Family Devotions Are Not New

John Newton, one of my heroes of the faith, wrote the hymn Amazing Grace in 1779.  He also wrote many personal letters that we can learn from, including one answering a question about “Family Worship.”  Family Devotions, time set aside as a family to read the Bible and pray together (and sometimes maybe even sing), is nothing new because the call to raise our families in the Lord is not new.family devotions

Parents were seen as the primary disciplers of their children before Deuteronomy 6:7 was given to the people of Israel, and before the Apostle Paul instructed parents to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” in Ephesians 6:4.  Newton explains:

I am afraid I shall not answer your expectations with regard to the particulars of your inquiry, concerning the most proper method of conducting family worship. The circumstances of families are so various, that no determinate rules can be laid down: nor has the word of God prescribed any; because, being of universal obligation, it is wisely and graciously accommodated to suit the different situations of his people. You must, therefore, as to circumstantials, judge for yourself. You will do well to pursue such a method as you shall find most convenient to yourself and family, without scrupulously binding yourself, when the Scripture has left you free…

…He requires us to acknowledge him in our families, for our own sakes; not because he has need of our poor services, but because we have need of his blessing, and without the influence of his grace (which is promised to all who seek it) are sure to be unhappy in ourselves…

…For it being every believer’s duty to worship God in his family, his promise may be depended upon, to give them a sufficiency in all things, for those services which he requires of them.

Happy is that family where the worship of God is constantly and conscientiously maintained. Such houses are temples in which the Lord dwells, and castles garrisoned by a Divine power. I do not say, that, by honouring God in your house, you will wholly escape a share in the trials incident to the present uncertain state of things. A measure of such trials will be necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces, to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction, to mortify the body of sin, and to wean you more effectually from the world. But this I will confidently say, that the Lord will both honour and comfort those who thus honour him.

I especially appreciate how Newton points out that no matter how inadequate you feel to lead Family Devotions, God has already given you what you need.  Also, there is no one set method–and it will change in your own family over time.  But the basics of being reminded of something from the Bible together as a family in your home, and praying together, is timeless.  If you don’t already have a pattern, why don’t you start with one night a week after dinner–tonight!

Source: Newton, J., Richard Cecil. (1824). The works of the Rev. John Newton (Vol. 1, p. 153). London: Hamilton, Adams & Co.

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One of Many Reasons I Love Family Ministry

deut 6Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7

Deuteronomy 6 is one of many passages (Psalm 78:1-10, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, etc.) that lays out clearly that parents are to be the primary faith-trainers in their children’s lives.  Yet, as Timothy Paul Jones explains in Family Ministry Field Guide, although most Christian parents know they have a responsibility for their children’s souls beyond getting them to church, it too often does not happen:

…The overwhelming majority of Christian parents are not actively engaged in any sort of battle for their children’s souls.  When it comes to the process of discipling their progeny, most Christian parents–especially fathers–have abandoned the field.

If you as a parent are personally engaged in a process to transform the countours of your child’s soul, you are a minority.

However, I envision a time when Christian parents consistently engage in planned discipleship processes with their children.  I eagerly anticipate an era when children regularly experience family worship times and spontaneous spiritual conversations. (25)

I do too.  I long to see more and more parents actively engage in planned “faith talks” or Bible reading and prayer with their kids.  I pray for parents to see that their lives 6 days a week speak louder than a sermon and Sunday School 1 day a week.  I am constantly looking for ways that we as a church can partner with and equip parents to fulfill Deuteronomy 6 better.  We are in this together.  This is one reason I love Family Ministry.

I am grateful to be at the D6 Family Ministry Conference this week, learning from leaders like Dr. Timothy Paul Jones.  Yet, as he reminded us today, Family Ministry is not ultimately about a program or plan.  As anything in the church should be, it is about Christ.

Israel failed at following Deuteronomy 6–look at the book of Judges!  We will fail too at impressing these things on our children if we try to do it in our own power.  We need the good news of the Gospel.  Deuteronomy 6 is meant to ultimately point families to Jesus, the only One who perfectly impresses the truth of God on hearts.

What Is the Place of Bible Study in a Youth Ministry?

One of the things that I enjoy most in life is sitting down with a group of high schoolers on Sunday nights and teaching them God’s Word in a way that is faithful to the meaning while helping them apply it to their lives.  We are currently studying the book of Philippians, and I love the challenge of studying the meaning of the text, seeing the universal principles in it that God is teaching, and then helping teenagers apply it.  We have a small group time after our time of Bible study, and I get energized hearing them wrestle with how what they have heard applies on the baseball field, in their high school hallway the next morning, or in their relationship with their parents when they get home.

Brian Cosby has written a helpful book, Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry fron an Entertainment Culture that reminds us of the importance of having Bibgiving up gimmicksle-saturated, Gospel-centered Youth Ministry that takes the Bible seriously.  Cosby writes:

Doctrine should never be separated from worship and the “so what?” question.  Doctrine should inform students why they should do well in school, and how they can fight the temptation to gossip about another teen…indeed, the truths of God’s Word should be the lens through which they view all of life–from homework to movies, from dating to parents. — pp. 99-100

I can’t imagine having an opportunity for teens to regularly gather together and not encouraging them to believe the gospel and live the gospel through taking time to teach God’s Word.  Youth Ministries are never more fulfilling their mission than when they support Christian parents by supplementing what their teens are already being taught at home, while also reaching out to those who come from unbelieving homes by consistently, passionately teaching what it means to know and follow Jesus from the Bible.  Anything less is subliminally teaching them that it’s OK to build their lives on sinking sand (Matt. 7:24-27)!

Often when the importance of the Word of God in Youth Ministry is brought up, there is a concern about the place of games.  I heartily believe that both have a place in Youth Ministry.  In our context, our Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers enjoy free time over ping pong, pool, and foosball before we begin each Sunday night, and an organized game after worship in singing, Bible Study, and small groups (including prayer).  In fact, I have told our Children’s Ministry workers, “You must have fun if you work with children,” and the same goes for Youth Ministry.  Teenagers love to have fun together, which is part of fellowship for them.  But there does not need to be a dichotomy between having fun together and taking the Bible seriously!

Peter confessed to Christ, “You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:68)  In order to have a Family Ministry that has an eternal impact, we need to study those words of eternal life together regularly.  Twelve year olds and eighteen year olds need this Word just as much as everyone else.

Christian Parenting Reminders from Jason Helopolous

I needed to read this today and I hope that it is an encouragement in your parenting as well.  Click here for the entire excellent blog post from Jason Helopolous at the Gospel Coalition.

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Some of my greatest joys in life stem from being a parent to two delightful children. However, some of my greatest struggles in life also stem from being a parent to these same two children. There are days that I cannot imagine anything more rewarding and other days that I want to get into the fetal position and remain there for a week. Here are a few reminders for me and all the other Christian parents out there:

Affection and Love: We can never show our children too much love. I have yet to meet the adult who tells me, “My parents just showed me too much love!” But sadly, I have often heard the reverse. Shower your children with affection. May they know our warm embraces and messy kisses!

Have the Right Goal in View: As Christian parents, our goal in raising our children is not primarily to prepare them for going out into the world as fully functioning adults. Our goal, as Christian parents, is to prepare our children for eternity! This should shape all that we do in our homes.

Focus on My Responsibility: But having said that, we can’t “force” our children to be faithful, less sinful, or more righteous. That isn’t our responsibility. Our responsibility is to be faithful in our own charge as parents. In that regard, I can surely hinder or help their sensitivity to Christ, growth in sanctification, understanding of grace, and maturing in character, but I can’t guarantee it, secure it, or determine it. Let’s be faithful in what we do have responsibility for and spend less energy trying to control that which we don’t have responsibility for.

Keep Your Eyes Forward: We can be prone to look over our shoulders. What will OUR parents think? What will others at church think? What will my pastor think? Our children are disobedient and we find ourselves cringing inside and looking to see if anyone else was watching. And when we see others looking on, immediate concern grips our minds. Will they think my children are disobedient or bad? Will they think I am a terrible parent? Stop! We aren’t parenting for others’ approval. We are parenting for the good of our children to the glory of God. Let’s keep our eyes looking forward and heavenward for the good of our children and the glory of God.

Don’t Get Too High nor Too Low: Children change, so let’s not get too high or too low by what we see in our child’s character, actions, or soul in any given day or during any given period. Let’s rejoice some. Let’s mourn some. But let’s do so with restraint.

Run the Right Direction: God knows a thing or two about wayward children, so let’s seek Him who has an understanding ear. What grace we need in parenting and what grace is given in Christ. May we run to Him with our frustrations, struggles, trials, and failures. He should be our first counselor and comforter.

Christianity not Morality: Morals are good, but not in and of themselves. Let’s teach our children and pray for a morality that flows from a heart changed by God’s grace. For many of us, our default is to slip into morality parenting, rather than Christian parenting. The former is focused solely upon outward behavior, the latter is focused upon inward change which will manifest fruit  in moral outward behavior.

Lastly and Most Importantly, Count the Blessings: Let’s thank God everyday for our children. Even on those hard days, find the blessings amidst the chaos! Count every blessing that comes as a parent. Let it fill us with wonder that the Lord of the Universe has given us the privilege of having these little souls under our care. What a blessing. Thinking on that may even help us get out of that fetal position.

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[HT: Jason Helopolous]

Six Philosophical Pillars of a God-Honoring Children’s Ministry

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1) God’s Love for Children (Luke 18:15-17)
God has a soft spot for children as seen in Jesus’ counter-cultural attention to children.  As I have looked at every verse I can find in the Bible about children, it is clear that God speaks unequivocally positive about children.  If you are involved in Children’s Ministry, you are involved in a ministry that is close to the heart of God!

2) The Priority of Parents (Deut. 6:4-8, 11:18-20, Eph. 6:4, Ps. 78:5-7)
As I looked at every verse in the Bible I could find about children, what was even more clear than God’s love for children was the sheer quantity of verses that call parents to raise their children to know and love God.  The Bible speaks loud on this:  parents are called to be the primary disciplers in their children’s lives.  The church should support, encourage, and equip parents,  but never usurp their God-ordained role.  How that looks in each church context will be different, but if you are involved in Children’s Ministry, do you communicate with the parents in a way that recognizes them as the primary disciplers?

3) The Centrality of the Gospel (recognizing children’s spiritual potential before God; Ps. 8:1-2, Matt. 21:14-16, 2 Tim. 3:15-17)
Children’s Ministry is a ministry of evangelism!  Teaching children is probably the greatest evangelistic opportunity in any church in terms of the quantity of people within a ministry that are unsaved.  Don’t assume that all of the kids are saved, even if most of them come from Christian homes and have been coming to church for years.  Constantly press the truth of the Gospel and their need for Christ upon their hearts and minds.  For those who don’t come from Christian homes, hearing the Gospel from you may be the only time they ever do.

4) A Bible Focus (Is. 48:11, 2 Tim. 3:16)
We have an amazing opportunity in Children’s Ministry to teach children God’s Word.  I love talking to my son about Sunday School, seeing that things my wife and I have taught him are being reinforced or expanded.  I love seeing children from the community hear the Bible for the first time.

In every lesson that you teach, ask yourself if two things are present:  Is the character of God taught correctly?  Is the Gospel presented or is it tied in?  The main character of the Bible is God!  If they’re in awe of God (who God is and what He does as taught in the Bible), they will want to know Him (the Gospel).

5) Servanthood (Mark 10:42-45)
We should have a radiant attitude of servanthood in Children’s Ministry as we serve families, interacting with kids and encouraging parents.  Both children and parents will pick up on this Christ-like attitude.  In most churches, there is probably no greater chance to serve the church in the number of opportunities available than in Children’s Ministry.

6) A Kid-Appropriate Manner (1 Thess. 5:14, Phil. 2:3-8)
Jesus cared for people as individuals–He had no one system of discipleship.  God hard-wired children with imagination and a bent towards fun and energy, so if you are involved in Children’s Ministry, you must have fun!  Think of the condescension of Christ: He went from Heaven to earth; He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Certainly we can condescend to the children we teach by having fun with them, using our imagination with how we teach while still being ruthlessly Bible and Gospel-centered, and thinking hard about our word choices as we teach them.

Mary: An Example of a Teenager Who Loves God

picture 13We often think of Mary as a mature woman, especially when you read her “Magnificat” or “Song of Praise” in Luke 2:46-55.  However, Jewish traditions at the time of Jesus’ birth point to the fact that Mary was probably about 14 years old when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Savior of the world.

In an age in which not much is expected even out of Christian teenagers, Mary is a wonderful reminder that Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers are capable of a deep relationship with God.  If you are a teenager, I pray that this will be a reminder to you to “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)  If you are a parent or grandparent, remember that much of Mary’s love for and knowledge of God was taught to her in the home, which was the Jewish (Deut. 6:4-9) and is the Christian (Eph. 6:4) God-ordained place of every day discipleship.

As a teenager, Mary put God’s desires for her life above her own desires (Luke 1:26-38).  Being surprised one day by the angel Gabriel and being told that she would be pregnant with the Messiah was not in Mary’s plan for her life.  This was unimaginably “inconvenient.”  Rather than complaining, Mary’s response was, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)  God’s will was more important to her than her will.  She not only was submissive to God’s will, she joyfully embraced being used to bring God glory (Luke 1:46-55)!  God’s will was good news to her.

As a teenager, Mary knew God’s Word and “theology” (Luke 1:46-55).  Mary’s spontaneous Song of Praise in response to giving birth to the Messiah is dripping with Scripture references and a deep understanding of God’s plan for redemptive history.  She knew and loved both Old Testament Scripture and great truths about God.  Mary’s Bible knowledge at the age of 14 reminds us that teenagers who can ace a pre-calculus class can understand and get excited about knowing God better through His living and active Word.

As a teenager, Mary knew she needed God’s grace in Christ (Luke 1:47, 1:50).  I don’t put Mary out as an example to make you simply feel bad as a teenager or as a parent.  Mary is a stunning example of a teenager who loves God, but she also knew she was a sinner who needed God to save her.  “…My spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”  The long-awaited Messiah that she now knew she would raise from infancy would show her and other believers God’s grace (Luke 1:54-55).  Mary spoke of the same grace that is offered to you today, if you will turn to Jesus and say, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Give Your Teenager a Gift that Can Have an Eternal Impact

If you are the parent of a teenager or are a grandparent of a teenager, I encourage you to consider giving them one of these Bibles or books that can have an eternal impact in their life.  Just as the Apostle John had “no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” (3 John 4) speaking of his spiritual children, if you are a Christian parent I know that you will have no greater joy than to know that your children are walking in the truth of God’s Word.  These resources can help.  I have written a brief review of two study Bibles for teens and four carefully chosen books.

I simply ask you to consider something before you choose one of these Bibles:  think deeply about where your child or grandchild is in his or her walk with the Lord before choosing a new Bible.  Which would be the most helpful to him or her?

I have purposefully chosen books that stand alone if a teenager is motivated to read them, but that could also be easily used for parent-teenager discipleship.  Any one of these four books would be perfect for planning a time to discuss a chapter after each of you have read it.  If you have never done this, start with once a month–for example, if you chose Growing Up Christian, it has twelve chapters, so you could plan to meet with your teen the first Saturday morning of every month for one year.  Feel free to comment below if you have ever done something like this with your teenager before!

The ESV Student Study Bible is a great Study Bible for a teenager.  I love my own ESV Study Bible, and the difference between a normal Study Bible and a “Student” version is that it explains things more clearly at times for those who have not studied the Bible for as many years.  For example, at Genesis 1:26 my ESV Study Bible and the ESV Student Study Bible have essentially the same study note.  But the ESV Student Study Bible also has a graphically appealing “Did You Know?” box that explains God’s plural use of “us” in that verse.  See a video here that explains the idea behind the ESV Student Study Bible and if you’re thinking of purchasing it check out the different cover color options available.  I also recommend The MacArthur Student Bible for the same reasons as above, but it only comes in the NKJV.  If your teen is not currently reading and understanding the NKJV well, then I would stick with the ESV (if you have an older teenager, the regular MacArthur Study Bible is available in ESV and has an appealing layout with excellent study notes).

The book Growing Up Christian by Karl Graustein is the best book I have seen for teenagers who have grown up in the church.  Joshua Harris explains, “[the author] wants to see them transformed by Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross–not merely living off the religion of their dads and moms.”  It is easy to read but has great depth and includes questions that you could use for a friendly discipleship discussion with your teen.

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper is a life-changing book that challenges young people to live solely for the glory of God.  He begins by writing, “The Bible says, ‘You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body’ (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  I have written this book to help you taste those words as sweet instead of bitter or boring.”  I can’t recommend this book more for the teens and twenty-somethings in your life.  It was influential in my own call to ministry.

Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris is subtitled, “A teenage rebellion against low expectations.”  They assault the “myth of adolescence” by challenging fellow teens to live for God now rather than later.  Here is a helpful review of this book by my friend Jesse Johnson.  This is the only book recommended here that I have not read yet myself, but it strikes me as being in the same vein as Don’t Waste Your Life but maybe better for younger teens.

Bitesize Theology: an ABC of the Christian Faith by Peter Jeffery is the perfect book for your teen if you know that what they need right now more than a challenge to live fully for Christ,  is a better understanding of the basics of God’s Word.  I have never seen another book that can explain terms like “justification” and “sanctification” in 3 easy to understand pages.  Unless you have a highly motivated teen, this would definitely be one to do together with them (there are also study questions at the end of each chapter) and it would be well worth your time!

How Crucial is Youth and Family Ministry?

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I was encouraged again in how crucial Youth and Family Ministry is when I recently saw some shocking statistics.  In a 2009 poll of one thousand people in their twenties who used to attend Bible-believing churches but who no longer attend, a whopping 40% of those who don’t believe first started to have doubts in middle school, and 44% first had doubts in high school.  This is in contrast to only 4% who began to doubt in elementary school, and only 11% in college (Answers Magazine, July-Sept. 2011, 124).

In the same issue of Answers Magazine, Al Mohler gives some analysis and remedy worth considering:

…Kids are spending a very small amount of time in church activities, and many of those activities have very little theological, biblical, or spiritual content.  As a result, we have a generation of young people who believe that there is a God, but they don’t have any particular god in mind…

When asked, “What steps can the church take to do better?”  He explains:

Focus on expository preaching, and teach how to think biblically.  The pulpit has to take responsibility.  In far too many churches there is just no expository preaching [teaching that expounds on a particular text of Scripture].  There isn’t the robust biblical preaching that sets forth the Word of God and then explains how the people of God have to think differently and live differently to be faithful to that Word.

Show the seriousness of church, including personal accountability.  The local church must be a robust gospel people.  It must be a warm fellowship of believers.  It must be a fellowship of believers who are really living out holiness and faithfulness to Christ, and being mutually accountable for that.

Otherwise, our kids will get the message: “You talk a lot about sin, but it’s really not all that important to you.”  Or they will think the gospel is simply about moralism.

Give answers about current issues.  We’re not giving our kids adequate information on some very crucial issues.  [Think about] the questions the average teenager faces…

Explain how the gospel is unfolding through real history.  …The Christian faith, the Christian truth claim, the gospel, is first of all a master narrative–a true story–about life, about God’s purpose to bring glory to Himself.  It has four major movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation…If we don’t anchor our children in that story, if they think that Christianity is merely a bunch of stuff to believe, if they don’t find their identity in that–in which they say, ‘Yes, that’s my story.  This is where I am.”  Then they are going to fall away.

Mohler was asked next, “What are parents doing wrong?”  His answer is a timely reminder for those who have teens as well as those of us who have small children:

We’ve got to start treating young people as a mission field, not just assuming that mere nurture will lead them into Christian discipleship and into Christian faith.

Parents need to take a big responsibility here.  The one thing we know from the entirety of Scripture is that parents have the non-negotiable responsibility to train, educate, nurture their own children into the faith, to confront them with biblical truth, to ground them in the Scriptures.

We also have, on the part of many Christian parents, a buy-in to a new secular understanding of parenthood.  We are letting our children make big decisions far too early.  So, when you have a 14-year-old, 15-, 16-, 17-year-old, making decisions about whether he or she is going to participate in church activities, be at church…that’s a child who is making decisions that should be made for him or her.

What steps can parents take to do better?

Teach God’s Word all the time, in everyday life.  This is not something that you can do once a day, once a week, and say that’s done.  That’s why I go back to Deuteronomy 6.  It is a constant teaching opportunity.

I don’t mean a piece of chalk and a blackboard.  I mean the kind of opportunity that comes from having seen something together and saying, “All right, how do we figure that out?  What does that mean?” [i.e. watching a movie, reading the same book, talking about the news]

Help adolescents think through the big questions.  Adolescence is the crucial point.  For the first time they’re beginning to think about the big questions of life.  When the lights go out at night, they’re trying to figure out, do I really know the meaning of life?  Do I really know who I am?  At that stage, don’t be afraid if your kid is asking questions … don’t be afraid to say, “I know there is a good answer for that.  But I’m not sure right now I’m prepared to give the right answer for that.  So we’re going to go find it together.”

(Al Mohler quotes are from Answers Magazine, July-Sept. 2011, 127-129).

I am so excited about Family Ministry because during this crucial stage of life, the church and parents both have the opportunity to make life-long disciples of Jesus as they consistently teach and apply God’s Word.  This God-ordained partnership of the church and parents is for the good of teens and the glory of God!

What Are Two Things Teenagers Need from a Youth Ministry?

I have been thinking recently about Youth and Family Ministry, and I am thankful for what Austin Duncan has written regarding Youth Ministry in Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully.  As I read these paragraphs below I wanted to shout, “Amen!”  Two things (not exhaustive, but certainly primary) that teenagers need from a Youth Ministry are:

1) The Scripture to be taught at a level they will understand.  This includes a great emphasis on the Gospel.  What more important message could we possibly offer them for their lives now as well as for the rest of their lives?  Nothing.

2) To be a part of the church as a whole.  This includes involvement with their parents and the rest of the church.  There is no switch that can be flipped when they leave the Youth Ministry that will make them *now* productive members of the church.  They should be part of the church body now.

Thank you Austin for explaining this so clearly and passionately:

“The Scriptures themselves are the most important tool for the youth pastor.  There is no other way for a person to come to Christ except through the preaching of the gospel, and there is no place where the gospel is presented more clearly than in the Scriptures.  When a youth ministry is built on verse by verse teaching of the Bible, the students learn how to live and what to believe.  As a God-ordained side effect, students also learn how to study and interpret the Bible for themselves as they watch Scripture rightly divided and properly explained … Teenagers in the youth group need this message [the Gospel].  They do not need cultural relevancy, and they certainly do not need a youth leader who really “gets them.”  They need a minister who will explain to them that they will not get to heaven on the coattails of their parents’ Christianity, that God hates sin, and that the most important issue in the universe is not if they are going to make the soccer team, but if they are reconciled to God.  Have they turned from sin to the Savior?  Have they embraced, in faith, God’s perfect sacrifice of His dear Son?  Is Christ’s life theirs?

…It should not be possible for students to faithfully participate in a youth ministry but not participate in the church. … The youth must be involved with adults in serving missionaries, participating in neighborhood outreach, and visiting the elderly.  Above all, they should be a part of the corporate body of the church in worship, fellowship, and service.  One of the reasons that young people withdraw from the church is because they grow out of what it has to offer them.  Eventually, they will tire of games and skits, and look for something more profound.  A key to student ministry–for a lasting student ministry–is to get young people involved in the church because they are in love with the gospel.  Then, if they leave the church, they abandon an integral part of their lives.  Church no longer is a place that serves them, but a place where they belong.

Isolating our teenagers from the rest of the body of the church is bad for everyone involved.  Just as the foot cannot say to the hand that it is not part of the body, so the youth cannot say that he or she is not part of the body of believers (1 Cor. 12:15).  Serving the church is how Christians are called to use their God-given gifts, as this is where believers live out the New Testament command to love one another.  Teenagers must be taught to have affection for the church, to care for its needs, and to devote themselves to its health and growth.”

From Chapter 15, “The Youth Pastor as Evangelist: The Church’s Most Fruitful Evangelism,” in Evangelism: How to Share the Gospel Faithfully, ed. John MacArthur (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 213-215.

The question always comes up when advocating an eternal perspective in Youth Ministry, “Can you still have fun while doing this?”  Of course!  As I know Austin himself lives out (I have known Austin for 9 years), this is all done with grace–and fun.  But although we laugh a lot with teenagers and may do many fun activities with them, we need to have enough vision and love to give them what they need: God’s Word and the Gospel, and to help them be a part of the church, the body of Christ.