Effective Discipleship For a Non Reading Generation

Effective Discipleship For a Non Reading Generation

Great little post here on community-shaped discipleship in youth work by Josh Cousineau.

He sets up 2 models of discipleship we might employ in our youth work; 1) giving them a chapter of a good book to read and discussing it together the next week, or 2) living life together in community, allowing them to see us in the real world, in real gospel-centered community, living out the Word of God.

Cousineau’s fear is that, although the 1st model is well-intentioned and can be useful for some young people, it’s not going to work for far too many more – what they need is discipleship shaped by real community.

In the past I have tried using books for discipleship of young people, with varying degrees of success. Many young people in Niddrie either lack the literacy skills to read confidently, or just simply aren’t inclined to spend an hour or two with any kind of book. So, there other curricula available on DVD, which have been tried and tested in our setting: Christianity Explored’s ‘Soul‘ series for example. Even the video format hasn’t worked as well as I’d hoped. Cousineau says:

“There are many great truths that students can learn from books and curriculum. Yet, the problem comes when you leave discipleship efforts merely to a book – even walking students through a book in a study format – you are short-selling the student. The real need of the student is to see us, our leaders and other adults in the real world, in real gospel-centered community, living out the Word of God. Gospel centered community is the primary environment in which students will learn what it means to follow Jesus. Real life is the lab of the gospel.”

I’ve really been seeing the benefits of the community-shaped model recently. As I’ve said before, the vast majority of the young people I have contact with are unbelievers, and many, if not all of the 8 points in the ‘brief guide’ would apply to evangelism as well as discipleship. My wife is getting used to having young people over for dinner, and even as I write, I’m expecting someone very soon who’s just chumming me (Niddrie jargon for ‘accompanying’) on a few errands up at the local shopping centre.

As I spend time with young people in the area, they see what Christian life is like in the every-day, mundane things, not just how well I engage with and teach a chapter of a book. It becomes less of a gospel lecture, and more a collection of little gospel lessons. One guy recently joined Ellis and me in our weekly youth work training session (funnily enough, going through a chapter of a youth work book and discussing it!!) After Ellis and I had prayed together, the guy asked ‘Does God not get bored of your prayers?’ A great little God-given opportunity to talk about the gospel from a very simple every day situation.