scrapbook crossI once heard someone remark, “If you really want to get a lot of students to come to your youth group, just bring in a keg of beer.” While his comments may be satirical about how some churches overvalue numbers as a marker for success, it does ask a vital question: What is it that separates a youth group from any other youth gathering?

All around us, there are seemingly unlimited places for youth to gather. It could be informal areas like malls (well, maybe not as much nowadays) or around an XBox. There are other programs like Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA. There are other agencies that offer humanitarian trips (aka “short term missions) with students wanting to make the world a better place. Many of those agencies do good work. But there’s one vital element that distinguishes a youth ministry from any other youth agency: Jesus.

It does sound like a cliche or a Sunday school answer. But ultimately, it is our hope in the person and message of Jesus that compels a youth ministry. Jesus must be the focal point of the youth ministry. It’s not to suggest that every single interaction you have with students somehow involves the four spiritual laws. But in all our interactions and activities, Jesus must be the propelling force that moves us towards him.

During this Holy Week, let’s begin with ourselves in remembering and appreciating Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. The fact is, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) How deeply do we understand that moment in history? How does it compel us back to the Saviour himself? For if Christ doesn’t compel us, should we expect any different with students?

Jesus is the one reason and the one reason only why our youth ministry exists. Is that true in your youth ministry today?