I loved gazing toward the sky as a child (and still do). I’d look for planes flying by and puffy clouds forming off in the distance. It was always fun to lie in the grass with a friend and point out which puffs looked like what.
Ooh, that one’s a puppy! Do you see the sailboat over there? Check that one out! It looks like Spiderman swinging from a building!
We knew we were daydreaming no matter how much our excitement grew. While the cloud formations were real, what we saw was all in our imagination. The shapes we made in our minds never became reality (which is a good thing, because once I saw an elephant the size of Texas!).
When it comes to making disciples, how much of your energy is spent dreaming without actually multiplying followers of Christ?
Matthew 28:18-20 says: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Lord’s power-filled words to His disciples in the Great Commission were spoken as a command, not a promotion of wishful thinking. His church can’t dream disciples into existence; they must be made. If you believe this, watch this video and keep reading.
Three Shifts + One Big Step to Start Disciple-Making
To help you move forward in your mission as a ministry, here are three significant shifts and one step you can take to stop disciple-dreaming and start disciple-making.
Shift #1: Stop Focusing on Scapegoats & Follow Christ First
Every children’s and youth ministry faces similar challenges—lack of leaders, disengaged families, limited budgets, and far-from-perfect curriculum, just to name a few. It’s tempting to presume that disciple-making would miraculously happen if the scapegoats moved on to other pastures. Unfortunately, no ministry makes disciples. The forging process happens as individuals become increasingly like Jesus in community.
If you want to see kids of all ages trust and follow Christ for a lifetime, the first thing—and best thing—to do is put your attention back on God, to the program you’re running. Hebrews 12:1-2 is a great reminder for children’s and youth ministries. When your feel scapegoats trying to hold you back, fix your eyes on Jesus as one of His beloved disciples first. Then, ask Him to give you the courage needed to lead your ministry with renewed focus.
Shift #2: Move Past Pain Points & Align Mission with Action
Anytime you set a system in motion it will result in ongoing maintenance. Your car needs routine oil changes. Walls in high traffic areas of your home need repainting from time to time. And, unless you’re happy with super long hair, you need a haircut once in a while. Why then do we expect our children’s and youth ministry programs to run flawlessly without regular attention to the processes in place?
You have the power to make changes when something in your ministry is working against disciple-making. Volunteer burn out is one issue that often rises to the surface. Surprisingly, setting up a complicated leader rotation schedule may not be the solution. Volunteers stop feeling valuable when they only show up once in a while. The result? They quit more easily, kids and families have a hard time developing deep roots with leaders, and the risk of burn out by whoever’s in charge of the serving calendar goes up!
My recommendation for you is this: Rally a team to evaluate the current strengths and weaknesses of your current children’s and youth ministry program. The pain points will never go away; effectiveness always requires an investment of resources and effort. However, you can change things up so that your mission of making disciples starts happening in the actions you prioritize.
Shift #3: Give Up on Quick Fixes & Dive into True Relationships
Would you like a quick web search to give you a plug ‘n play solution for your growing list of children’s and youth ministry needs? If this is the case, you’re not alone. Of course, you’re also not alone in knowing that you need to adapt any resource you adopt for your church and community. While it’s fine to daydream about discovering the perfect tool for disciple-making ministry, there really is no substitute for eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, life-on-life relationships.
Disciple-makers multiply themselves when they dive deep into highly biblical and highly relational ministry centered on Christ. This approach is fundamental to disciple-making, and especially in the ministry of Awana. Followers of Jesus can’t be mass-produced. Just as the Lord built into a few that built into a few more (and so on), you can mirror His approach in your children’s and youth ministry. Setting up small groups is a start, but what you’re really looking for is leaders that will live out truth in relationship with kids of all ages and multiply them to do the same.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” How can you and your team start sharing the gospel and your lives more deeply with whomever your ministry reaches? Get some momentum going by watching Awana’s AMC 2016 keynote video, Tap into Truth in Relationship, together.
One Big Step: Engage Your Team at Vantage 2017
At Awana, we’re serious about equipping leaders to reach kids with the gospel and engage them in lifelong discipleship. We host an annual onsite and live-stream conference that equips ministry leaders. Our desire is that it will lead to more kids coming to know, love, and serve Christ. Check out these highlights from last year and hear what participants had to say about their experience at Vantage.
Are you and your team is passionate about making disciples—or want to be? Join Awana for MAKE at Vantage on April 7, 2017. Click Here to find out more and to register.
The next time a cloudy patch of sky catches your ministry eye, remember to move beyond disciple-dreaming to disciple-making. Make a lifelong investment in kids and youth by making these three shifts and taking one big step today.