What does discipleship actually mean? This question was recently presented to several dozen junior and senior high school students. After thought and discussion, many groups of students came up with similar answers, saying that to be a disciple means to be a follower of someone. The most insightful answer, however, was that discipleship is about the relationship between the teacher and his follower. Following Jesus as His disciple isn’t only about learning what He has to say and who He is—-it’s about living in a relationship with Him as our teacher, savior, and friend.
This was just one of the powerful discussions led by Sarah, Quinn, and Ze during SEND’s mission trip last month to Sky Lodge Camp, in Montello, Wisconsin. Here, our young adults in SEND North America, the 10-month discipleship training, learned about camp ministry in a very hands-on way! The weekend, “Snowfest,” was filled with teenagers, negative degree wind chills, finger-rocket wars, soccer tournaments, and a death-defying snow tube hill! But it didn’t end there! God worked in unbelievable ways and we were able to experience teens giving their lives to Jesus, deep conversations about God and who He is, and praying until the late hours of the night! I watched as each young adult in our team made an impact in the lives of these students in a unique and different way, each using their own gifts. They prayed individually with students having a significant moment with Jesus, comforted someone needing a listening ear and caring friend, and encouraged students to lay it all at Jesus’ feet in worship, with hands raised high and an open heart for the Lord.
We were able to learn and experience so much during this weekend. A major takeaway is that teens don’t want people who will just “hang out” with them and have fun—-they can get that in many other places in our society today. What they want is someone who listens to their story, believes that it matters, and loves unconditionally—-they want someone who cares. Isn’t this really what each of us wants, regardless of our age? God made us this way for a reason, and it’s why mission and discipleship are so crucial. God designed us to want relationships with other people, and more than anything else, with Him! Our privilege as Christians is to be in those relationships with others, and constantly seek opportunities to share the hope and joy of a relationship with God.
I encourage all of us, as we get older, to never underestimate the Kingdom potential that lies within the younger generation. They are passionate about following Jesus, have the gifts and skills to reach others their own age for Christ, and have the energy and enthusiasm to do it! They are a great mission field, where the harvest is definitely ripe. It takes time to build trust and relationships with them, but God will use that discipling connection to change the future of the church. Oh, and to build that trust, it takes some willingness to show your own vulnerability…like flying down a steep, snow covered hill in a tube with them!!! No one ever said mission wasn’t FUN!