Published on May 5, 2023 by Cameron Cole  

Forgetting our assets in ministry can be costly. It’s a recipe for certain failure.

I can remember watching helplessly as the opponent ran the football down the throat of my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide for a full half of football. Georgia had a great running game that my team could not stop. At halftime, beating the Bulldogs seemed impossible. But in the second half, for some reason, Georgia abandoned the running game. They passed the ball instead.

I kept on saying to myself, “Why are they not running the ball? We cannot stop their running game. If they run it, they win.” The path to victory appeared obvious to fans, but they lost focus. They quit running the ball, and Alabama surprisingly came back to win.

In ministry to young people, a similar tendency can occur. At the end of the day, every volunteer, parent, and paid youth pastor has the same desire: to see kids follow and come alive in Christ. There is no pursuit of earthly glory; for everyone, it’s all about making lasting disciples.

Simultaneously, people often stray away from our greatest assets in making disciples: the Bible. We can get caught up in doing things to increase numbers. We can exhaust our time trying to manufacture the most fun or emotionally transcendent experience. There’s nothing wrong with having fun and connecting emotionally with God. However, when that becomes the focus, we can minimize the centrality of the word of God. Fun and emotions are not inherently bad. Still, in and of themselves, neither have any power to make disciples apart from the word of life.  

Minimizing the word can occur when we prioritize fun and experiences. However, it also can occur when lessons involve one verse that is loosely engaged, and the lessons revolve around stories and life lessons. Again, stories and life lessons can be great. Nevertheless, the person students really need to hear from is the Lord God Almighty, who speaks through scripture and his Holy Spirit.

The Bible refers to itself as “living and active, a double-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It is the very thing through which we live (Mt. 4:4). It is “the truth” (Jn. 17:17). It is the thing that “stands forever” (Ps. 119: 105). It is the means by which a “young man keeps his way pure” (119:9). It is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

In the Great Commission, when Christ calls his followers to “make disciples of all nations,” teaching the word stands in the middle of his exhortation. Quite simply, scripture carries the transforming power of God. Does it guarantee that every person who hears God’s word will respond, repent, and believe? No. Simultaneously, centering ministry to students on scripture employs our greatest, most powerful asset in the transformation of kids’ lives.

Centering ministry on God’s word does not simply mean citing some Bible verses here and there in lessons. It means working through passages of scripture inductively and deriving points from what the text says. Even better, making a practice of teaching through books of the Bible from beginning to end has incredible power and also helps to make our students into people of the Word.

The message is clear: do not abandon the running game! By that I mean, stick to our God-given strength. Make the inductive teaching of God’s word the staple and foundation of your ministry.

Cameron Cole has ministered for eighteen years in youth and family ministry at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama. He presently serves as the Director of Children, Youth, and Family. He is the founding chairman of Rooted: Advancing Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry, a youth ministry organization that works to transform youth ministry by forming Gospel-centered student ministry leaders and parents. Rooted hosts a national conference and provides podcasts, a blog, regional groups, curriculum, mentoring, and video training. Rooted is the most prolific producer of youth and family content in the world. He co-hosts the podcast, Rooted Parent, which talks about parenting out of the “peace of the gospel, the wisdom of scripture, and the grace of Jesus.”

We invite you to hear more from Cameron at Animate Extra: Faithfully Rooted Student Ministry on June 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Regions Room (Brock School of Business, Cooney Hall 400). This Animate Adult Track extended session is included in Animate registration but is also open as a stand-alone event for community ministry leaders and parents of teenagers. Special guest Cameron Cole will share from Rooted Ministry’s wealth of resources to empower and equip youth ministers and parents to faithfully disciple students toward life-long faith in Jesus Christ.

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