Last week, I posted the first post in a three-part series on three things that need to be a big part of our youth ministries. Today, we’ll cover grace.
Grace is one of those words that is so familiar to us—at least those of us in church circles—that we read right over it when we see it. Oh, yeah, grace. Of COURSE that’s a part of our youth ministry, because we believe in that whole saved-by-grace thing. But grace is not a part of your youth ministry or church just because it’s in your statement of faith. If we don’t insist on grace being a part of our youth ministries, then our youth ministries will simply become grace-less. It’s not that we don’t believe grace is important; we just assume it’s there, and we forget to constantly be a community where grace infiltrates everything we do. Here’s how to make sure grace is a big part of your youth ministry:
Give and receive grace as a person. Do you really believe that God’s love for you and Jesus’ work on the cross is a gift? Or is there a part of you that believes you’re just a little better than other people because you stay away from certain headline-grabbing sins? If your youth ministry is going to be characterized by the seems-too-good-to-be-true grace of Jesus, you have to really believe that without that grace, you are lost, dead, and hopeless. And once you believe that, you need to be a daily giver of grace to others. I’m not talking about a little trickle; I’m talking about your life being so characterized by grace that people think you’re nuts. Really. It’s tough for your youth ministry to be a place where teenagers learn about what grace really is if it’s leader is not the kind of person who knows much about it.
Be ridiculously loving to difficult people. If I asked you if there were any difficult people you interact with in your ministry, chances are at least a few teenagers and parents would come to mind. You’re not leading much of a grace-filled youth ministry if only the people you like get the best treatment. A way you can practice being a grace-filled leader is to love those who get on your nerves as well as those you enjoy being around.
Teach and preach on God’s grace every chance you get. The reason we show grace to others is because we first received grace from God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Don’t assume that the teenagers (or leaders) you speak to on a weekly basis already understand grace, even those who have grown up in church. It’s often those of us who have spent a lot of time in church that need to be reminded about God’s grace most often.
Make your church and youth ministry a home for those who have been rejected elsewhere. We live in a graceless world. Most—if not all—teenagers in your community and neighborhoods have experienced rejection from others because they were deemed to be not “good enough” in some way. Some may have even been rejected by a church in their past. Jesus tended to hang out with and lavish love on men and women who had been rejected. His followers are called to do the same, however inconvenient it might seem at the time.
How else can we lead and grow grace-filled youth ministries?
UPDATE: You can read Part 3 (Love) here.