Risky Discipleship: How to Disciple Youth Like Jesus

A coworker once told me that he taught his kids to swim by throwing
them into the deep end of the pool.
A youth worker once told me that was how he’d like to disciple
his students.
But…” we say. [Insert any number of fear-based excuses here.]
“But what about the risks?”
“What about safety concerns?”
“But what will the parents say when they hear…?”
“We could never do that…”
We forget that we were first attracted to Christianity because of
the necessary risk it required of us, the adventure to which it called
us. And yet, as we grow up in our faith, we find ourselves (and our
ministries) moving towards comfort, towards the status quo.
Little by little, we make compromises, limiting the risks as
we go along. It happens on such an incremental scale that we hardly
notice it. Until one day, we wake up and realize that we’re doing more
entertaining than discipling. And we hate it.
We hate it, because we know that it has little to do with Jesus. We
know that he would’ve done things differently… and did. In Luke
, we get a small clue of how Jesus would make disciples:
When Jesus had called the
Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all
demons and to cure diseases, and
he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He
told them: “Take nothing
for the journey-no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.
Whatever house you enter,
stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you,
shake the dust
off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.”
So they set out and went from
village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
(v. 1-6, NIV)
Getting Fired for the Glory of GodI
love that Jesus didn’t go out with them.
He told the disciples that
they had what it took to preach the good news, that they didn’t require
any more training and didn’t need anything other than the clothes on
their backs. It’s an awesome story of faith and provision.
In American youth ministry, we play it safe. We try to limit risks.
We settle for what is secure and comfortable, because that is what is
expected of us. That’s what doesn’t get us in trouble and keeps us
around for another six months.
Why doesn’t your youth ministry look more like Luke 9? Why
aren’t we all empowering our students as Jesus did? Because it’s
Here’s a thought to consider: What if you didn’t have to
play it safe? What if you didn’t have to play by the rules or get 25
waivers signed? What would you do then?
Maybe you should consider doing some of those things. Yes, you
might get fired, but you also might end up making some disciples in the
process, too.
*Disclaimer (yes, we have to have one of those): There is
certainly a place for hesitancy in taking risks, especially when it
could mean endangering your students. We would never endorse
intentionally throwing your youth group into harm’s way. 
This is simply a challenge to get you thinking outside the box of
normative youth ministry practices. If you feel limited in the
opportunities you have to disciple your students, it’s worth asking the
“What if…?” questions above. So, let’s discuss, debate, and learn from
each other.