Intentional discipleship is a hot term in youth work, but in most cases it means “intending to disciple” rather than “intentional discipleship.” To do intentional discipleship you must be able to define what a mature disciple actually is.
Anyone working with youth knows that a mature 7-year-old is not the same as a mature 11-year-old, much less a mature 16-year-old. Mature discipleship looks different according to a person’s age, especially among youth. As strategic grandparents we aim at different things based on our grandchild’s age and maturity level. For example, understanding the bible isn’t a goal for a young child, but getting them started on reading a children’s bible is.
Each stage of discipleship builds on previous levels. Any math teacher can tell you that you must teach addition before multiplication.
Christian discipleship is the same. Children need to learn to obey authority (don’t cross the street) before they have the maturity to judge whether it is safe to cross the street. A key discipleship step for teens is correctly understanding what “Jesus is Lord” actually means.
I was at a retreat not long ago talking to a 14-year-old girl whom I had known for years. She was one of most “Christian” kids I had ever worked with. She grew up going to camps, retreats, being in a great youth group, and having many great “God experiences.” Still, she was smart enough to know that she didn’t just need another “Wow! Experience.” She thought she was missing something. She was.
She was very familiar with the phrase “Jesus is Lord,” she did not quite know what it meant. She said, “It’s like, Jesus is God. King of the Universe, almighty.” Like many high school youth, she understood “Jesus is Lord of all,” but not “Jesus is Lord of my own life.”
After I explained it, she asked, “Does having Jesus as Lord mean that if he wants me to give up volleyball, I would need to do that?”
“Yup! Exactly!” I answered. The lights went on and she made the next step into deeper discipleship.
That kind of conversation is intentional discipleship. It is helping young people take the next step of faith on the path to mature discipleship.
Mike Shaughnessy is the Executive Director of Grandly and the Editor of the Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter.
Reminder: the First “Do it Grandly” conference takes place on February 24th in Lansing, Michigan. For more information, go here: http://grandly.org/conferences-lansing/
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