Having a Kingdom Mindset in Youth Ministry
Too much is at stake for me to waste time building my own kingdom.
The hard thing though, is I often find myself doing just that. It’s easy when I lose focus and am just trying to go from week to week. I lose that creative spark, that little bit of something extra, something Holy Spirit-ish, that tips the scale and puts the group on edge about something bigger than themselves.
But it’s not about me. I can “do ministry,” convert kids, develop leaders, train disciples, have deep conversations with kids, but in the end, it’s not about me. His Kingdom is bigger than mine; His vision stretches into eternity when mine can barely see passed next summer; in His story He is the hero, not me.
Some things I feel God is teaching me:
1. If I pray, “Your Kingdom come,” then I have to surrender my kingdom.
Perhaps nothing is harder than surrending my own kingdom and giving up what makes me feel in control. And nothing is more liberating than giving myself up to the Kingdom, because His Kingdom bigger than me. God’s story is bigger than me. In the end, I’d rather play a small part in God’s story than have Him play a small part in my story.
2. If it’s God’s Kingdom, then He should get all the credit for growth.
The Apostle Paul says it best:
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
-1 Cor 3:5-7 (NIV)
3. If it’s God’s story, then “my” volunteers are ministers accountable to God, not to me, for they have been invited into God’s story, not “my” ministry.
And I pray that I might lead my leaders to know that they are ministers with their own ministry. So what if I get the paycheck; it’s a pity that such a position exists! God might have given them to me to train and encourage them, but they are not mine, they are servants who belong to God! Even if their call is not to youth ministry, then I think I should at least try to help them get connected where they can be ministers for the Kingdom.
4. If it’s God’s world, then “that other youth group” is not the enemy.
And if I treat it as such, I am undermining God’s Kingdom. I should be working with that church. There are so many benefits to working with other churches. For there are many churches, but one Kingdom.
How often do I pray for that other church? How often do I rejoice when a student leaves my youth group but gets connected elsewhere and grows in God? How self-centered am I really when it comes to numbers?
5. If it’s God’s family, then “my” kids are not really my kids, but His kids.
Perhaps this is where I get the most selfish. When I started to get to know kids, I really start to like them. I like to hang out with them, to talk to them, to have them coming to our programs and our trips. Even if they’re annoying or loud or like to curse a lot, they’re still my kids and I still care for them.
But when they start making poor choices, I hate that the most. I fear for them. I hate seeing them make choices they will regret. I hate seeing guilt. And while I love to be able to share with them Christ’s forgiveness, I hate the sin. But I need to remember that God holds them tight to His chest and that He loves them more than I ever could. I should be privileged to know He has invited me into that love. I need to trust that God is taking care of them.
And I hate seeing them leave. Sometimes they leave because of schedule conflicts or because of their parents, or they find a “better” youth group. It’s the same issue though: I need to let go and trust God is carrying them. I need to rejoice when they find a home in a different church because, again, we are many churches but one Kingdom.
I hope that we can begin to see that the wall of God’s Kingdom stretch long and tall around our communities. I hope we can catch on to what the Spirit is already doing in our schools. I hope we can trust that God has been planting seeds long before we got here, and that He will calls us to either plant, or water, or harvest, but in whatever He calls us to, that we rejoice in knowing we work for God Most High.
Photo by Stephan de Paly.