You know what I love? I love being in shape. I love how it makes me feel confident, and how I don’t want to pass out when I play sports. You know what I hate? Everything that it takes to get me there. Seriously. Running is SO good for me. I know this. I believe this. But you know what I’ve learned? I almost never accidentally end up running. I mean maybe if its raining. Or I think someone might get ahead of me in line for ice cream. Or maybe, maybe, if my kid’s about to fall down. But other than that, why would I ever just run?
And that’s the problem. I need to run to stay in shape, but it is not part of my normal routine. So to get the results I desire in my life, I need to create space for it – or else it will never just happen.
I also find this to be true about supernatural ministry at youth group. It rarely accidentally happens. But when we create space for it, we see great results. The reason for this is that so many other time-fillers compete for that space. If left to “accident” then the inertia of everything else just seems to take over. Games, conversations, teachings, and on and on. Maybe I’m different than you, but it seems to me that when push comes to shove, the things of the Spirit seem to be easily left behind.
So if passing on a culture of Partnering with the Holy Spirit and Experiencing and Worshiping God is a priority for our youth groups, how can we make sure it’s happening? I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are a few ideas I humbly submit to you. (To hear more I encourage you to register for the May 11 Webinar with Putty Putnam and myself!)
3 WAYS TO CREATE SPACE
Side note, don’t you wish you actually could create time! Ok – moving on. I am a firm believer that we need to create time in our meeting for this supernatural stuff to happen. And it starts with leadership. In your adult leadership meetings and teen leadership meetings, are you creating space for them to listen to God’s voice? And then your meeting format: where is God supposed to break in? Do you have time where your teens have a chance to regularly pray for each other? To pray for the sick? To try and hear God over each other? Now I know that how this is done can be tricky given the diversity of demographics we encounter at youth group. What if 50% of your group are not followers of Jesus yet? Then what?
There are no easy answers. I don’t claim to have a solution to every permutation. But I think the value of creating time in your meetings for God to move is worth negotiating not matter what demographic you work with. I think we err when we assume teens with little to no interest in the Spirit will be unaffected. I’m not saying be weird and in your face. But prayerfully consider how to create context for them to touch the supernatural. To see beyond the immediate.
I was at a conference this weekend and we had some extra time. I could tell that some kids were “done.” I felt like, however, we have them here, let’s do something. So I asked all the adults to go through the room with a – “no teen left unprayed for” policy. I then went for a group of kids who were laughing and clearly uninterested. I asked the kid who seemed to be the ring leader if I could pray for him. He consented. And God moved. I’m pretty sure the kid said something like, “Oh my God” after I finished. This isn’t about me – I’m just saying we can create contexts for even the hardest cases if we try.
I think it is equally important to let your group know, we expect God to speak to us. We expect God to move through us. But we don’t expect you to be perfect. I have some teens who come to youth group whose parents don’t come to church. They are fairly “uninitiated.” I’ve walked through some basic concepts on how to hear God with them, and then I just started asking them to pray for people. They don’t feel ready, but when I started neither did I! I love to hear them talk about what they hear from God and how it feels.
My teens know that every youth group we expect to pray for each other. Is every time amazing? Heck no. Sometimes its downright awkward and bad. Sometimes nobody wants prayer. But I feel like its important they know they can come to YG any time and get prayer if they need it. I try to vary how we practice this value – different topics, sometimes teens pray, sometimes adults pray, sometimes front of room, sometimes back of room – but the value stays in place.
Create a Knowledge Base
If we are going to create time and expectation but no knowledge base, we set teens up for frustration. I’m not saying they need to be experts, but building towards values is always important. I try to keep personal prayer ministry as a routine focus of teachings and discussions. At least once a year I do some refresher lessons on hearing God’s voice. I also purposefully include stories of supernatural stuff in my teachings and testimonies. I think this just “seeds” it into their mental space as a definite regular part of being a follower of Jesus.
Don’t Give Up
Let me end by saying I believe in you! These are just suggestions. As you are led by the Spirit, you will find the best ways to create space for this for your group. You know your group better than I do. And the work you are doing is so valuable. Keep it up – and don’t forget: you aren’t alone! Reach out if you feel over your head ever. Trust me, I lean on my youth worker friends all the time. We are all here for you!