grace is a continual part of the Christian life, and God’s grace remains the same for both Christians and non-Christians. Our students can grasp this, and it is truly liberating to know that what you do from day to day does not rest on you, but on what Christ has done for you.
2. Build Intentional Relationships With Your Students. This is something that we all hear, but how vital this is to a student ministry that is centered on the gospel! The more I do ministry, the more I see the importance of relationships with our students. They need us to teach the gospel to them, but they also need to see the gospel lived out before their eyes. You may be one of the few people in a student’s life that cares enough about them to get past the surface and really see what their needs are. The gospel is ultimately the cure for every need in every student’s life. They need us tell them that their sin brings bondage, and that Jesus brings liberation. We should strive to build intentional relationships with our students to lovingly show them their deepest need, the gospel.
3. Be Strategic in Your Programming. Most youth guys and girls love programming. It’s just one of those parts about a youth worker that gets the blood pumping! I love programming as well, but programming can be dangerous if the focus is on the program itself over the people whom we are ministering to. We always have to remember that our ministry is about people. People that Jesus died to save, and people that we have an opportunity to speak the truth of the gospel into their lives! So if the mission of your ministry is something like what I just mentioned, make sure that your ministry program reflects that mission. Strive for a balance in what you are doing, and give your students opportunities to serve and proclaim what Jesus has done for them. Lots of youth ministry events we do are fun, and that’s great, but when was the last time we did an event where our students served the community? How are we training our students for ministry? Do they know how to verbally tell someone about Jesus? Our programming should reflect our ministry’s mission.
The gospel has radically transformed my life! The ridiculous amount of grace that God has showed me is incomprehensible (cf. John 1:16)! Just think about how the gospel has changed your life. Now think about your students, and how you would love for their lives to be changed the ways yours has. Hopefully you’re seeing that, and that gives you even more motivation to elevate Jesus to His rightful place, which is above all things (Col. 1:18). I am convinced that if the truth of Jesus Christ is at the core of our youth ministries, we will see lives transformed by its life-saving power.
This guest post was written by one of my best friends Mark Etheridge. Mark is currently a youth ministry intern at Union Grove Baptist Church in Lexington, NC. He is a recent graduate of Liberty University and is planning on attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Spring.