If you’re a pastor, and you have young adults within your reach, it’s important to find ways to invest in their lives through discipleship. In fact, even if it’s just one young adult within your reach, make time to build a relationship and intentionally disciple him or her. Here are five key reasons pastors need to be discipling at least one young adult.
You need to be encouraged by quick(ish) fruit.
Ministry is hard. It requires a calling for one to faithfully stay the course and persevere under difficulty. Seeing fruit from your labor can be an encouragement in this challenging task. When you disciple a young adult, you will see growth. Like the pea plants you grew in elementary school, the spiritual growth in young adults can be measured weekly, sometimes daily. If invited, young adults will think about what you say, challenge your conclusions, and possibly misunderstand and misquote you. But, assuredly, they will change before you. If you buy lunch, you are almost guaranteed an audience. Mix in sincere caring and helpful truth, and they won’t skip these times. A minimal Bible reader will become one who reads the whole thing in a year. A marginal church member will buy and read a copy of a systematic theology book. A materialistic 22-year-old will understand God’s call to all nations and begin supporting missions. Go ahead, treat yourself. Get a front row seat to God changing a heart.
You need to be challenged.
The person you disciple will actually attempt to practice the things you recommend. You suggest memorizing Scripture, and a month later, they are working on verse 10 of a passage, and you feel like an imposter. That sentiment can motivate you to consistently memorize Scripture again. They will begin seeking and seizing opportunities to tell others about their hope in Christ. This change may cause you to begin looking at your neighbors, shopkeepers, and letter carrier differently. When they trust you, young adults are very open and will stop hiding their sin or pretending it does not exist. They will backslide, habitually sin, repent, then sin again, and overall remind you of yourself. You can grow in humility and compassion as they relay their sin struggle. It will dawn on you how the Father endures your lack of faith in His provision, your bouts with anger, your subtle envy of others, and slow progress toward Christlikeness. You need this reinvigoration of peace and joy in the compassion of God.
You need a Kingdom heart.
You may not benefit from the long-term fruit of the young adults you disciple. You may invest over and over again in this person, and then another church—another pastor—will reap the lion’s share of the benefits. Be okay with this condition—even embrace it. You are not building your own kingdom and mark on the world. If you are, just stop. It won’t work, nor will it be very good. You are the servant of God bringing into reality the Kingdom of Jesus. Then again, you might get to benefit from this investment (harvesting that fruit is really fun).
You need to foster future leaders.
If you are newer in your pastoral context, you likely inherited all the leaders in your church. In discipling a young adult, you might be building a future Bible study leader, deacon, elder, pastor, seminary professor, missionary, or martyr. Regardless, you are shepherding one of the members of your congregation; the very thing you are tasked to do faithfully. You’ll feel God’s pleasure as you do what He has called you to do. Think of this kind of investment like the old certificate of deposit. One would invest an amount of money for a designated amount of time (6 months to 5 years), and the deposit would “mature” at the designated time and at the termed rate. You had to forget about the money you invested until later. It was not liquid, but, at maturity, you would have a guaranteed return. Discipling a young adult is restocking your ranks of kingdom workers. Disciple them, and you will have a guaranteed return.
You need to be a faithful shepherd.
As a pastor, you are expected—and commanded—to shepherd the flock entrusted to you (1 Peter 5:2). Further, you are to watch over their souls and will give an account of your care and oversight (Hebrews 13:17). Care means, in part, that you are the one to initiate the discipling relationship. In general, a young adult may be too intimidated by your position, too unfamiliar with theology, or too insecure to approach you. However, the regenerate ones will probably be receptive to your invitation because God wants them to grow and puts this desire in them. To be a faithful shepherd, you need to know your congregation in order to make better application in your sermon. Discipling one young adult can give insight into that generation, instead of relying on the stereotyped caricature of them. If you have them sitting under your Sunday teaching, discipling even one can help you preach to the many.
The task is clear: Initiate discipling a young adult, and you will be called “faithful.”
Blake Hardcastle serves as the Collegiate Coordinator for the Baptist Convention of MD/DE and the local Baptist Student Ministry director at the University of Delaware. He has been involved in ministry to young adults for 22 years. He has a passion for discipleship and spiritual formation.