By Annie Grandell
You’ll hear it said all the time: “Discipleship is not program, it’s an apprenticeship in the Christian life.” So how do you apprentice the teenagers in your group? The thought can be daunting, and it is a weighty task, but there are simple things you can do right away that can have a lasting impact. The idea of apprenticeship is just as much about demonstrating a lived faith as teaching the content of the faith.
Here are four things you can start doing right away do to give witness to your group.
1) Bring Your Bible
Not a Bible app. A real Bible. There’s nothing wrong with reading Scripture on a device, but a mentor’s job is to show what a lived faith looks like. Simply bringing your Bible to your small group shows them that the Word of God is relevant. I started reading my Bible when I was 15 because my youth minister, Eric, always carried his with him. Frankly, I didn’t know Catholics read the Bible until I met Eric, but his Bible was like an extension of his body. So, I started carrying my Bible with me. And eventually, I actually opened it and read it. Eric never said, “You must always have a Bible.” But his actions told me it was important.
Then when you are with your group, use your Bible. When there is a scripture reference in a Leader Guide, mark it in your Bible and read it from there instead of off the page.
After a while, challenge them to bring a Bible to every small group as well. If they don’t have one, get them one.
2) Say His Name
Start saying “Jesus.” The name of Jesus is powerful. Think about it: what other person in history has their name used as a swear word? Comedian Jim Gaffigan makes a joke about how saying the name of Jesus makes people uncomfortable, even the Pope! Funny though that is, there is truth in it. Saying “Jesus” makes people uncomfortable, but I would argue that it is because the Name itself carries power.
Scripture tells us that his name is powerful, that just speaking his name casts fear into demons, that “at the name of Jesus every knee must bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” (Philipians 2:10, emphasis added). “Lord” describes him, but it isn’t his name. “Christ” is his title, not his name. “God” is who he is, but it is not his name.
The young people in your group are used to hearing Jesus’ name spoken as a curse word or a joke more often than in reference to the real person. By intentionally speaking the name of Jesus in your group you can counteract that, but also you are demonstrating that he is a real person with whom you have a living relationship, that we have a personal faith not vague beliefs in a vague deity.
Say “Jesus” and say it often.
3) Pray for them by name
Speaking of names, another simple thing is to pray for them when you are not with them – and I would recommend praying for them by name. Phone reminders can help with that. Set a reminder to go off a certain time every day. And lift them up by name. You cannot transform their lives. Only Jesus can. Praying for them helps us remember this.
When the time is right, tell them you do this. You are demonstrating your confidence in God through prayer and that you care about them when it isn’t small group time. If you use phone reminder, you are also showing them a way to leverage technology for good.
4) Share your story
One of the most powerful ways you can demonstrate your lived relationship with Jesus is to talk about it. Take some time to pray about your personal testimony – your story of how God has worked in your life. Share it with your group.
You can have the most perfectly articulated theology and the most logical philosophical arguments, but the vast majority of people are convinced by their heart. Stories tap into this power.
In the book of Revelation, it even says, “They defeated [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11).
By employing just one of these simple methods at a time, you can make a tremendous impact on the faith-life of the young people in your group.