Thought Factory Podcast #411 || Beyond Belief to Discipleship

At the core of each youth pastor or youth worker is to see students become disciples of Jesus Christ.  The tough part is, how do we go about seeing that happen?  How do we help students become disciples in our ministry or in our home? What are the basics of accomplishing that?  Hosts Jeff Eckart and Jayson Brewer discuss this topic with the Director of Soul Exercises, Lindsey Gorveatte, who states making disciples become easier when students are engaging in the Bible.  Simple right?  Then why is it still so hard to make actual disciples?  Soul Exercises provides the system that can handle the varying spectrum of the faith maturity of students while engaging the Bible to accomplish a youth pastor or youth worker’s core desire for students.

Lindsey Gorveatte is on staff with Never The Same and is the Director of Soul Exercises.  We spoke with her on the Thought Factory Podcast.  Here are the highlights of the interview:

Tell us a little bit about your journey in youth ministry.
 “I graduated from school and my husband and I got married right after we graduated.  [We] moved to the east side of Michigan and started working at a church there.  I was the student pastor there for a little while over middle school and high school students.  Then about a year ago, we started to kind of feel a call away from that church and into maybe something else that God would have for me.”

What were some of the things that you were able to see as you made that transition?
“I was just afraid that students wouldn’t like me.  I was afraid that they wouldn’t think I was cool.  When you’re with students, it’s hard not to like jump right back into some of those feelings that you had or insecurities that you had when you were in high school.  Like, are they going to like me?  Are they going to want to be a part of what I’m bringing to the table for them and the gospel that I’m presenting to them?  But God just showed me that if you’re faithful and if you love them the way that He wants them to be loved, those relationships will form and God will move in those contexts.  And they will confirm all those fears!”

When you’re working with middle school students, the question they’re asking is, ‘Do you like me?’  High school students are asking, ‘Do I like you?’

What are the things that you’re learning or what are you seeing happening out there?
“What I learned is that, at the core of a youth pastor, they want to be able to disciple their students.  No youth pastor wants to see students that are not discipled when they come into the youth ministry.  Whether it’s at sixth grade, seventh grade, or their last year of high school, right before they’re done.  When they walk across that stage at graduation, they want to be able to say I was able to point them to Jesus and get them closer to Jesus in some way, shape, or form.  But, the reality is, we’ve just been overwhelmed.  Our youth ministry culture has been so overwhelmed with so many different systems, tips and tricks, fast tracks to discipleship, and it’s like weight loss, it doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, it takes effort, and intentionality.  So, I just have seen that there’s maybe this starvation in our youth culture where students need discipleship and they’re not necessarily getting it.”

(Jayson) I think the tough part for all of us is, how do we do that?  How do we help students become disciples?  When we work with students, we want them to be believers.  But, there’s a difference between saying that and saying we want disciples.  It’s a different mindset.  When you just present the gospel and have students respond to it by placing their faith in Jesus, it’s a great decision that they make.  But ultimately, deep down for us who work with youth, we want to take them from that moment of decision to follow Jesus and we want to see them be disciples of Jesus.

What conclusions are you coming to you about how to do that?  How do we make disciples?  How do we see that happen? What are the ways that we move that forward in our ministries?
“As we realize that Bible engagement might be something that we should explore, we asked about 3,000 students about their experience with the Bible – middle school through high school.  We found some really interesting things.  So the first question/statement in regards Bible engagement was: I believe that the Bible is important.

The students could either strongly agree, all the way to strongly disagree and 95% of students agreed that the Bible is important.  So, that’s a really encouraging number and kind of makes us feel good, like, ‘Okay, good our students are on the right track.’  But, the next question was, how often do you read your Bible?  Only 12% of students said that they read it four or more times a week.  Which is a radically lower number than that 95%.  So suddenly there’s this disconnect.  There’s this huge gap between what students know.  They know the Bible is important but they’re not reading it.

So how do we make up that 83%?  How do we make up that difference between the majority – who [find value and importance in the Bible] but I’m not regularly engaging with it. 

A couple of other numbers that we found is 41% said that they never read their Bible.  So even though so many say that’s important, almost half of them say I’m never reading and I’m never picking it up even though it’s so accessible on my phone or there’s probably a Bible in my home. 

The last number that we found is 41% of them said that the reason why they don’t read it is because they don’t know where to start.  So suddenly we go from this shift of being “annoyed or angry” that things aren’t working to maybe there’s something that we as a youth ministry community aren’t doing or we’re missing to help students know more about the Bible.”

You mentioned the four more times number 12% four more times, where does the number four come from?
“There’s a study that was done that says when students read the Bible four or more times a week, so I’d say that would be considered regular engagement, that their likelihood of engaging in drinking, alcohol or doing drugs, or looking at pornography, just goes down by crazy percentages.  Whereas their percentages or their likelihood to share their faith, memorize scripture, or disciple other people around them goes way up.  So there’s something about the power of habit.  The more you’re engaging and learning about God and learning who He is, the more that’s going to shine through in your everyday.”

Are you seeing that students are wanting to engage in the Bible?
“We are seeing students take a step forward from where they are right now.  So, the student that’s never opened his or her Bible, isn’t all of a sudden clearing the New Testament in three days, but what they are doing is reading once a week or reading twice a week.  Which if you’ve read 0 times a week and you’re now reading once a week, you’ve read the Bible 52 more times in 2018 than you did in 2017.  I think God will use that.

Every small group leader has dealt with this.  Which is why we’ve introduced this “phase system” where regardless of where you are at in your spiritual maturity, you can engage in this system, read, be a part of it, and come back with something.  So, students choose their level of commitment but still have something to contribute in the group.”

(Jeff) I would say in my experience, the number one thing that I hear about from youth workers trying to disciple students is, trying to handle the varying spectrum of where students are even like you’re saying in a small group.

What what are you doing with youth ministries to help them with the overall discipleship issue?
“One of the things we feel like makes Soul Exercises unique is the cohesiveness of bringing students from what they do individually throughout the week into the youth group setting. 

It’s a three-part [system].  Students are reading individually throughout the week so they choose which phase they want to be a part of, how often they want to engage in Scripture, whether it be one time a week or five times a week.  They come back and it’s talked about in their large groups, so maybe some questions that they had are answered through that message. Then it’s also talked about in their small group where they can actually sit down and discuss.  If their questions didn’t get answered, if they struggled with one, or if something that was new to them, everybody has something to say.  Everybody could be a part of the conversation.  That’s built-in accountability because everybody is coming back ready to share what they learned that week.

When students enter youth ministry and then leave, the youth pastor’s deepest desires for them is to be discipled well.  When students go through Soul Exercises, they will have gone through, learned, and read about every major theme, character, story in the Bible.  They really do go through the entirety, the whole scope and sequence of Scripture – Old Testament and New Testament. 

They get to do that in the context of individual reading, so personal ownership.
Personal commitment
Group community
Consistent basis
Which really leads to life transformation and being equipped as a Christ follower.”

(Jeff) I would say the number one thing in all that I’ve done, all that I’ve learned, all that I’ve experienced working with thousands of students is this: engaging them in the Bible should be our most important priority with students.

Becoming true disciple makers is so critical to what we’re doing in this movement of building the kingdom of God in this generation of students.  Let me encourage you as you to consider your role and what you do to disciple students.

© 2018, Never The Same