How Youth Ministry Attracts Kids to Jesus

By Ashley Denton,

Jesus Christ appeals to every kind of person. The young, the old, the fisherman, the tax collector, the scribe, the rich, the blind beggar, Mary and Martha, and the woman caught in adultery; all heard him and were drawn to him. One reason people are drawn to Jesus is because we can relate with him.

Youth Ministry Helps Kids Relate to Jesus

Jesus knows what it is like to grow up. He was a baby, a boy, a teenager, and a mature adult. He worked in his father’s shop just like boys today learn from their dad or grandfather how to fix a car, work with tools, or plant a garden. Just like adolescents today have to patiently study in school, learn life skills, and wait to set sail out into the world on their own, Jesus spent many years in Nazareth as an adolescent before his official ministry was launched. We need to remember that although Jesus was fully God, he was also fully human.

Maybe this is exactly why young people are so drawn to Jesus: Because he can relate with them on a human level. Most people these days make a decision to follow Christ between the ages of about 12-20. It is well observed that after this, few people come to Christ. In those adolescent years, kids are asking what the young man asked Jesus: “Good Master, what do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”

It Is Natural & Logical for Young People to be Drawn to Jesus

The more I work with young people I believe that it is natural, logical, and normal for young people to be attracted to Jesus. By painting an accurate picture of the person of Christ to young people, most young people won’t be able to resist him. Instead, they will be stunned by him and will want nothing else than to let go of their fear and pride, and do what he is calling them to do: turn away from their sin and surrender to him in love and obedience.

Just as a magnet naturally moves metal, as the compass needle points to the north or south pole, it is inevitable that young will be attracted to Jesus if introduced to him accurately. A normal young person can only resist Jesus if he is misrepresented or if they are extremely dulled by the distractions of the world to the point where they are deaf to his message.

To become a follower of Jesus is not an unusual, or atypical experience. It is completely normal. It’s as natural as a flower opening up under the warm rays of the April sun, or for a bird to sing at mating time.

Ironically the Spiritual Harvest Time Isn't at the End of Life but More at the Beginning

Parents, teachers, pastors, and youth workers should expect young people to want to become loyal followers of Jesus before they reach their twenties. It should be considered a strange, abnormal, almost unexplainable, thing if a boy or girl should grow up (especially in Christian families, churches, and youth groups) and not become a follower of Christ. There is a harvest time in the spiritual realm, and that harvest time is not primarily at the end of the season (i.e. old age), when the grain is matured, or like an ear of corn fully ripe at the end of the season. The spiritual harvest time for people is not when they are ready to pass away, instead it is more toward the other end of life, when they are young. The greatest harvest time seems to be when the eager, energetic young soul is excited to ask the question, “Lord what will you have me to do?” and when she has the courage to respond to Christ’s call by saying, “Here I am Lord, send me.”

If more people began to see early conversion of young people as the normal expected outcome of youth evangelism, then churches would be giving more attention to student ministry. Yet the perspective of the average adult is that it is normal for all young people to “sow their wild oats.” Too many adults believe that the average young person is irresponsible, thoughtless, and not interested in spiritual realities. That could not be further from the truth.

I want to remind those who work with students, that when we winsomely present Jesus to young people, the natural, almost inevitable response is to be drawn to him. It is truly abnormal and unnatural for young people to reject the Savior of the world when they are given an accurate picture of him.

What Do You Want to Do With This?

  1. What are some reasons why young people are especially attracted to him?
  2. Why do you think it is perfectly natural and normal for young people to follow of Jesus?
  3. How might your student ministry leadership team be motivated by constant reminders that the normal response to Jesus if given an accurate picture of him is to be attracted to him?

This post is adapted from my recent revision of Francis Clark’s book, newly titled: The Personality of Jesus: How to Introduce Young People to Jesus and Help Them Grow in their Faith.



How the Cross Draws Secret Believers Out of Hiding

By Ashley Denton,

"Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night." - John 19:38-39

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had significant influence in the Jewish community and had kept their faith a secret all the way up to the day Jesus died on the cross. But witnessing all that happened that day and the last breath of Jesus on that cross changed everything. They threw caution to the wind and asked Pilate for His body. Then single-handedly in the light of day, they prepared His body for burial. Working together and quickly to lay Him to rest before sundown (the beginning of the Sabbath), these two secret believers made their love for Jesus a spectacle. Joseph’s tomb was near the hill upon which Jesus had died, so their work to lay Him to rest would have been visible to all.

Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night months earlier wanting to know how to be born again. But since that time, he had followed Jesus at a distance, in secret (see John 3). But now by the light of day he carried the lifeless body of Jesus with Joseph to lay Him to rest. Their loyalty to Jesus would have been obvious to those who crucified Him. Their loyalty was on display. What this meant for their seat of influence on the Jewish ruling council was now irrelevant to them. They witnessed Jesus finishing His mission, and now it was their mission to make Him known.

Jesus’ last words were, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28), and “It is finished (John 19:30).” What more can anyone do to save humanity? Nothing. Jesus has done all of the work for you and me, and we get to enjoy all of the benefits. The righteous for the unrighteous, He reconciled us to God (see 2 Corinthians 5). The raw, vulnerable, excruciating pain Jesus endured on the cross brought Joseph and Nicodemus out of hiding.

How about you? Do you hide in your belief. I do sometimes depending on the situation. Are you secretly following Jesus? To get drawn out of hiding you need to consider deeply, the Cross. Read the account of the cross and allow the Holy Spirit to do in you what He did in these two men. They threw caution to the wind, they no longer cared if their reputation would be ruined in their community for aligning their lives to Jesus. After seeing what Jesus did for them on the Cross, this was the normal response… the least they could do to express their love and gratitude to Him. Joseph and Nicodemus came out of hiding and put their full weight down on the fact that, “Truly this is the Son of God (Mark 15:39).” No more secret belief.

Often young people are embarrassed or fearful of making their faith in Jesus known to their friends. One of the ways we can serve our young friends the best is to help them make their faith public by making your mid-week outreach event is something that students will want to invite their friends to. This takes a lot of work, but by partnering with them and providing a great venue for the Gospel to be shared, you are helping them make their secret faith in Jesus more open, and this benefits everyone. No one thrives in secret.