March 27, 2012

All Ministry is Adult Ministry

To Youth Leaders, Children's Workers & Parents:
You might be involved with some type of ministry through your church, either to children, youth, or adults. Maybe you’re a Christian parent. In all of these cases, my message to you is the same. We all need to realize that all ministry is adult ministry.

Everything we do will be shaped by the goal we have in mind. Many student ministries have the end goal of developing students who follow Christ. Many children's ministries have the end goal of producing kids who follow Christ. That sounds great, but it is not. These ministries will have their effectiveness short-changed by that attitude. There is something much greater to aim at.

It is very important to know what a “win” is for your ministry. What is it that you are ultimately trying to achieve, and how do you know when this has happened? Someone told me about another youth program that defines a “win” as any time they are able to create a comfortable environment for students to come. If they are able to do that, they considered it a win. Now, my hope is that this church doesn’t really consider this their ultimate win. If they did, it would be like a football coach who is content with first-downs and doesn’t really care about getting touchdowns. There are intermediate wins and there are ultimate wins.  Having a good experience is an intermediate win, but it is not an ultimate win. 

For any ministry that cares about the Bible, we have a non-negotiable task. We have been told to go and "make disciples" (Mt. 28:19-20). There are many good things we can do, but if we fail at this, we fail the mission. Making disciples means "getting people saved" but it means more than that. God saves us apart from our good works, but He saves us for good works and ministry (Eph. 2:8-10). Part of our mission is to help people to be born again, but we don't end our mission with abandoned newborns. Neither do we end our mission with children or teens who follow Christ.

Babies are Not Our Goal...Adult Are
The goal of our work is not to produce a grown-up baby. The goal of evangelism and discipleship is to train up a mature Christian adultThis means working with young people so that when they are adults they will be spiritual adults as well, not adult infants. That is why all ministry is adult ministry. That is our win.

In student ministry, our goal is to transform and equip young people so that they become mature Christian adults who serve Christ in ministry. This what our goal for everyone. The goal of adult discipleship is the same thing, but without the benefit of the head start.

Our goal is not kids who follow Christ.
Our goal is not teens who follow Christ.
The bigger win for all of our ministries is this: ADULTS who follow and serve Christ as mature believers.

It is absolutely necessary for student ministries to focus on this. If you only equip teens with what they need to live life as Christian teenagers now, you have not helped them in the long run. They are only going to be teens for a few short years. Yes, meet them where they are at, but disciple them for their lifetime ahead.  Look at the long view. You aren't merely ministering to a teen; you are ministering to an entire life.

Disciple Adults Before They Get There
Don’t just equip students to cope with the stress of not being able to get their locker open. Prepare them for marriage. Prepare them to be solid parents. Turn boys into men who will love their wives as Christ loved the church and will be compassionate leaders for their families. Give them all the values and training that they will need for a lifetime of service.

In my mind, my goal is to produce Navy Seals of ministry.

In the high school youth center of our church, I put a sign in the kitchen as a constant reminder for our leaders. It reads, “Peace Student Ministry: Discipling adults before they get there.” I want our leaders to remember that they are training adults to do kingdom ministry. They are training ministry leaders, missionaries, elders, deacons, youth sponsors, parents, pastors, small group leaders, teachers, and mentors… not just kids. We are pouring into them so they will pour into others, now and for the rest of their lives. Keeping this goal in mind changes the way we do things now.

Individual ministries inside a local church need to view each of their programs as part of one whole, with the same goal. It is a tag-team effort. We each do everything we can with the people we have, and then pass them off to the next ministry to continue the work of growing these young people into adult disciples. Individual programs need to count it as a “win” when they make a successful hand-off of a young person to the next ministry. This is an intermediate win to the bigger win of producing an adult disciple.

Make adult disciples. Whatever your ministry, keep this goal in mind. In my church, I work with students and I work with adults. I do adult ministry with adults and I do adult ministry with students. 

Related: Adult Baby

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