It is 2018. I’ve only just got used to writing “2017” as a date and yet, here we go again, another year.

Maybe you have struggled to get yourself motivated – back at work; the thought of making packed lunches again; uniform for the kids shoved at the bottom of a wash basket needs to surface and get sorted; decorations must come down; trips to the tip with the tree and the detritus of present packaging . . . normal life resumes.

As does the children’s ministry, youth clubs, cell groups, messy church . . . are you ready?  Are you feeling pumped and motivated?

Have you had a think lately about WHY you do this?

What Motivates You?

Come to think of it – if we long for transformation in our young people – what is it that motivates them?

OK, so the video below is not about youth and children’s ministry – BUT, it has some surprising things to say about what motivates us. What is true in the work place and the home for adults I can see is also true for children and young people in their school, home and church environments.

Give it a watch and then have a look below at the three things highlighted.

For getting the best out of people (think of your youth work and your volunteer leaders, your young people themselves) . . . these three things really matter ::

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Autonomy – Do we encourage this – or do we control what happens? Are our young people encouraged to be creative? Do we get out of the way and see what they might create and shape and discover?

Getting out of the way might seem a strange way to lead – but, when it comes to our ministry are we actively encouraging contributions, participation and dialogue with our children and young people about what we do and how we do it? Autonomy does not mean encouraging young people to run riot – but it does mean they are free to think, question, comment and shape activity . . . Have you asked them lately what topic or issue they would most like to discuss in the youth group?Have you asked them if there are any passages or bits of the Bible they want to talk about and explore together?

The Children’s Society “Good Childhood” survey in 2010 [read the extract here] found that,

Choice, autonomy and freedom are important aspects of children’s lives which are strongly connected to their overall sense of well-being.

The faith we want them to grow in to needs to be a faith that “fits” them as they grow in Christ – as they navigate the world with the challenges of the 21st Century, are we equipping them with a faith they own? They need a say, they need to participate and help shape what church looks like – they might at times need to be “co-creators” with us. Are we up for that?

Mastery – Do we encourage this? Or are we : on some kind of repetitive tread mill with the same content for Bible study; having the same minimal expectations of the youth worship band we had last year (they play in key); implying that committed “discipleship” means nothing more than turning up at a group week after week.

Mastery isn’t about excellence – the video uses the illustration of people playing guitar at the weekends and wanting to improve – our young people sometimes have the kind of push on all their activity (whether at school or home) where unless they are grade 8 by the time they are 6 they might as well not bother . . . but we have to balance this with some of the stuff that Paul says about self mastery.

Does this feature in your teaching? Are you inspiring your children and young people to GROW in the things of God? To “Grow Up” in to Christ who is the Head?

When did you last explore some of these passages with your young people – and, more importantly, help them to see with your example and your practical teaching the “how” of walking with Jesus?

Don’t you realise that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.

1 Corinthians 9 : 24-27

The clue is right there in the word “disciple” – discipline!  It’s not a popular word, it might even be something we avoid or don’t talk about too much . . . we might feel it is adding pressure on to young people when there is enough of that already!  Yet, it is so key – we have as basic tenants of following Jesus things like “read the Bible” and “pray” – but, we know from our own lives that without discipline actually doing these things regularly is just wishful thinking!

There are some great books that explore spiritual disciplines, including, “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges; “The Spirit of the Disciplines” by Dallas Willard; “Longing for God” by Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe; “The Normal Christian Life” Watchman Nee and, from a couple of hundred years ago, “Real Christianity” by William Wilberforce.

These might seem challenging – and they are! We might need to read them ourselves and develop our own spiritual disciplines . . . but, there are a couple of great places to start for our young people.

For their own reading, why not recommend, “Rise” by Rachel and Jason Gardner or (and!) “The Vision and the Vow” by Pete Grieg.

For exploring together as a group, invest in a copy of “The Beautiful Disciplines” by Martin Saunders.

We need to encourage our young people to use their spiritual muscles, grow in the fruit of the Spirit and develop their spiritual gifts – it’s pretty essential if we are to see them flourish as followers of Jesus.

Purpose – Seriously, what is the point? There is a cracking quote from the film Gladiator (I’ve been using it in training and youth work for, um, 16 years), it’s this,

What we do in life echoes in eternity.

Boom. The very first thing I thought of when I saw the film and heard these words was Philippians Chapter 2 (honestly!),

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Philippians 2 : 14 – 16

This is the “why”. Our young people have a significant part to play in the purposes of God in our world. Do they know that? Do we tell them that they get to join in with what God is doing? That last bit of verse 16 quoted above “hold firmly to the word of life”, it could also be translated “hold out the word of life”. I think what Paul means is BOTH.

If our young people are to “hold out” the life and hope and promise that Jesus offer to others then they must also “hold on”.

They hold on when they develop their own autonomous relationship with Jesus – always in the context of community, but they “own” their relationship with Jesus – it isn’t lived out by proxy through us.

They hold on through self mastery as they submit their whole selves to God and grow in their faith.

They will shine like stars as they take their place alongside us, blazing with purpose and passion for the things of God. How can they make a difference now? How can we equip them to “be” the difference in the future?

WHAT a marvellous calling we have a youth and children’s workers – to play a part in what God is doing and going to do in the lives of our children and young people.

WHAT a reason to be excited about 2018 🙂