In this series, Fundamentals for a successful Youth Ministry, we have been examining what tools make a youth group successful.
We saw in the last post we talked about the importance of preparing a weekly Bible lesson that resonates with youth.
In this session we are going to look at the importance of creative discipleship.
The last thing Jesus said before He ascended into heaven was “go and make disciples.” (Matt 28:18-20)
As youth ministers part of our job is not only to introduce teenagers to Jesus Christ but disciple the ones who have already accepted Jesus as LORD and Savior. We need to guide them as they seek God’s will for their lives.
This includes teaching them right from wrong and correcting them when we see them make mistakes.
In order to lead them in the right direction, we also have the responsibility to challenge them to dig deep in their quiet times. We must encourage them to step out on faith by getting more involved in their church. Finally, we ought to spur them on to their communities; spreading the good news of Jesus Christ!
So the question is how do we do that?
How do we motivate teenagers?
Ask yourself this question; what motivated you as a teenager?
Growing up, my mom and dad did everything they could to get me and my brother to try hard in school.
My parents always told us, “if you do your best and you try hard, we will reward you.”
They might give us a certain amount of cash for each “A” we received on our report card, or maybe we would be rewarded with some type of activity if we accomplished something in school.
The bottom line is this; mom and dad knew in order for us to get the most out of school and to better ourselves for the future, we had to do more than just show up at school; we had to actually try while we were there. Not only that, but we had to apply what our teachers were teaching us.
As youth ministers we need to have the same mentality as my parents did. We need to teach the teens there is more to Christianity than just showing up for a church service. We know the more they seek God and do as He says, the better off they will be in the future.
One way we can motivate our teens is to come up with creative incentive-based discipleship programs.
We’ve implemented a points based system at the church I serve at. We give points to the teens for basic Christian disciplines.
- If a teen reads their Bible and writes a small report on what they read including how it applies to their life we would give them “x” amount of points.
- If a teenager would bring a friend to church we would give them “x” amount of points.
- If a teenager would volunteer within the church such as helping in the nursery or being an usher or a greeter during a morning service, they would get “x” amount of points.
Then at the end of our program, the kids would take the points they earned and they would enter a room full of prizes which were donated by the adults in the congregation. They then would use their points and try to outbid each other to win a certain prize, in an auction style format.
It was a creative way to get our teens more involved in our youth program. Every week teens were constantly volunteering to open and close in prayer. Some teens were greeting adults as they arrived at church. Many teens were even reading their Bibles and turning in weekly reports.
Good or bad?
A lot of times when an incentive based program like this is presented, some will stand against it. They say there is no spiritual growth to the kids because their motives are wrong and they are not doing this for the right reason.
Well that may be true to some extent, but I do not feel it is wrong to have programs like this and here’s why:
Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Every year when the auction program was completed and teenagers were no longer accruing points for their good deeds, I noticed something. There were some of them who were continuing to bring friends to church. More of them were still volunteering to pray. Some of them were still involved in service within the church body. Still yet, some of them were even following along in their Bibles during the sermon every Sunday morning!
These teens were changing and now they are not doing it for points, they are doing it for their own personal growth. Even though their motives might have been wrong at first, God Word changed their hearts. This change affirmed what was prophesied in the book of Isaiah; God’s Word will not return void.
I’m not saying that our auction program will work at every Church. You should look at your specific youth group and decide for yourself. I would encourage you to evaluate their likes and dislikes, what they struggling with, and how you can help them improve in those areas.
Above all, pray that God will give you a program to help motive them to seek Him and improve in these areas. Incentive-based discipleship could be the tool you need to help get them going.
Keep your eyes open for a free incentive-based discipleship toolkit under the resources tab.