There are many applications of the definition of foundation. It is the underlying base of support that a building is built upon (see def. 4 and 5 above). It is an institution that donations can be made to (see def. 3 above). It is an act of establishing something (see def. 1 above). And it can be the basis upon which a belief system, principle, or worldview is built upon (see def. 2 above).
I was talking on the phone yesterday with a great friend of mine who used to be a youth pastor on staff with me at the church I used to be part of that closed a couple years back (wow…hard to believe it’s almost been 2 years!).
I became the youth pastor at that church after he left, and have been a youth pastor in other churches over the years, so naturally we were talking about ministry in general, but also youth ministry more specifically.
The main thing we were discussing was how many of the youth we had in our youth ministries are still pursuing God in their life and what we thought helped keep the ones who are still pursuing God on the right track.
This is the conclusion we came to…
The youth that we still see actively pursuing God in their lives today are those that we personally invested our lives in directly, and continue to connect with to this day.
In other words, we had them in our homes individually (not just with the other youth), we spent LOTS of time with them outside of the larger Church and youth gatherings, we knew them personally in ways we didn’t know the other youth in the group, and we maintained a relationship with them long after they grew up out of the youth group.
Basically, the ones who stayed the course (by-and-large) were ones that were intimately discipled and not just interacted with (surface level) at youth meetings and larger church gatherings on Sundays where they’re primarily treated to games, food, and fun events (not a lot of actual discipleship happens there, if we’re honest).
We didn’t do it perfectly. We probably demonstrated how not to do things a lot along the way. But something about that relationship seems to be directly connected to their longevity in the faith.
That relationship, that act of discipleship, was the foundation that was laid for someone in the faith to stay the course and to find their purpose in God’s will.
After further reading of scripture, and seeing what Jesus commanded us to do, and what the early church did, I find this to be true:
Discipleship is INDISPENSABLE as it directly relates to the longevity of faith in a person. Discipleship is a foundation that, when properly laid, is something that can be built upon that will last.
Jesus is the foundation of the gospel upon which our entire faith is built.
Discipleship is the foundation of the great commission upon which the faith of others is built.
Discipleship is foundational to our ministry, and when we lose sight of discipleship, we lose sight of what God commanded us to do in Matthew 28.
I’ve got lots of youth pastor friends that I believe need to know this: you can have the largest youth group in the world, but unless someone is intimately pouring their lives in to a student in your youth ministry in a very direct way, and unless they have someone outside of that ministry doing this already (like a parent or another member of the church), their chances of staying the course in the faith are greatly diminished.
The other thing you need to know is this: it’s absolutely impossible for you as a youth pastor to accomplish this on your own for all of those in that ministry.
Remember, Jesus had 12 close disciples (there were far more than that overall), and had three that were in his inner circle that were poured into in even greater measure. And even in the group of 12 he had two betray him (with in the same 24 hour period to be exact – one which was in the inner circle). Thankfully, one of those two (Peter) returned to him and pursued him further. The other (Judas) did not.
The point is, you should not try to shoulder the weight of discipling every student in your youth ministry alone. In fact, it’s quite unbiblical. Especially when you see how God provided to the Church a plethora of people gifted to help equip and disciple the church. The same goes for your youth ministry.
Don’t be upset by or even jealous of the relationship a student may have with another adult in your ministry. You can’t do it all on your own even if you wanted to anyway, and if you have adults who are willing to pour into those students lives, you should be grateful…not put off.
One more thing…
This doesn’t just apply to youth ministry.
This applies to senior pastors, children’s pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets, apostles, missionaries, and so on.
I’ll go even so far as to say to you senior pastors most specifically (because they have taken on the primary role of care of local churches), and please hear my heart on this: STOP trying to carry the burden of the entire church on your shoulders. God didn’t design you to do that. He didn’t design anyone to do that.
He brings together many people gifted in many ways to disciple and equip the many to go out and do the work of the church. Stop making the church out to be your sole responsibility as a pastor. Stop shouldering so much. According to Ephesians 4, God has brought others along side of you to help disciple and equip the church. This is not yours alone to bear.
Instead, look at each person in your local church body as someone who has been uniquely gifted to do something for God and your responsibility is not to plug them in to YOUR ministry, but to help encourage them in their own gifting, point them in the right direction, disciple them or bring others in to disciple them if you are already pouring into others…then release them into the work God has called them to.
Always keep in mind that you are not the CEO of a business, or an event planner, or an orator, or complaint box, or anything else you find yourself functioning as.
By shouldering everything you may actually be standing in the way of others being used as God intended rather than helping them…and, potentially standing in the way of how God intended to use you as well.
You are a pastor, a shepherd (as the Bible words it), of a group of people who are chomping at the bit to learn and put into practice the gifts God has given them. God calls us to “Go and make disciples” not “Go and build buildings” or “Go and build programs” or “Go and plant churches”.
Discipleship is the keyword. It is the program.
Disciple people, and the rest will fall into place.
I will leave you with the words of Paul who lays out the profit and consequence of good and bad discipleship:
1 Corinthians 3:9-15 NKJV
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.