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In teaching youth, take note of how Jesus taught, speaker says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Are you ready to take your youth group to a new level, but not sure if all of your youth are quite ready to progress? Do you try out deeper Sunday School curriculum only to watch the lost youth become even more lost?

“When teaching youth we should look at how Jesus taught,” said Paul Kelly in a conference for youth teachers during the July 26-28 National Sunday School Leadership week at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. Kelly is editor-in-chief of discipleship and family resources in student ministry publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Jesus taught different groups of people in different ways,” Kelly said. “First, he taught crowds, like the 5,000. Then, there were the 70 he sent out in Luke 10. There was the group of 12 disciples, and finally the center group containing Peter, James and John.”

Ministry to youth can follow a similar pattern, Kelly said. There are “the ones who come to big events and are invited by members of the youth group. These kids are the ones in the shadow of the church.

“The 70 is your youth group. These are the ones who have made some kind of commitment but who are not really following Christ yet.

“The ’12 disciples’ of your youth group are the ones who are hungry for more,” Kelly continued. “These are the core kids. They are always there when something is going on, but we don’t often give these kids what they are seeking. They come to church wanting to know about deep issues, such as the end times, and all we say to them every week is ‘Jesus loves you.’ That’s important to know, but they’re ready to dig a little deeper.

“Finally, there are the multipliers, the inner circle of the group. If you just have one in your group you’re doing well. This is the kid who not only wants to grow personally, but who also wants to help other members of the group as well as reaching the lost.”

Often teachers struggle with how to move youth from the core to the multiplier stage. Kelly recommended raising the bar and waiting to see who jumps.

“A lot of the time, we’ll offer a small group Bible study that holds the kids to a higher level of accountability, and we let them know that God will do things in their lives, but it will cost them,” Kelly said. “Sometimes, kids we would have never thought of are the ones who take that step. It won’t be every kid, but if you can get the kids excited about jumping, other youth will want what they have. But be sure to keep in mind, we’re not moving the kids to the next level; the Holy Spirit is.”

Kelly also told conference participants about several youth resources that can be used for the different segments:

— “The Relationship Revolution: Understanding Why Friends Do What They Do” by Rodney Gage which can be utilized best in the core group. It teaches youth to recognize unmet needs in the lives of others as well as their own personal lives.

— “Team 412,” which can be used with crowds, such as Wednesday night large group meetings, and is primarily geared toward lost youth. It includes a variety of games as well as one-pointed biblical truths.

— “One Heart” by Ann Cannon, designed with Christian kids in mind and for a group setting. Key concepts of this interactive study include the meaning of being a member of the body of Christ; the significance of being on mission together; the importance of trust, loyalty and mutual regard; and the destructiveness of prejudice and cliques. Group learning and building activities are included.

— “Jesus on Leadership: Becoming a Servant Leader, Student Edition” by Gene C. Wilkes, from which multipliers would most likely benefit. It teaches about the practice of servant leadership and helps youth realize who they are in Christ and what kind of leaders they are called to be.

Such items can be purchased online at www.lifewaystores.com or by calling 1-800-448-8032.

Kelly also encouraged youth leaders to use a core-group discipleship study, encompassing personal Bible study, quiet time, class study and assignments to be completed one-on-one with other students.

“This kind of study will teach youth several things,” Kelly said. “First, they will learn the costs of letting Christ be Lord of their lives as they set priorities and make choices. They will also learn to be accountable to the other Christians in the group. Through personal Bible study they will learn more about Scripture, and the quiet time will teach them more about prayer.

“Youth also learn about spiritual warfare when doing core-group discipleship studies,” he said. “They will see in a very real way the effects of temptation and they will learn to rely on the Holy Spirit as they make eternal investments and build character.”

A study this intensive isn’t something a youth group can do in a few weeks. Kelly said he recommends starting as soon as the kids enter the youth group and building on it each year.

“I’m not just pushing products here,” Kelly said. “You can do everything I’ve talked about without buying a bunch of resources. Your best resource is the Holy Spirit. You just have to pour your life into the youth, and remember, this is not discipleship of you. This is discipleship of Jesus. Watch for kids who are hungry and looking for more.”

The National Sunday School Leadership event at LifeWay Ridgecrest is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information about this and other conferences, go to www.lifeway.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: KEEPING UP.

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  • Brandy Campbell