De-Compartmentalizing Youth Ministry | 3/13/2018 | Rick Lawrence
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You’d be hard-pressed to find a youth ministry of any size that does not prioritize service as a bread-and-butter strategy for reaching and impacting teenagers. We know firsthand that service trips have a powerful ability to crack open the door to trajectory-changing moments in kids’ lives. When I surveyed 23,000 Christian teenagers serving at one of Group’s 40-something workcamp sites a few years ago, four out of five said the primary takeaway from their adventure was that “it made me feel closer to God.” In a separate survey, I asked thousands of kids what they’d like to do more of in their church’s youth ministry, and service trips ranked #4 out of 41 choices, with almost nine out of 10 (87%) asking for an increase in their opportunities to serve.

Service-focused trips create a greenhouse environment for growth in kids’ lives.

Stew - Influences - Service - Experience - Teenagers

The unique “stew” of influences in a service experience can open teenagers to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

With all this ministry firepower working for us, you’d think we’d be dialed-in to the discipleship possibilities that service trips generate. Instead, the actual experience most-often compartmentalizes the service part of the trip away from the “spiritual” part of the trip. I mean, the work kids do to serve is framed as simply “helping people,” while the program (morning and evening gatherings, and devotion times) is billed as “God time.”

Kingdom - God - Compartments

Well, the Kingdom of God is not organized into compartments.

Around the time the New Testament letters were written, the Gnostic cults were taking root. Gnostics believed that “matter” was bad and “spirit” was good. In essence, the material world—the work we do in the world, and our everyday behavior—was acknowledged as necessary, but not spiritual. We are compartmentalized people, not wholistic people, declared the Gnostics. We have a compartment for the physical work of service,...
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