Youth Ministry in Spirit and in Truth

But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. (John 4:23)

When Jesus spoke these words to a woman at a well in Samaria, He was answering a not-uncommon question that stood at the heart of an argument between Jews and Samaritans. According to Jews, the earthly centre of worship was in Jerusalem, while Samaritans held it to be on Mount Gerizim.

Meeting a man who seemed to be a prophet was too good a chance for the Samaritan woman to pass up: who was right?

As He often did, Jesus avoided answering the question but instead addressed a deeper issue: True worship is not confined to earthly matters of correct or incorrect practice – there is a spiritual dimension to it.

To understand the relevance of His answer to how we approach youth ministry, we need to understand that worship in the minds of both Jews and Samaritans was more than just an experience of joy or peace that came with the singing of praise songs.

Worship was about the procedures and regulations that took place at the temple as the priests went about their prescribed duties. This is what worship meant and this too what it meant to do ministry – to minister to the Lord.

The same “spirit and truth” principle, then, applies not only to our worship today but also to the way we approach Christian ministry.

Where the Church is Growing

It may be surprising to learn that the church is growing the fastest today in Iran and Afghanistan, while it is declining in the West. It raises a question: Why are those countries most rich in resources, conferences, Bible Colleges, etc. doing the poorest when it comes to the growth of the church?

Equally, how are churches with so little access to “truth”, growing so quickly?  Anyone who has studied this growth will tell you that it is due to a deep reliance on the Spirit – a faith in spiritual power and resources.

Our Western way of thinking influences how we approach ministry. We can’t help it. It’s not a criticism. Just an observation. Our culture is, generally speaking, a truth culture. We value information and facts. We’re drawn toward discovering seven easy steps. Our favourite question is “How?”: How do I do this? How can I make that happen?

We’re pragmatic. If we find a process or programme that works, we are likely to stick with it no matter what. Then, subconsciously, we start to rely on our truth more than we do the Spirit.

The solution for us in the West is not to forsake our truth. Biblical literacy and an understanding of good ministry practice are indispensable – but alone, they are not enough.

Spirit and Truth Youth Ministry

Youth ministry in spirit and in truth approaches youth ministry with Christ, the head of the Church, in His rightful place.

Instead of devising plans and strategies, it prayerfully seeks Him for direction and looks for confirmation before proceeding.

Instead of relying on eloquence, humour and passion to communicate truth, it prayerfully and humbly asks God to stir the hearts of the hearing, leading them into understanding and obedience.

Instead of using persuasion, guilt, or our own wisdom in offering pastoral care, it helps young people to discern God’s leading for themselves as together they pray and study Scripture.

This approach to youth ministry utilises all the advantages God has blessed us with while maintaining a complete reliance on God, to do through His Spirit, what He promises.

YOUTHTRAIN has a specific focus in the way it trains and coaches leaders. We aim to do more than give people information – as helpful as it might be. We show leaders how to implement truth by relying on God – not the truth itself. We will illustrate this further in subsequent blog posts.


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