Discipleship: Guiding the Spiritual Temperature of a Youth Group

Take a warm cup of water, add ice, and it becomes cold. The same is true for the opposite. Take a cup of ice, pour hot water in, and it melts. Each cup is determined by the two opposing temperatures that collide into one to give you the temperature of the glass of water. The temperature rises and falls with how we treat the contents of the glass.

It’s the same with ministry. Each group has a unique spiritual temperature. Our job as youth pastors is to guide the spiritual temperature of our youth groups. Discipleship is guiding the spiritual temperature of your youth group so the temperature is rising, not falling. Discipleship is like pouring hot coffee into the cold remnants of your last cup to make it taste good again. It involves adding the necessary circumstances and relationships to positively influence the spiritual temperature of your students. When we disciple our students, we raise their spiritual temperature by putting them in relationships and experiences that will heat them up.

Sounds simple, right? Wrong. There is a problem. Each student in the group has a different spiritual temperature. You have cold kids, you have warm kids, and you have on fire kids. So…

How do we adhere to the spiritual needs of our youth group when the students within the group have completely different spiritual needs?

Youth groups are diverse. As youth pastors, we interact with students all across the spiritual spectrum. We have students who each have their own spiritual temperature…and when we bring these students together we form a youth group who’s temperature is based on the parts that complete it.

In his book “Connect,” Jonathan McKee identifies six types of students that make up the spiritual temperature of our youth groups. He identifies them as:

– Nothermometer way kid
– Not interested kid
– Checking things out kid
– Stagnant faith kid
– Growing kid
– Looking for ministry kid

(Check out Jonathan’s website – www.thesource4ym.com.)

Your goal for each student is to raise their spiritual temperature. Maybe your goal for ice cold Johnny is to just get him to come back to church…while your goal for on fire Sarah is to find her ministry opportunities. Discipleship looks different for each kid…but its the same for everyone. Here are some steps to increasing the spiritual temperature of your youth group:

1. Understand the difference between discipleship and outreach. If you want to reach “no way” kids and at the same time disciple “looking for ministry kids” there has to be a fine line drawn between discipleship and outreach. Specifically plan your events. Set a goal for each event and differentiate between events for deep discipleship and events with the goal of simply getting kids in the door.
2. Identify the spiritual temperature of your students. Try to identify the spiritual temperature of a student so you know how to interact with them. Your interactions with a “checking things out kid” might be completely different than with a “growing kid.” Knowing the spiritual temperature of your students will bring along more impactful interaction.
3. Keep an eye on your own spiritual temperature. You can’t heat others up if you yourself are cold. Increase your own spiritual temperature and watch as the spiritual temperature of your group rise.

4. Focus on the group. Remember that your youth group has its own spiritual temperature. It’s a group of people with unique dynamics and relationships. No two youth groups are the same. Focus on the entirety of the group. Ask yourself, “Is the spiritual temperature of my youth group rising, falling, or staying the same?”

5. Keep it focused on Jesus. No matter where your students are in regards to their spiritual temperature, Jesus is the answer to heating them up. Jesus is the key to discipleship. Keep him at the center of everything you do with everyone you do it with.

And…don’t forget about the warning we find in Revelation:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are luke-warm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:15,16

The key to guiding your youth group away from a culture of luke-warmness is discipleship. Identify the temperature of your students. Identify the temperature of your group. And use discipleship to bring these students into a more vibrant relationship with Christ. If you wanna increase the temperature…you gotta turn up the heat! Are you intentional about discipleship and spiritual growth in your youth ministry?

JGJordan is a youth pastor at GracePoint Wesleyan Church in Brookings, South Dakota.

He blogs at www.jordanggardner.com.

Follow him on Twitter @jordangardner


About Chase Smith

I am the Student Ministries and Worship Arts Pastor at Trinity Wesleyan Church. I have the best job in the world with help from the best wife in the world serving the best students in the world all praising the best God in the world.

Posted on September 27, 2012, in Leadership, Ministry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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