The goal for all of our youth groups is that they would be more than just a group of friends. The goal is for our youth groups to become a thriving Christian Community. What's the difference? And how do we make this happen?

The good thing is that the Bible really helps us out here. (Imagine that!) The Bible gives us (at least) 7 characteristics of Christian Community. Let's take a closer look.

There are two passages in Scripture that show some of the unique distinctives of a true Christian Community, Acts 2:42-47 and Galatians 6:2. Let's look at Acts 2 first and see what characteristics emerge.

[42] And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [43] And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. [44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [45] And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. [46] And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, [47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

What can we learn from this passage about Christian Community? A lot.

1. Those in Christian Community devote themselves to growing in their faith.

Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching.” To see our youth groups become Christian Communities, our students need to be strongly committed to the actions and behaviors that bring them closer to God: Reading their Bibles. Praying. Worshiping. Serving. And so on.

2. Those in Christian Community experience God working through them and their friends.

Acts 2:43 says, "And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles." When your students act as a strong Christian Community in their city and school, they will be amazed at the doors God opens to them. They’ll have the opportunity to talk about Jesus and the difference He has made in their lives. They'll have the chance to show people how powerful God can be. And God will work through them to bring people to Himself.

3. Those in Christian Community selflessly serve others.

Acts 2:44 says, "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [45] And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need." Motivated by love for one another, the Jerusalem Christians couldn’t stand to see their brothers and sisters in any sort of need. If your youth group is to model a real Christian Community, your students should have hearts that seek to serve others and meet their needs.

4. Those in Christian Community are committed to growing their friendships.

Acts 2:42 says, "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship . . ." Acts 2:46 says, "And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes . . ." Christian fellowship is different than mere friendship. It’s Holy Spirit empowered and God ordained. A friend who also shares a love for Christ is a powerful friend! Your students need to be challenged to commit to growing closer to the friends in their group.

5. Those in Christian Community actively praise God together.

Acts 2:46-47 says, "[46] And day by day, attending the temple together . . . [47]praising God." This is an area most of our youth groups get right. Your goal is simply to continue to encourage and empower this to happen.

6. Those in Christian Community commit to growing their community.

Acts 2:46-47 says, "And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." Christian Communities aren't closed off. They are passionate about adding people to their numbers. This happens by sharing the Gospel in word and deed in their schools and in their communities. The goal is to bring non-believers to faith in Christ, and to wake up the faith in those people who may already know Jesus.

7. Those in Christian Community “bear each others burdens."

This characteristic comes from Galatians 6:2:

[2] Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Our students are weighed down by so many things. Ultimately, Jesus is the only one capable of perfectly removing the burdens we struggle under. But part of God's plan to help us deal with our struggles is Christ-followers in community with other Christ-followers. Your students can play a role in helping each other deal with the trials they all face.

So, this is a picture of Christian Community.

Is it an easy thing for you and your group to pursue? No. It takes commitment, transparency, selflessness, and a willingness to rely on the sanctifying work of the Spirit. But, this is how God designed us to interact with one another. He wants us to be in community with each other. And your youth group is fertile soil for this type of community to be born in.

What can you do to equip and empower your students to grow into a true Christian Community?