My Introduction to the Crucified and Risen Jesus
Growing up, my family didn’t make church a high priority. But I still took two years of confirmation classes and joined the youth group as a freshman in high school. I don’t remember a lot of what was taught, and if I did, I’d probably disagree with much of it now. I know in one meeting we watched The Seventh Sign, starring Demi Moore, and I’m still confused as to how that movie was supposed to foster spiritual growth.
But one thing I saw in youth group began to change my life forever. For the first time I began to see peers who loved Jesus. I didn’t know that was possible, because until then I only knew religion as an empty ritual. These peers introduced me to the crucified and risen Jesus. And I trusted him to forgive my sins and make a way to eternal life by the power of the Holy Spirit in the presence of my heavenly Father.
This experience has made me simultaneously thankful for youth groups and also concerned that they not lose their way. When we’re so concerned with keeping the youth entertained or promoting a moral lifestyle, we can easily forget the message of first importance. The apostle Paul explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
In our work at The Gospel Coalition, “We have committed ourselves to invigorating churches with new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” That’s why I so eagerly commend Gospel Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide. Over years of publishing these writers’ works and watching their local church ministries, I have seen the hope and joy in their students as they receive grace through faith in Christ. What an eternal difference it would make if churches and youth groups around the world caught this vision to put the gospel at the center of their teachings, Bible studies, retreats, small groups, mission trips, and service projects.
This comprehensive handbook looks at every facet of youth ministry from a gospel-centered perspective, offering practical advice related to everything from planning short-term mission trips to interacting with parents to cultivating healthy relationships.
Following this vision is simple, but it’s not easy. There are many temptations and distractions. Youth workers, often young themselves and lacking ministry experience, get more feedback than counsel. This guide, then, offers an excellent start for any youth worker eager to make much of Jesus and to see students filled with everlasting hope and joy.
This article is adapted from Collin Hansen’s foreword to Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide, edited by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson.
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