A Practical Guide to Spiritually Powerful Ministry
By Dennis Miller • Church Development, Inc. • Edina, Minnesota
Very few individuals in ministry would want to admit that their objectives are tied to the execution of programs without regard to God’s grace being ministered in people’s lives. They would not admit that their ministry programs are focused on making themselves look successful. Most youth professionals are prone to say that the changed lives of their students is their objective, when in reality they seldom consider such changes as part of their planning process.
There is really only one reasonable common goal for all youth ministry-the student! Not students of any kind, but students who are growing toward maturity in Jesus Christ. The desire to develop discipled students should be the most important force that drives our concept of effective leadership. We believe that if you think relationally, get excited about the appropriate things, use failure to teach and balance the students’ strengths and weaknesses, students will develop to be more like Christ.
Terminal or Relational Thinking
Lets consider two different thinking styles, terminal and relational. Terminal thinking means the teachings and activities are not related to any ultimate objective. For example, you are planning an ice cream social. “Why are you doing it?” “Because we need a social.” “Why do you need a social?” “I don’t know. Because the students seem restless, so let’s have one,” you answer.
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Relational thinking is teachings and activities that do relate to an ultimate objective. For example: “We are having a social.” “Really? Why are you having it?” “To help develop the quality of openness in students.” “Oh, how are you going to use a social to do that?” “The social will provide a place for my mature students to start building relationships with friends and talk about Christ.”
Your partnership with the Holy Spirit is enhanced when you plan all activities to develop qualities in students. This practice will help you evaluate
whether your programs are being used effectively: maybe some programs should be set aside or changed. If all the activities you do relate to specific objectives, such as developing qualities in students, then you are thinking relationally.
This brings us to one of the foundational values of ministry: what you do is not what matters, but how you use what you do. In order to use what we do effectively, we need an objective—such as developing qualities in students.
Several years ago, a large well-known church on the west coast developed a progressive and uncharacteristically large youth ministry. The youth group was involved in some incredible projects: summer missions in France, picketing of local bars and porno shops. One day I received a call from one of the pastors concerning his son. It seems his teenager was no longer having any form of quiet time with the Lord. Would I come help?
Several days later as we sat in the pastor’s living room, he recounted the many spiritual activities his son had led or participated in through the years. He explained that his son graduated from high school ten months before, and was now pursuing a career in music with several other Christians. His times with God had become more and more frustrating until he was finally desperate enough to cry out for help.
“Why did he say he was frustrated? “I asked.
“He couldn’t decide where to begin reading,” was the father’s confused response.
“Did you ask him to explain?”
“Yes. He said he had always been told where to read and what to read.”
I think I know the problem. The leader had been thinking terminally. The church’s leaders were more concerned about getting their students to have their quiet times rather than teaching them how to have contact with God on their own.
This represents terminal thinking because the focus was on completing a required task, rather than on enabling students to communicate with God. Just completing the leader’s task left no life- changing habits with the students, including the pastor’s son. Teaching them to communicate with God could have prepared the son for a lifetime of divine discovery.
When we allow ourselves to think terminally, it is our students who suffer the most. They may do everything we ask them to, only to walk away ill- equipped to think for themselves and to live the Christian life on their own. Relational thinking is not a luxury; it is a key to facilitating spiritual health and growth. Simply put, a student will develop his own ministry when the leader gets excited about the right things. Too often we get excited about the peripheral issues. The one major objective is to see students become supernatural followers of Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives.
©1988 by J Dennis Miller, President of Church Development, Inc.
Chapter Nine: Use Discipleship Principles pp 167-168. Used by permission.