I felt like a failure and questioned whether or not this was really what God wanted me to be doing. As a new Director of Christian Education, I felt that two of my most important missions were to get more youth to join our church and to make sure our youth group was “mission-minded” or “mission-focused”. To me at that time, that meant leading mission trips, servant events and fun-oriented outreach events. The fun events were well attended by our youth, but they typically did not bring friends to the events and the trips seemed beneficial to those who attended, but did not seem to have long-lasting impact. Please do not misunderstand, mission trips and servant events and fun activities can have value in a youth ministry, but they are not the only way God’s mission can be carried out. In our youth ministry, everything looked good; but it seemed like something was missing and I was failing at what God had called me to do.

I am not sure when my perspective changed, but as the years went on I started to see things differently. I began to realize “mission” did not necessarily mean going outside the country or even to another state; there was plenty of work to do in our own neighborhoods and schools. I realized that just because youth were not bringing their friends to our events, it did not mean they could not be missionaries to their friends and in their schools.

I began to see missional youth ministry as helping the youth at our church realize they are equipped with gifts from God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out the Great Commission as they go about their everyday lives.

As I read through the book of Acts, I was struck by how the apostles were focused on their mission, the Great Commission, every day. There is example after example of Peter, Philip, Paul and the other apostles encountering people as they were on their way from one city to the next or as they were just going about their daily routine. God placed these people in their paths and they shared the Good News with their words and with their actions. They preached and taught, but they also healed and cared for those in need.  It did not always go smoothly; people were often not receptive. Sometimes they were persecuted or imprisoned, but they continued on their mission in spite of the circumstances.

High schoolers are in a unique setting where they daily encounter people who need to hear the Gospel. They are also in a setting where relationships and friendships are often valued above all else. High schoolers listen to their friends and care about what they have to say. Therefore, Christian high schoolers are in a unique position to share the love of Christ to their peers in a way that most adults cannot.

God will place people in their paths who need to hear about and experience that love. I believe our job as youth leaders is to help them look for opportunities in their everyday life to do just that. We can help them feel confident in their faith, teach them how to ask and answer questions, to listen to where people are coming from and to share their faith in a relational way that fits their personality. We can encourage them to look for open doors, for opportunities to share the Good News as they simply go about their day. We can equip, encourage, pray for and support them as they carry out the Great Commission.

It will not always go smoothly; people will not always be receptive and they may even face some form of persecution. But if they can begin to see their lives as belonging to God and their mission and purpose as spreading his Word, they will begin to see opportunities all around them to carry out the Great Commission. We can help them see that the Great Commission is not only something they do, it is something they are; it is a way of life, an attitude, a focus. They can live the mission instead of going on a mission and by doing so, the impact God will make through them will be far reaching.