How to Inspire Youth to Build God’s Kingdom

Nathan Burd

March 6, 2023

Learning how to inspire youth to build God’s kingdom can be challenging… I sensed my call into ministry almost exactly 10 years ago. And what a wild ride it has been. Saying yes to Jesus has been one of the most epic and satisfying adventures of my life! 

But it has also been costly; Jesus wasn’t kidding in Luke 14:28-33 when he encouraged his listeners to count the cost of following him. It took me a long time to go all in for Jesus because these costs weighed so heavily on me. 

I knew that saying “YES” to Jesus and the call he had on my life would mean laying aside everything that this world values. I knew it meant engaging in hard conversations about my future wife and eventual family. 

I knew it would change everything. 

Finally, though, I said “yes, Lord.” 

WHY INSPIRING YOUTH TO BUILD GOD’S KINGDOM IS CHALLENGING

One of the big costs that weighed so heavily on me was how my calling would affect my future children. I had seen first-hand the damage that the ministry/mission field could do to children. My classmates at my Christian university were the only evidence I needed. I was afraid that my children would also end up resenting Jesus because of my ministry. 

So, I began to pay attention. In general, there were two groups of missionary/ministry kids. 

  • Those who had no real allegiance to Jesus and resented their childhood. 
  • Those who fondly looked back on their childhood in ministry and have a good relationship with Jesus. 

For the last ten years, every time I have met a missionary kid or a pastor’s kid I have always gently interviewed them to figure out how they ended up where they are today. 

Over the years a pattern has begun to emerge. This pattern is common among 100% of those I have spoken to (that’s not to say it’s always true, but in my anecdotal research it is). And it’s a simple pattern.

If they (the ministry kid) were engaged in the ministry by their parents as an age-appropriate co-worker, they always have fond memories of their childhood and a positive relationship with Jesus. Those who had parents who did not include them in the ministry always had a negative view of their childhood and usually a negative view of Jesus. 

This discovery has been informative for me as it relates deeply to my future family. It has also been informative for me in my ministry to youth. I believe this is one of the keys to inspiring youth to fully engage Jesus and to build God’s kingdom. 

WHAT TO LEARN FROM JESUS’ METHOD OF MINISTRY

Jesus did it first. His ministry on this earth is characterized by sharing real-world ministry experiences with his disciples. Importantly, he did not only teach them in a classroom-like setting. He taught them along the way. He showed them the way to follow him. 

They were there as he engaged all the sick people. 

They saw the way Jesus spoke to the crowds. 

They participated as Jesus fed the multitudes.   

If Jesus’ method of ministry is any indication, bringing others along with you as you do ministry is the way to make a real impact. For those of us working with youth, this should be an essential aspect of our ministry. If we want to see students inspired to build God’s kingdom – the path forward is clear. Bring them along as you do ministry. 

Don’t hear me wrong — I believe in the importance of preaching and teaching. There is a time and place for that. In the same breath there is also a time and place for real-world practical experiences. To be clear, this doesn’t just mean your yearly mission trip. It means right in your own town or city – even in your own church. Taking students along with you as you follow Jesus will inspire them. They will see the impact of faith in motion! 

WHAT INSPIRES YOUTH TO BUILD GOD’S KINGDOM

If you want to inspire youth to follow Jesus outside the classroom, show them how! 

If you want to inspire youth to build God’s kingdom, show them how! 

I have also found one other major factor that predicts whether a student will engage in building the kingdom: If they have actually encountered Jesus. 

Isaac’s Story

Isaac recently graduated from high school and therefore from the youth group. His story is like many his age. He grew up in church. He participated in youth programs like AWANA and youth group. He went to church every Sunday. He participated at every level. 

In a recent testimony that he shared, he said, “I was planning to leave behind the church and Christianity after graduation.”

Though Isaac had done all the right things in the local church context, it wasn’t working for him. 

Isaac’s diagnosis of why he was planning to leave (from his recent testimony): “I hadn’t ever really met Jesus.” 

It was at Deep Camp this last summer that Isaac finally began his real relationship with the living Jesus. Isaac encountered Jesus and now he is totally different! He is passionately following Jesus and engaging in ministry at a deep level. 

It was this encounter with Jesus that inspired Isaac to begin participating in building the kingdom.  

Isaac encountered Jesus in an ‘along the way moment’ that was out of the ordinary church and youth group setting. His big reason for taking a closer look at Jesus was, “I saw all the changes Jesus was making in people around me and I told myself ‘I want that!’”

THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPOSING YOUTH TO THE REAL-LIFE JESUS

It’s both totally understandable and deeply saddening that you can’t force people to encounter Jesus. I wish you could MAKE it happen—so far I haven’t figured out how. That being said I believe it is exposure to the real-life Jesus that helps the most. Seeing the real Jesus in action certainly piqued my interest as a 19-year-old. And, as you just read, the same is true for Isaac.

If you want to inspire youth to build God’s kingdom, show them how and expose them to the living Jesus. Pray. And the rest is up to God.