The Christian youth leader can have an endless number of roles in the life of young punks. Friend, encourager, example, skateboard instructor, Bible teacher, prayer partner, motivator, maths tutor, mentor, guitar teacher. I’m sure there’s more! That’s cool. What an exciting thing to be involved in so many different ways in young lives! But among the many things a youth leader can do, what should be their primary responsibility?
What is the primary role of a youth leader?
I believe that fundamental to the role of youth leadership is making disciples who will then go on to make disciples. The Great Commission is a key text in this regard:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Mat 28:18-20 NIV)
Disciples are to be made “of all nations” with an agenda of “teaching them to obey” Jesus. This is the pattern “to the very end of the age”. According to Marshall & Payne, “The commission is not fundamentally about mission out there somewhere else in another country. It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple.” (The Trellis & the Vine, p.13)
The foundation of Biblical Youth Ministry
Disciples making disciples is the bread and butter of Christian life and ministry. It is therefore the foundation of Biblical youth ministry. Discipleship doesn’t just include work with Christian young people, but it includes getting them (evangelism) and then growing them (edification).
As you think about your primary role as a youth leader, the expectation is that you will be part of that ongoing process of disciples making disciples. It looks like this: Disciples (youth leader) making disciples (Christian young punk) making disciples (not yet Christian young punk). And so on.
What does the Bible say about Christian ministry?
"We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed —God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else." (1 Thessalonians 4b-6a).
It is interesting to note the repeated phrase “you know” in 1 Thess 2:1-16. The believers in Thessalonica knew about Paul because they knew Paul. As Paul shared the gospel with them, he shared his very life because they had become dear to him (1 Thess 2:8). The key discipleship tool in Paul’s belt is “the word of God”. They heard it from Paul (Silas and Timothy) but they received it as the very word of God, and it is that word that is now at work in them (1 Thess 2:13).
The main game
Why spend a whole article talking about something that might seem obvious? Because it’s easy to forget the main game! We need to keep reminding each other of our primary role as youth leaders. It’s not entertainment. It’s not running games. It’s not being popular. It’s about disciples making disciples. We share our lives, we share the gospel of Jesus’ death & resurrection and we let God’s word do its work in young lives.
At its heart, youth ministry is quite simple. We want to see disciples making disciples.