Bi-Believer Ministry | 9/18/2019 | Staff
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Not long ago I got off the phone with a “profoundly unhappy” mom whose daughter is a regular in our youth ministry.

She launched into a long, emotional tirade about our ministry’s openness to “those kids”—teenagers who don’t yet love or follow Jesus. She complained that her daughter was a “model teenager” until she met one of “those kids” at our youth service.


I listened, hung up, and let out a long sigh…

It’s a youth ministry dilemma—how do we tailor a ministry that reaches both disciples and “pre-disciples”?

Decades - Experience - Experimentation - Approach - Tension

I’ve had decades of experience and experimentation trying to balance my approach to this tension. Here’s what I told that angry mom—my over-arching priorities for a “bi-believer” ministry (where both believers and non-believers coexist):

1. Create an atmosphere of authentic friendship—it’s an absolute necessity, whether you’re trying to impact believers or non–believers. Focus on building a culture of warmth and friendliness—it’s your “golden ticket” to retaining those who already love Jesus and attracting kids who are still far, far away from Him. Fail the friendliness test…and you fail. (Check out my book Thriving Youth Groups: Secrets for Growing Your Ministry for pragmatic ideas on how to create a “friendship culture”—just go to and plug the title into the search box.)

Youth - Ministry - Dilemma—how - Ministry - Disciples

It’s a youth ministry dilemma—how do we tailor a ministry that reaches both disciples and “pre-disciples”?

2. Pepper your teaching with“bridge-statements” that intentionally connect your topic to non-believers. With just a few smart tweaks to your language, you can make a discipleship emphasis...
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