How do you measure spiritual growth in your teens? For those who attended school for youth ministry or have been to a conference for teens, we have been told many things. If you read “The Purpose Driven Youth Ministry” book, you can remember having been given a method for moving teens from the outside of the circle to the inside. My pastor gave us (the staff), a book on developing people in the faith and moving them to maturity. The church I currently serve used to have a purpose statement which said, “Making fully developed followers of Jesus out of disconnected people”. These discussions are good and there is not a problem in thinking through where you would like teens to be in your youth ministry, sometimes these approaches miss one key element in spiritual growth. All your teens are individual people and all who know Christ have the Holy Spirit living inside of them.
I was once called by a student who was studying youth ministry at a large evangelical university and asked, “How do you measure spiritual growth in your teens”. This was a school project for the student and I was thrilled that he had called me to ask that question. My response was simple and described in a story. Jamie, a teen girl in my student ministry was riding in the church van one night. She was in the seat right behind the driver’s seat. Not many teens had shown up for the event, so conversation to and from the event was able to happen. In that conversation she discussed how she wanted to become an optometrist because they made a lot of money. About six months later, this same girl was once again in the church van and in the same seat just behind me as the driver. This time though her conversation was not about how much money she was going to make, but she was talking about wanting to do what God wanted here to do in life. That’s spiritual growth. I don’t know how many verses or chapters she was reading each day in the Bible, or how many verses she was memorizing each week, what I did hear was that her heart was changing. God was moving in her life. That’s spiritual growth.
So what is spiritual growth in a teen’s life. Moving them closer to Christ than they were before. It is different for each teen. To measure it a student pastor needs to work to know their teens. This takes time and conversation. Sitting on a couch or a chair and listening. Sitting in the church van and traveling with the teens while in conversation. All of these times are time to listen for clues of growth and look for times of being able to move a teen a little closer to Christ. If a student pastor’s group is too large for him to engage the students in this individual process, that student pastor must invest in leaders and teach them how to listen and guide students in conversation.
Discipleship is key to what we do and we are to make disciples. Teaching about spiritual disciplines is what we do and many times to the large group, working that out in the hearts of students is a very individual thing though.
To quote a pastor from out in California, “Discipleship is simple, find someone who knows less than you and teach them” I would modify that statement a little to say, “Discipleship is simple, find someone who is not as strong in the walk with Christ as you are and invest in them.”