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"Everyone is forcing their way in" - a verse for unusual times

What a strange season the last 18 months has been. I sometimes look around at our youth groups and think, 'What just happened?' It's amazing that any young people have hung on, considering what they've been through. Some even coped with that strange thing that was online youth. It would have been so easy to put up a white flag, snuggle up on the couch and stay there. I feel like doing that on a fairly regular basis. Our numbers still haven't recovered and that has been disconcerting, even for someone who's been in youth ministry a long time. Leaders are working super hard, but some of our young people, who we care for so deeply, haven't been back to our groups for 18 months now. When I speak to youth leaders around the country, the picture is much the same in many Sunday groups.

Before you say, 'Hey, Dave, numbers aren't everything, faithfulness is what counts,' I know. But it's disappointing, when every 'one' is a young person, who we love and want to see growing towards maturity in Christ. And some of them aren't around any more. That makes us sad, but also leaves the young people, who are still attending, wondering what's going on.

Now, appearances are often deceptive and some young people who aren't coming may be continuing to grow as Christians behind the scenes. I wrote about this in my blog here when I talked about Elijah thinking he was all alone and realising there were another 7000 God-followers hidden away. So let's keep praying for those who haven't made it back yet.

Still, I've been really struck recently by verses in Luke 16.16. Jesus is teaching the people, and the Pharisees have just been sneering at him. They thought they were special, and discouraged others from entering God's Kingdom (Matthew 23.13). Jesus says:

"“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the Kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it."

In Luke 9.23, Jesus had said:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

Even though times were hard (Israel was occupied) and Jesus' words certainly weren't comfortable, some people were pushing in to see Jesus, hear him and respond to him.

What should we do now?

Let's keep preaching the Kingdom of God

Jesus preached the Kingdom of God, even though Pharisees tried to stop people listening, his family raised questions, and it took him to the cross. I feel a strong urge to lighten things at the moment: just have some social time, maybe play some games, but certainly keep it light. Jesus definitely showed mercy and compassion to hurting people; he didn't burden them, but he also kept preaching the Kingdom. I need to do the same.

Let's look for where others are forcing their way in and give thanks

Jesus said that 'Everyone is forcing their way in.' All sorts of people pushed in to meet Jesus. They were often not the people that the religious of Jesus' time expected. Who's managed to keep forcing their way to Jesus in our groups? Let's praise God for those continuing to push in. And let's look for where 'everyone is forcing their way into' the Kingdom of God.' We've been surprised by new people coming along to the groups recently, even to our residentials. Some people haven't yet come back, but others are definitely 'forcing their way in'. That may give us new and exciting opportunities to help people take their first steps in discipleship.

Let's keep forcing our way to Jesus

This isn't just about the young people in our groups. Our first calling is to follow Jesus faithfully ourselves. Let's use this time to look at our own walk with Jesus. Not our ministry. Not what we are doing for him. Are we pushing in to hear Jesus? How are our quiet times? Are we forcing our way to spend time with Jesus, even when many of us are so, so tired? Even when some of our peers seem to have given up, at least for a while.

Don't give up!

When I was editing my book, I found a spare page, right at the end. I didn't want to waste it, so here's my final word (well, actually, it's Paul's words):

Let's not get discouraged in this strange time, even if numbers are down, but let's keep going faithfully in our preaching, pushing into Jesus ourselves, but also looking for where others are pushing in, encouraging them and teaching them well. We may not see the fruit at the moment, but as I said in my last blog here, maybe God's working anyhow.


While you're here, please have a look at Dave's book: 'Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry' here.

You can read what other youth leaders think about it and read a couple of free chapters. It's the best resource I can give you to keep you going in youth ministry long-term.

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Get more ideas and support for your youth ministry with my book: "RAISING THE BAR: Nearly Everything You Need to Know about Christian Youth Ministry."

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