God has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6)
A great danger we face in youth ministry is presenting the gospel as an exercise in sin management and elimination. The tendency is to want to tell people in our preaching and our pastoral care to “try harder”.
The results of such efforts often lead to a twofold outcome.
The first outcome is seen in the lives of those we lead, producing a bias toward growing either legalistic believers or guilt-ridden dropouts. No one can keep all the rules so people tend to either focus on those they can keep and compare themselves with those who can’t, or they simply give up, realising that giving in to sin is easier than resisting it.
The second outcome manifests itself in the lives of those who lead. Unable, or unwilling to admit their own failure, they oscillate between feelings of hypocrisy within themselves, and frustration toward those they lead.
Either way, the result is spiritual death, whereas the covenant we are called to be ministers of, is one of spiritual life (2 Corinthians 3:6)
The tendency to choose rules over life is as old as the Garden of Eden. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil has a certain attraction. If belief in God is reduced to what I can and can’t do, I maintain a degree of control over my own destiny, and my need and reliance upon God is diminished.
When I eat from that tree I become separated from God and when I minister to others from that same tree they experience the same result.
How then are we to “minister life” under the new covenant?
Put simply, our role is not to constantly tell young people to "live right", but to help them experience and live in accordance with the Life God has placed within them. Instead of having them focus on their sin, we teach them to focus on God.
The question we should be asking as we lead young people is not “How can I get them to stop sinning?” but “How can I help them draw closer to God?”
We have all had the experience of being so full of God and so close to Him, that the power of the temptations we face begins to melt in the face of the spiritual Life beating strongly within us. This is the impact when we receive Life.
Ministering Life to young people, therefore, is teaching them to grow in their love of God as they worship Him and experience His grace and forgiveness for themselves. It is spending time together reading His Word and learning to hear and follow His voice. It is praying for them and over them and listening to God on their behalf. It is helping them develop a deep and abiding relationship with Him that far transcends any determination they might muster to simply obey the rules.
Rule-keeping will only work for so long. Relationship through spiritual vitality is what leads to lifelong disciples.
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.
View also our free resource of the month: A Call to Worship, which you can download, copy and give to your young people.