Embodied Youth Ministry
For the longest time since becoming a follower of Jesus, I have wondered what caused my heart to become awakened to Jesus through such a simple process. I had heard truth in church, as my parents forced me to go week after week despite my complaints. But the truth did not connect. The truth of the good news about Jesus did not connect until experiencing a week of authentic community at the end of high school with a cabin of guys in Virginia. We opened up sharing our real selves with no filters and also experienced a feeling of family. Jesus was shared every day that week, but I experienced more than abstract truth about Jesus. I experienced truth embodied through my leader and those I shared life with that week.
Truth through Actions
Young people deserve more than truth proclaimed to them through words. Young people, many of which have not experienced authentic love by the church, need to experience truth embodied through Christians demonstrating unconditional love towards them.
Jesus’ time on earth was the breaking in of the truth into the present, in a real body. In other words, God revealed himself not through distance but through entering the messiness of a sin-filled world through Jesus. Perhaps what makes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus so powerful is that the way God chose to save came about not through abstract ideas and distance but through this act of coming so close to creation that the divine became one with creation. As Jesus is the truth embodied, youth ministers ought to practice embodying truth to their students.
Truth through Humility
Youth pastors must get rid of any kind of superiority complex they might have toward their students and rather get low toward students, entering the messiness of students’ lives even when it becomes the most difficult.
Oftentimes youth pastors assume that what will change their youths’ lives is their clever, well-delivered talk filled with truth. But in reality what ends up changing a youth’s life more powerfully is consistently loving them from a place of closeness, rather than a place of distance.
From a place where the truth about Jesus that once felt distant becomes close through being embodied by the church. Through experiencing the authentic embrace of a community that will never give up on them or stop loving them, youth experience eternal truths about God through the church.
Truth is Powerful
I met Jesus through truth, as Jesus was proclaimed, but the truth connected to my heart through the work of the Spirit with the embodiment of truth through my youth leader. Truth is powerful. But truth embodied is more powerful. Through modeling embodied youth ministry to our students, they can more fully see and experience the good news of Jesus.
Ben Wells is a student at Fuller Seminary, studying to get an M.Div. He has worked with youth in various parachurch and church ministries including Young Life and YouthWorks. Besides being a student, Ben works with college students at USC with Warehouse Student Corps. Connect with Ben on his blog or Twitter @Benwells22.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.