If things are going as they should, we should have new Christ-followers in our midst. Some ministries will have more than others but by the very nature of our role, we should be seeing teenagers come to faith in Christ, or getting serious about their faith for the first time. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years thinking about these new Christ-followers (I wrote a book specifically for new believers you can sample at the end of this post) and the spiritual needs they have.
New Christ-followers have at least four basic needs.
I want to pass these along to you in hopes that they help you think how your ministry might adapt to meet these needs.
To define these needs, we can look to the first picture of the 1st-century church we get in Acts 2:36-47. (After all, there were a ton of new believers after Peter’s Pentecost sermon!)
Need 1: New Christ-followers need to know God more and better
- Acts 2:42 – “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching . . .”
New believers need to know God more and better. They need to know God’s character, to understand the richness of what has happened to them. They need a grasp of foundational theological principles like salvation, forgiveness, and grace. They need an understanding of the Gospel. They need to know what it means to pursue Christ-likeness. They need to grow in their knowledge of God and His ways.
The same can be said for all of us. There is a lifetime of learning about God in front of us. Helping students grow in their faith starts with some pretty foundational truths. Their lives will be richer for it if they learn these truths at the beginning of their walk with the Lord.
Need 2: New Christ-Followers need to be with others Christ-followers doing what Christ-followers do.
- Acts 2:42 – 42 "They devoted themselves to . . . fellowship.”
- Acts 2:44 – "All the believers were together . . .”
- Acts 2:46 – “Every day they continued to meet together . . .”
One of the needs we have to make sure we’re providing for our new and young believers is a community. Surrounding them with other like-minded students. In the excellent book, “The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do,” author Charles Duhigg takes a fascinating look at the science behind behavior and change, especially as it pertains to how our brain breaks and creates habits. Duhigg notes that “when people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real.” Change is easier when it occurs within a community.
The new believer who joins a group of his or her peers who are living lives as Christ-followers, finds a living, breathing picture of this new life he or she has been called to. The change seems possible. This new life of devotion seems doable. It is, in essence, the group teaching the new believer “how” to believe.
I think it’s important to ask ourselves if our youth groups are communities that foster healthy spiritual growth for new and young believers. That’s a big question, right?
Need 3: New Christ-followers need to be shown the pathways that lead to God.
I’m talking about spiritual disciplines, or spiritual habits, or the practices that lead us to God. Acts 2:42 says the new believers in Jerusalem were "devoted to prayer." There’s a solid spiritual habit. Verse 46 says they met every single day. That’s a powerful commitment to worship, another spiritual discipline.
Spiritual habits such as prayer, Bible reading, worship, fasting, service, and so on, are the pathways through which we engage with God. These must be taught and modeled to new Christ-followers. These habits will inform their faith for a lifetime.
Need 4: New Christ-followers need real relationships with individuals who can walk through the beginning of their faith-life with them.
This is different than community. This is Christian friendship. Where do we see this in Acts 2? Check it out: Verse 46 says, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” I read friendship into this, I read this and I think small groups. Here’s why: Luke tells us that 3,000 people came to know Christ after Peter’s sermon. There is a reason to think even more have joined the ranks by this point. It’s easy for thousands of people to meet in the temple courts. But when it comes to homes, thousands won't work.
What I see happening is what I see happening in all of our groups. There are individuals within the group that develop a bond, just like there are groups within your group, where true friendship is born. Personal, real, friendships centered around Christ. Eugene Peterson wrote, “It is easier to find guides, someone to tell you what to do than someone to be with you in a discerning, prayerful companionship as you work it out yourself.” New believers need friends to walk with them as they put down the roots of their faith.
These are four needs I see in Scripture. There is no doubt more. But these four should get you thinking on the right path, for sure. What would you add to the list?
Editors Notes: This was originally posted in March 2015. It has been completely revamped and updated for consistency and relevancy.