When I was growing up I had many youth leaders that were single females, but never had the advantage of having a youth minister with a wife. Now here I am and I am the youth minister's wife and I am wondering what I can give to these girls that those youth leaders were never able to give to me. Looking back, I realized that more than anything I wanted a strong, godly female to take me under her wing, to spend time with me, to love me, and to disciple me. I think that I would have given almost anything to have that kind of influence in my young life! When I met Jimmy I loved the way that he would combine the discipleship, love, and time into one technique and that's when I began to realize that time and love are inseparable parts of what discipleship is. In fact, they are the languages in which the lessons of discipleship are communicated!
What is Discipleship?
As I thought about discipleship and what it means to be discipled, I would get the dictionary definition of discipleship. According to Dictionary.com (because who has a real dictionary these days), the use of discipleship as a verb is obsolete! I couldn't believe it! I mean it literally says, "–verb (used with object) Obsolete. to teach; train." Do we really disciple so little that the very use of the word discipleship has become obsolete. What a shame.
Of course when you are looking for an example of what discipleship is what better example than we have than Jesus. I mean where do you think the word discipleship comes from? When Jesus called His 12 disciples, He called them to live life with Him. It wasn't a meeting that they had once a week for an hour or only on the Sabbath -- it was a life lived together, teachable moments, and so much more. So let's break it down and look at the two key ways that discipleship lessons can be communicated to your students.
Discipling with TIME
I have heard it said that once you have spent 10,000 of deliberate practice in your field; you can officially call yourself an expert. As Christians we should desire to be experts at following Christ, and as youth workers and spouses we should want our students to become experts in following Christ as well. I would hazard to guess that by now most of us realize that the majority of teenagers (and some adults) are way to commit 10,000 hours to anything other than video games and TV without someone else helping and encouraging them. This is where discipling with TIME comes into play.
When you spend time with someone you are building a lasting and influential relationship. If someone who you spend lots of time with asks you to do something or not to do something you are more likely to follow through than if some complete stranger asks you to do it. Why do you think that so many teenagers have problems with peer pressure? If you want to make an impact in the lives of your teens, you need to spend time with them outside of the church. Go out to eat. Go to the movies. Have them over for dinner. Spend some 1 on 1 time with them (or 1 on 2 if your spouse is available to hang out too). Let them know that they aren't lost in the crowd. They are important and you do care about them. I realize that it isn't possible to spend 1 on 1 time with every single student, but with a little prayer and observation God will show you the ones that will really benefit from the time you invest in them. Use the life moments and memories you experience together to teach them about what it means to live your life as a Christian outside of church. Show them how you deal with things like death or births or whatever life throws your way. The most important thing is that you are investing TIME in them. Now let's talk about LOVE.
Discipling with LOVE
I would hazard a guess that 99.9% of us have heard the saying "LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E" and now you're thinking "Didn't we just talk about time?". That's right we did so the great news is that you are getting a 2-for-1 deal today! Isn't that awesome! The reason I pull this out separately is that I want you to focus just a moment on the words you use to communicate must be words of love. Ephesians 4:15 says, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Without words of love we won't mature mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. God designed love to be the fertilizer of our lives. It helps us to grow big and strong and to produce fruitful crops. Words of love are vitally important to our survival!
The best thing about using words of love is that even when you have hard truths or corrections to communicate, when you use words of love the situation has the potential to come to a positive end. SO I encourage you to spend time telling your youth how great they really are. Encourage their potential. Speak the truth in love. Don't use negative nicknames or tear them down just because you can. Take time to grow and mature the seeds of potential that God has planted in their lives. Come on you can do it! It just takes a little genuine love.