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Churches may be struggling in ministering to younger generations. The pandemic, the post-Christian culture, and the changing needs of students may be causing us to rethink our student ministry strategy. We want to reach students. We want to teach them how to have a meaningful walk in the Spirit, but the methods of doing student ministry may be transforming before our eyes.
In the 1950s and 60s, we began to see “youth ministry” take shape in the efforts of young evangelists like Billy Graham and Youth for Christ. In the 1970s, more parachurch ministries were offered to help reach these age groups, and the Jesus Movement showed a path to being countercultural. In the 1980s and 1990s, those parachurch models came home to most local churches, changing Wednesday night programming for younger generations to where separate youth/children worship services were the norm. The 2000s saw some churches emphasize small group ministry, life groups, and putting students in community.
Today, students are bombarded with many voices proclaiming truth. Today, students have all the information they could need at their fingertips yet no one to help them interpret that information. Today, students deeply desire mentoring relationships and to know people they can trust. What will the models be for discipling students as we move forward?
The goals are the same. Share the gospel. Faith in Jesus transforms lives. Get students to read the Scriptures. Research shows that a habit of reading the Bible four times a week causes tremendous spiritual growth. Learn how to pray. Prayer builds a relationship with almighty God and eases the hearts and minds of believers. These disciplines are the key to building disciples who make disciples.
Titus 2:1-8 gives a blueprint for sound disciple-making. The older men and women are to invest in the younger generations in mentoring relationships that not only teach but provide examples of living faith. But are we being intentional in getting our students into generational relationships?
The latest research shows that students staying with the church post-high school graduation have a few things in common. One, those students were connected to the generations of the church and felt a part of the overall church family. Two, they had meaningful relationships with at least five adults from within the church body. Three, the church intentionally provided adults investing in younger generations satisfying a deep desire for mentoring relationships.
Titus 2 Discipleship
Recently, Warren Gasaway of the Evangelism and Church Health team offered a model for doing multi-generational, missional, discipleship based on Titus 2. Titus 2 Discipleship outlines ideas for creating small groups of older, middle, and younger generations. It places students in gender specific groups working through areas of the disciplines.
This strategy could help fill the void for the 1300 Arkansas Southern Baptist Churches that do not have full-time ministries. It also considers the students who may not have parents or guardians coming to church. Titus 2 Discipleship is based on small groups, emphasizes the disciplines, and intentionally fosters life-on-life relationships by providing ideas for structuring purposeful activities in areas of evangelism, discipleship, missions, and fellowship.