Word and Spirit in Youth Ministry: Four Practical Steps
As we synthesize what it means to be a student ministry of both the Word and Spirit, here are four steps as we walk down these slippery slopes.
1. Start with Jesus
There are no legitimate spiritual experiences, ecstatic or saving, without Christ. If we want “more of God” in our student ministries then we must preach the Gospel, and root all our experience-seeking in the work of God in Christ: For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the son and shows him all that he himself is doing (John 5:19-21).
If Jesus only does what God does then the best way to get more of God is to know more of Jesus. And we can take this promise to the bank because it’s God’s love that grounds it. Love is the reason for God’s disclosure of his whole self. And Jesus taking cues from his Father will reveal everything that God has shown him -which is all of him. There are no ends to the glories and excellences of God that Christ will not reveal to us through the Holy Spirit. Where is the glory (the fullness) of God? It’s shining in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4).
2. Preach the Word
Preach both the Old and New Testament as the inspired Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17; Heb 4:12-13; Isa 55:11). Take it seriously. If we believe it doesn’t return void then let’s preach it that way. And while we are it, let’s preach nothing else.
3. Remember: Worship is Both Teaching and an Experience
Yes, we teach through songs. Yes, we sing truth and not lies. But worship is also meant to stir affections. It’s awe set to music. C.S. Lewis knew this:
The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars… men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?”
In other words, worship and praise are consummated when they’re expressed. Proclaim the Gospel, and let your students worship.
4. Planned and Spontaneous
Nothing I have said should prevent us from planning. God works through prayerful processes, as well as powerful moments. God is a God of both process and spontaneity. The plan of redemption is from eternity past, but from our perspective, he is the God who answers prayers in the moment.
So make plans for your ministry year and also be prepared for interruptions. Do not idolatrously lean on process and planning to make yourself look like a better student pastor. Lean on Christ, and let him interrupt.