Do you have a purpose statement that guides your youth ministry philosophy? If you don't, or even if you do, Paul passes along a pretty good one in the course of his letter to the Colossians. Now, Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Paul does such an amazing job of packing so much deep theology into such a succinct book. Colossians 1:9-10 is a great example.
As I was reading it recently, I was struck by these verses. I realized they provide a pretty solid scriptural description of our purpose as youth workers.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.--Colossians 1:9-10
See? I think these verses summarize the purpose of our calling.
Let me show you what I mean:
Engaging With God Through the Bible
Paul says his prayer for the Colossians is that they would be "filled with the knowledge of God's will," and that this knowledge would be a full, well-rounded knowledge. Isn't this your prayer for your students? The knowledge of God and His desires for us is the foundation of students' faith lives. This knowledge is the wisdom that comes from knowing God by engaging with the Bible. I believe your primary goal as a youth worker is helping students love God and know God. This happens most completely through meeting Him in His Word.
But it's not just teaching scriptural concepts. Teaching students to live it out is key. And Paul already knew this.
The Living Out of God's Ways
Teaching students the Bible outside of life change isn't enough. We must help them live it out. We must help them apply it. Paul says our knowledge of God leads to a life that is pleasing to God, where the individual "bears fruit in every good work." If I asked you what you want for your students, if I asked you what your goal is for them, wouldn't your answer be along these lines? Don't you do what you do so that your students will live transformed lives? Paul says the knowledge of God leads to godly living. (Pretty simple, huh?)
I love the way Paul ends it. He describes a process of growing in knowledge so that our lives would be fruitful . . . so that we can in turn continue to grow in knowledge! It's a process. When I read this in the context of a purpose statement for youth ministry, I see this part of the verse as speaking to the lives your students live beyond your ministry. If you help your students grow in the knowledge of the Lord, and encourage and promote godly living, you are in a sense working alongside other influencers to help these students lay a foundation. This foundation will be built upon for years and years as your students go off to college, get married, and raise families of their own.
The process repeats itself. Knowledge, application, knowledge. Over and over again.
So, my prayer for us all is that we would be faithful in leading the students in our ministries, so that EACH of them live lives pleasing to the Lord, WALKING according to His ways, bearing FRUIT in their lives, and GROWING in their love and knowledge of Him!
Not a bad purpose statement, is it?
Here are a few resources to help you in this area: