One of the most important aspects of a student ministry is discipleship. Simply put, I believe this is the act of drawing teenagers closer to God. At its root, a disciple is a student or follower. Within the context of Christianity, they are students of Jesus, and the goal is to become more like Him.
There are many methods and strategies for student ministry. In fact, I’m starting up a podcast very soon to interview youth workers about their ministry. But despite the number of ways it can be done, most (if not all) youth leaders would agree that discipleship is the primary goal of student ministry. In fact, many would probably say it’s the primary goal of the entire church — helping people know about Jesus and become more like Him.
One of the ways we try to make that happen in our context is through the use of small groups. All ministries at our church, kids and adults, are based around groups. The groups look different for each age group, but we strongly believe in the importance of groups.
Our high school groups are led by a team of two adults who are further along in their walk with God. They function as a mentor, leader, and disciple-maker. Up until this year, we had the typical discussion-style questions that followed up the message for that week. They got the students talking about the particular topic or Scripture and helped students come up with application steps on their own, but they weren’t always created with discipleship in mind.
This got me thinking about what a disciple truly is. After some prayer and reading, I came down to three key actions:
- Someone who is in tune with God.
- Someone who is actively growing in his/her relationship with God.
- Someone who is sharing God with others.
In fact, after I began thinking about it, these go hand in hand with our XP3 curriculum, which is based upon the ideas of wonder, discovery, and passion. Our lead minister also talks about head, hands, and heart. In fact, a quick search online show many people who have said discipleship comes down to three similar aspects. It all goes to show you that there truly is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
With this in mind, I began adding three questions to the start of our weekly discussion guides. These three questions are based around the three discipleship actions mentioned above.
- Where have you seen God working recently?
- What are some things you’ve been learning from your own Bible reading lately?
- Who have you been praying for to share Jesus with?
As some of our students have already picked up on, these questions are written with expectation in mind. They suggest that students are actually doing these things, which means they teach and instruct more than a yes or no question. If we just asked if they are seeing God, reading their Bible, or reaching out to their friends, they would give a quick answer and move on. These questions convey that we expect them to look for God, read their Bible, and reach out to others.
And because we ask these questions each week, they know they are coming, and they have begun to anticipate their answers. This means they are trying to notice God, read their Bible, and pray for others so that they have answers to share each week. We’ve even seen students begin to do devotionals and reading plans together as a group, just so they can talk about it each week. And this was all initiated by the students, themselves.
It has also had an impact on our leaders. Because they know they are going to discuss these questions with their groups each week, they realized they also need to be acting on them. They’ve told me these three questions have helped them get back on the right track in their own discipleship. These three simple questions have even become the basis for my monthly meetings with them. If we, as leaders, are focused on these areas of our lives, we will be better disciple-makers for the students.
The beauty of these three questions are they can be used in almost any discipleship situation, too. For example, if you are meeting with a student one-on-one, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with what to talk about and what to do. Don’t let that get in the way. Instead, you can base your conversation around these questions.
Maybe these three questions can also be the basis of your family. Is your family actively talking about where they see God moving in the world? Are you reading the Bible individually and as a family, and then talking about what you’re learning together? Are you actively praying for others as a family and reaching out together to invite them to join you at church?
I’m sure these three questions are not completely original with me. In fact, I’m certain others have come up with similar approaches to discipleship. I just wanted to share my thoughts and encourage you to do something similar with your own student ministry and family. From my experience, these questions will make a big difference in the discipleship of your students, leaders, and maybe even in you. And if they do, please leave a comment letting me know! I would love to hear what God is doing in your ministry and family!