Youth Ministry in Spirit and in Truth

Conversations of Confusion:

It’s not uncommon to find Jesus talking at complete cross purposes (no pun intended) with someone struggling to understand what He is saying.

No gospel better illustrates “conversations of confusion” than John’s gospel. It is a referring theme – Jesus says something and people assume he is talking in material, literal terms when He is in fact revealing deep spiritual truth.

One of these is found in John 4. Jesus talks about water with a Samaritan woman at a well and it took some moments before she realised He was not talking about H2O.

From here the discourse between Jesus and the Samaritan woman soon turns to worship. “The Samaritans worship God on Mt Gerizim while the Jews worship Him in Jerusalem. Who is right?” she asks.

Jesus responds by stating that the time is coming when it won’t matter – all that will matter is that we worship God “in spirit and in Truth” (John 4:24). In other words, the “how” will matter more than the “where”.

We now live in that time.

Spirit and Truth Youth Ministry:

What has this to do with youth ministry?

The words worship, sacrifice and service are more closely related in Jewish thought than in our own popular usage and the Jews referred to them almost interchangeable (see commentaries on Romans 12:1). In other words, worshipping in Spirit and in Truth is connected with the idea of service or ministry in Spirit and Truth

So what does it mean to do youth ministry in spirit and in truth?”

In short, I suggest it means this: To rely on His Word as the basis for our practice and His Spirit as the dynamic for our practice.

Therefore, when we practice “spirit and truth youth ministry” we seek to learn all we can both from Scripture itself and from practice built on Biblical principles. We read, discuss, reflect and implement and yet in the process we have a deep conviction that none of this is enough.

We need to infuse this understanding with an acknowledgement of His presence and direction (Proverbs 3:5-6) which is so vital in accomplishing His purposes.

When we focus on just one of these, Spirit or Truth, we open ourselves up to error and ineffectiveness. We develop a youth ministry that is either ordered but has no Life, or one that is vibrant but has no Anchor.

Building Spirit and Truth Youth Ministries:

All of this sounds good but what does it mean in practice. Here are just a few key examples of how a shift in thinking can be reflected in a shift in practice:

  • Spirit and Truth Leadership: We recognise Christ as being the true Head of the Church, the leader of our youth ministry. As we develop Biblically sound plans and strategies we look for evidence of His fingerprints and footprints and follow His lead even if it seems risky to our own understanding.
  • Spirit and Truth Preaching: We work hard to share God’s word accurately and well, remaining sensitive to the prompting of His Spirit and we prepare and preach. Rather than convey understanding our purpose is to convey Life. We are concerned, not with mere information, but transformation.
  • Spirit and Truth Bible Study: When we open God’s Word with young people, we not only trust the Holy Spirit to do His work of illuminating, convicting and comforting (John 16:5-15) – we expect it. Jesus is seen as being present in our Bible study, not as a passive observer as information is communicated, but as One who is actively at work, speaking to young people and engaging in their transformation.
  • Spirit and Truth Pastoral Care: We counsel young people with a deep respect for the truth found in Scripture, but we don’t use it from a place of superiority where we compel young people to conform. Instead we open our conversation to Christ’s presence and trust Him to lead them into a commitment to truth as we facilitate the process via good questions and an open Bible.

As the Youth Enabler for CCCNZ I’m committed to helping churches build “spirit and truth youth ministries”. It’s an emphasis that will be reflected in our coaching and in our training events.