7 courageous decisions that every youth leader must make in a post-pandemic world

Greg Stier
Greg Stier
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Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

You and your teenagers have just faced down the biggest pandemic in the last hundred years. It’s time to saddle up. It’s time to be strong and courageous. It’s time to make some decisions about your youth ministry in a post pandemic world.

Great trauma and produce great change if you make great decisions in the aftermath. It’s time to make those great decisions.

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Here are seven courageous decisions that every effective youth leader must make in a post pandemic world.

1.  The courageous decision to become a serious intercessor

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.”  1 Timothy 2:1

In the words of Louie Giglio we must put some super on our natural. We must call in divine power to demolish human strongholds. We must depend on God to bring our teens back and set them on fire for Christ like never before.

Without youth pastors interceding on behalf of their teenagers (and recruiting others to join them) youth ministry stands no chance. But with praying youth pastors and the “Air Force” they’ve recruited, youth ministry can become an unstoppable force for the kingdom.

How much time do you spend in prayer for your teenagers every week? Do you have a strategy to get others praying for your teenagers as well? Is every middle school and high school covered in prayer by both students and adults? Check out The Pray for Me Campaign, Moms in Prayer and Claim your Campus for great resources and strategies to prioritize prayer for the next generation.

2.  The courageous decision to mobilize your teenagers for evangelism

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….” Romans 1:16

There is innate power in the Gospel message to heal broken lives and bring spiritually dead teenagers back to life. But, in this post pandemic, and increasingly post-Christian world, your teenagers must be mobilized to reach their unreached friends on their own turf. Sure, there are lost teens who will come to your youth group if invited, but more and more need to be reached while at their own schools and within their friend group. That means that you must inspire, equip and unleash your Christian teens to reach their friends, classmates and teammates for Jesus.

When Jesus said to his young disciples, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19) he was forever linking evangelism to the discipleship process. So, if you’re serious about discipling your teens you should get them sharing the Gospel with their peers as soon as humanly possible.

The ministry I lead, Dare 2 Share has tons of tools, events and curriculum to help you equip your teenagers to share their faith. Start by having your teens download our free app, Life in 6 Words. If they can swipe and read they can share the Gospel using this one-of-a-kind app.

3.  The courageous decision to invest in a few

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”  Matthew 10:1

Instead of primarily investing in the crowds, Jesus invested in the few. Sure, he ministered to the crowds but he poured his life into a handful of serious young leaders whom he chose to be his disciples. 

It was those disciples who carried on his work and led the movement after he was gone.  Here’s what Luke wrote in Acts 4:13 about two of the few he had invested in for 3 1/2 years, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

This means developing a high caliber student leadership team filled with teenagers who don’t just set up the chairs for your youth group meeting but fill those chairs with the friends they are seeking to reach for Christ. These teenagers are the bar you are setting for the rest of your youth group. They are the ones you and your high caliber team of adult volunteers (who, of course, should be modeling a Gospel Advancing life as well) are investing in on a regular basis.

Investing in these key student and adult leaders should be a HIGH priority in this post-pandemic season of ministry. Without them you have little to no opportunity of making a massive impact on your youth group.

Like Jesus, minister to the crowds but pour your life into the few.

4.  The courageous decision to focus of, not just making, but multiplying disciples

 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”  2 Timothy 2:2

Do you have a disciple multiplication strategy for your youth ministry? It’s crucial because it is the only way the tide will be turned and the “revolution in youth ministry” will take place!

Barna calls this generation of teenagers (Generation Z) the first post-Christian generation in the history of the United States. Sadly, the trajectory of the rejection of the historic Christian faith is skyrocketing. And the traditional “additional” strategies (i.e. “bring your friends to youth group“) will never close the gap.

We need an exponential strategy that focuses on multiplying disciples relationally, not just adding converts through events. This means our teenagers must be equipped, not just to evangelize, but disciple their own friends, at their own schools.

The same strategy that Jesus employed with his disciples can be employed today. For help doing this, check out the resources from my friends at Sonlife. Their 4 Chair discipling strategy is ripped straight from the ministry of Jesus and is hard to beat when it comes to being Biblical, relevant and effective with both teenagers and adults alike.

5.  The courageous decision to get a bold vision for your youth ministry.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

Do you have a bold vision for the teenagers in your community? Do you know how many high schoolers and middle schoolers are in your city? Do you have a strategy to reach them (including working together with other youth leaders in your community to make sure every last teenager has every last chance to hear the Gospel from a friend?)

The last and lasting mandate of Jesus was to be his witnesses in his power in three places; across the street (Jerusalem), across the tracks (Samaria) and across the world (the ends of the earth.)

What’s your bold vision for all three? For help in reaching teenagers in the public school check out everyschool.com for some amazing resources.

Get a bold vision on every level. And unite with other youth leaders to carry it out! Talk to my friends at the National Network of Youth Ministries to help you find or build a Gospel Advancing network near your!

6.  The courageous decision to start measuring the right things.

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” William Bruce Cameron

What do you count that counts? As someone once said, “We measure what we treasure.” What do you treasure in youth ministry?

Far too often attendance numbers is the top measure. But there are far more Biblical measures of true impact. Here are a few of them:

New Conversion Growth (NCG): This measure deals with what percentage of your youth group came to faith in Christ as a direct result of your youth ministry efforts and/or your teenagers reaching their peers for Christ. This points back to Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” I’m convinced that NCG is one of the best measures of ministry impact.

Baptisms: The original measure of ministry growth was water baptism. In the early church, baptism was the induction ceremony that proclaimed you were part of “Team Jesus” now and forevermore. The great thing about early church baptisms is that they didn’t take place hidden away in a church filled with fellow believers, they were public events held in public places.

Active Gospel Sharing: Another great measure of ministry impact is the percentage of teenagers actively sharing their faith. This measure ensures that the teenagers have ownership of the growth of the youth ministry. They are actively participating in the process of making disciples because they are sharing their faith with their peers, not just inviting them out to youth group. One of the great things about this measure is that it has a spiritual maturation impact as well. Teenagers who share their faith more consistently grow in their faith more deeply (Philemon 6.)

What is getting done in your youth ministry? Are lives being changed and souls being saved? Are disciples being made and multiplied? Are you measuring the things that count?

7.  The courageous decision to program your priorities.

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  Acts 6:2-4

When we spend more time in announcements than we do in intercessory prayer we are making a statement to our teenagers. When we program camp every year but never program evangelism training for our teenagers, again, we are making a statement. 

What is that statement? “We may list prayer, evangelism and disciple-making as key values here at XYZ youth ministry, but those aren’t really our highest priorities.”

The proof of our priorities is what actually gets programmed. DL Moody once said, “I can tell more about a person’s spiritual life by their checkbook than their prayer book.” In the same way, I can tell more about a youth leader’s priorities by their Wednesday night rundown sheet, weekly schedule and annual calendar than by the mission statement and values they have listed on their website.

Camp is fine and games are fun, but what we must make sure we make room for our highest priorities. Maybe its a time to take a look at Lead The Cause this summer. It will help you and your student/adult leaders to make a game plan to program your priorities (while having a blast in the process!)

2021 is the Year to choose COURAGE!

It’s time to break free of the hesitation and fear that have entangled so many during this pandemic and be courageous! It’s time to make these 7 courageous decisions! Begin with prayer and move down the list slowly and methodically. Think crawl, walk, run. Think of pacing yourself for a marathon (instead of running a sprint!)

These values are ripped straight from the Gospels and the book of Acts and are as relevant today as when they were first penned 2,000 years ago.

If you want some encouragement and equipping on how to do this effectively download a free digital copy of my book, Gospelize Your Youth Ministry. Take your leadership team through it!  Use your leadership meetings to watch the free videos that go along with each chapter of the book and then unpack how to implement these decisions together in your particular youth ministry context.

Be bold and courageous!

Saddle up and ride!

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