What does it take to shepherd the youth at Congregational Bible Church and in the community of Shafter with Bible based purpose and pastoral care? This important question is on the forefront of my mind as I begin this exciting season of my life as youth pastor here at Congregational Bible Church.
As it is with all the ministries in the church, youth ministry needs a clear purpose statement. Christian youth ministry exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ, shepherding the youth to mature into devoted, committed, and serving Christian adults. This purpose statement follows the charge of the Great Commission and of pastoral ministry (Matt 28:19-20; Eph 4:11; 1 Pet 5:2-4).
The following are specific areas of youth ministry that will be pursued under the purpose statement:
Expositional Bible Teaching. The main ministry of the church as a whole, and of the youth group specifically, is the diligent teaching and preaching of the Word of God. Youth ministry centers on Bible teaching and preaching that is understandable to this age group, which creates a discipleship atmosphere where young men and women learn, are challenged to live in accordance with God’s Word, and are encouraged to grow into mature Christian adulthood (Ps 119:9; Prov 1-9; Matt 28:19-20). The expounding of the Bible provides the truth that edifies and matures young Christians into Christian adulthood. Commitment to expositional teaching instructs on the authority of the Bible, how the Bible is to be interpreted and applied, theology, and the teachings of Christ, which will cultivate devoted, committed, and mature Christ followers. Such a commitment to in-depth and comprehensive Bible preaching and teaching is my commitment and charge as youth pastor.
Discipleship. Discipleship is the formation of relationships between Christians with the intention of helping believers grow in maturity as committed followers of Jesus Christ. Disciples are followers who desire to learn more about the teachings of Jesus Christ and want to obey and to skillfully apply His teachings to every area of life. Discipleship relationships will be intentionally fostered in youth ministry between students and more mature believers. Adult volunteers are always welcome, and student leaders are always being mentored, bearing the fruit of mature followers of Jesus Christ who continue in lifelong faithful Christian commitment and service (Matt 28:19-20).
Peer Fellowship. Discipleship happens continually in the life of the church and during every meeting and activity of the youth group. It is vital for young Christians to have peers to fellowship within Christian community in similar stages of life. Peer fellowship helps the youth to mature in the Christian faith by offering the encouragement and edification of peers. Youth ministry serves to intentionally foster these relationships between students during youth group, special events, and Sunday service. As youth pastor, it is my special concern to facilitate meetings and events that balance enjoyable recreation and focused times of ministering the Word of God, but with peer fellowship in mind; every moment of both contribute to growing Christian community and relationships.
Church Attendance and Service. Participation in youth group will always be presented as the first step in membership and service to the church as a whole. Students will be taught that being a Christian means being a part of the body of Christ, meaning they are vital members united to all those who proclaim Christ and are committed to assembling together as a local congregation. Students will be taught that God has established Congregational Bible Church as their family of faith in which they are to participate in and serve regularly. Those involved in service in youth ministry will be encouraged to help students to regularly attend church service and events in terms of offering rides. Youth ministry will strive to be integrated and not segregated when it comes to the connection, attendance, participation, and service the youth have in the church body (Heb 10:24-25).
Evangelism. Youth ministry is one of the most fertile fields for sowing the seed of the Gospel message and gathering in a harvest of saved souls and transformed lives. As youth pastor, I long to see young people trust in Jesus Christ personally so that they are born again, redeemed, and spiritually healed, and great joy comes when they then go on to live as witnesses to a dead, lost, and broken world. It is understood that many who may attend youth group do not have any background in understanding the Gospel message. Believing students are encouraged to bring their unbelieving friends to youth group or certain events for the purpose of evangelism. Proclamation of the Gospel will be central: leaders will be equipped to share the Gospel; students will become equipped to share the Gospel; and all those who attend are encouraged and welcomed to ask questions about the Gospel message (John 3:16; Rom 1:16-17; 1 Cor 15:3-4).
In the end, shepherding the youth is fundamentally the same as ministering the Word of God to saints of Congregational Bible Church of all ages, but with special care for the specific needs, levels of understanding, and various stages of maturity of young people. My heart as a pastor is challenged to be engaged in the work of the ministry to such a precious group of people, shepherding them from first-faith to a firm and vibrant faith that brings glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- Pastor Spencer Carpenter