Youth Ministry and Training Fleas

BY: Dietrich Kirk


Watch this video while thinking about the question – how is training fleas similar to how we do youth ministry in the church? Training Fleas

Yesterday, I looked at the Drivers License Myth and Flatline Youth Ministries.  Today, I want to continue the conversation.  When Kenda Creasy Dean first introduced me to this video I was terrified.  How is training fleas like how many churches do youth ministry?  We set the bar of faith so low that adults and young people alike don’t know how to “escape the circus.”  The most frighting part of the video to me is that when the “fleas” have offspring they will conform to the same limitations as their parents.  Brain Kirk at Rethinking Youth Ministry commented on this in yesterday’s post that he wonders if the lid keeps not only kids from growing but the adults in our congregation from growing as well.

Are we guilty of low lid youth ministries?  I know I was.  Intentional discipleship is the process I developed to help youth understand that faith and discipleship are life long processes.

What is Intentional Discipleship?

Intentional discipleship is a call to develop youth ministries that provide programs that help young people continue down the discipleship path.  By identifying the key stages and catalysts of the discipleship journey, intentional discipleship provides a map for young people to use to navigate where they are on their spiritual journey and provide the tools to help them travel.  When CYMT works with churches, we help them develop a metaphor to help them understand the process of discipleship.  Finally, Intentional discipleship helps youth workers develop a systematic programming approach that meets the needs of each stage of discipleship development encouraging growth in their students.


There are some important disclaimers.  An intentional discipleship plan does not create a discipleship factory.

  1. Youth grow spiritually at their own rate. Therefore some will become committed disciples who are still journeying when they graduate from your program, but the vast majority will not.  We cannot create spiritual growth only the Holy Spirit at work in a youth’s life can move them down the discipleship path; however, we can create environments and opportunities that stimulate growth.  It is our job to plant, till, tend, and water; but only the mystery of the God can produce growth and fruit.
  2. Not every youth will start the journey of discipleship at the same time. Most churches program for youth who grow up in the church(and assume they get it), but what about the kid who comes to your church in 10th grade, missed confirmation class, and does not know where Roman’s is.  Intentional discipleship allows entry points based on spiritual growth as well as age.
  3. You are going to have to change your attendance expectations. Not every youth will come to every program.  Instead youth will be encouraged to attend the programs that meet their spiritual needs.  Therefore, the Bible Study leader will unapologetically be able to tell the obxious kid to not come but instead to go to youth group.  Youth who want to focus on God’s word will be able too because the study will be offered at their level not the average spiritual level of all the youth.  You will have to learn to celebrate the fact that 8 kids in a Bible Study on James who are getting it is just as wonderful as 35 kids at youth group.  You will have to learn to celebrate the fact that some kids are not going to come to youth group anymore because it is not meeting their needs, but instead are choosing to never miss their small group.

Who, What, and Where is the Key

To get started we must decide the who, what, and where of youth ministry programming.

Who – who is attending our programs?  I know you know their names, but have you thought about where they are on their discipleship journey.  Is Johnny a committed disciple, growing in his faith, or just getting started.  Only students and God truly know where their are, but our knowledge of their outward expression of their faith should give us some real insights.

What – what is the purpose of our program?  What stage of a young person’s spiritual development is it intentionally trying to reach?  Yesterday, I asked if your programs purpose and attends spiritual stage matched up?  Most of us need to do one of two things:  1. Adjust our programming to the stage of those who are attending our program if it is the best time for those students to attend or 2. Encourage youth who are mismatched spiritually to the purpose to attend a different program that does met their spiritual depth.  Note:  If you choose one, do not do it at the expense of those who are further down the discipleship path.  Be sure if you change the purpose to offer those students an alternative program that meets their needs or you will loose them.

Where – where are your students headed?  Have you clearly laid out for them how the programs of your church create a path for them to travel as they grow in there faith.  If they have been attending youth group, do they know that attending a small group will help them continue to grow on their journey (will it?).

Your next step is to found in my post Programming the Gaps.  Youth don’t grow by attending a program that meets their spiritual development stage.  They grow in the gaps between the stages.  We’ll talk more about it on Monday.

Help us all grow. Please share your thoughts on Training Fleas and Who, What, and Where as it relates to your ministry and church.


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