In his book Making Disciples: Developing Lifelong Followers of Jesus, Ralph Moore tells the story of how he made the transition from doing the typical program based youth group to becoming a disciple maker of young people. One of the people who influenced him was an unlikely mentor.
I met a guy who would drive the lesson home even further. He was a newly appointed youth pastor working in a gang-ridden neighborhood in East Los Angeles. His group of kids expanded from nothing to more than 200 in just a couple of months. You need to understand that when we met, I was still pretty full of myself and my formal education. You also need to know that this young man had no formal theological training at all. That he wasn’t properly trained only served to make things worse for me. I was offended—actually, you might better say jealous— by his success in spite of no seminary. I remember pressing him for his program. I wanted to know the secret of the rapid growth he enjoyed while I was pastoring just 30 kids after a period of five years. This successful young man seemed kind of confused by my use of the word “program.” It was foreign to his view of the ministry. Finally, he said something to the effect of, “Well, I guess my program is to get the kids praying, reading their Bibles and spending lots of time talking about what they’ve read.”
That single statement got Ralph thinking, and result was a radical change in his ministry in the youth group, and later on a whole network of churches that he founded.
The youth group in our church soon turned into a disciplemaking machine. We were admittedly slow to jettison our fancy programs . But we added hanging out, centered on the Bible and prayer, to everything we were already doing. A very dead 6: 00 AM Tuesday prayer meeting for high-school students suddenly burst into life when we all started sharing “what I got from my Bible this week.” That prayer-and-share meeting soon became the launch pad for an everyday invasion of our high school with humorous Christian literature and outreach in the form of intentional friendships…. That prayer-and-share-the-Bible time was so effective that I recently got a Facebook message from a very godly woman who told me it is the reason she is solid with the Lord today. She is involved in ministry and says the reason for that is because I made her read the Bible every Monday night during high school. She went on to admit that during those days she only read her Bible on Monday nights so she would have something to say on Tuesday mornings . We brought her into the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit caused life to grow in her heart.
This is once again confirmed by the REVEAL study Willow Creek did. They say:
We find that Reflection on Scripture is much more influential than any other practice by a significant margin. In fact, for the most advanced segments— Close to Christ and Christ-Centered— it’s twice as catalytic as any other factor on the list. This means it has twice the power of any other spiritual practice to accelerate growth in spiritually mature people.
That being the case, simple programs like One to One Bible Reading (covered in yesterday’s post) ought to be the centerpiece of every Church. Bible Story Telling methodology (covered here and here) is also an easy method to communicate God’s word and encourage reflection upon it. It takes a little more preparation time than One to One Bible Reading, but it is still a method of communicating God’s Word simply and without any offensiveness in the approach that any follower of Christ can do.