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What is Spiritual Formation in Youth Ministry?

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I am not anti-fun or even anti-event, rather I believe we need a change in emphasis and focus. I am calling for student pastors to center their ministry cycle on the process of spiritual formation.

Spiritual formation is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, so it’s important you know what I mean when I say ‘spiritual formation.’ building-foundation-2Spiritual formation describes the process of a believer’s spiritual maturation through the continual sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, in which the believer is transformed more and more to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19). This process is not accomplished solely on hard work and due diligence absent of dependence on the Spirit, but rather spiritual formation is the process in which we balance our human responsibility with the Spirit’s promise to continue His work in us (Rom. 8:28-30; Phil. 1:6). The definition used in this research then is that spiritual formation is the Spirit empowered process in which the believer’s life is conformed to that of Christ’s (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27) through the grace-empowered submission of his life to God’s will (Rom. 12:1-2), and in the context of biblical community. The result of spiritual formation should be a life entirely transformed by the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual formation is the Spirit empowered process in which the believer’s life is conformed to that of Christ’s (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27) through the grace-empowered submission of his life to God’s will (Rom. 12:1-2), and in the context of biblical community.

Spiritual formation is far too often a discussion that leads to strategies, disciplines, or rules on how to effectively take the reins of your own formation. Although these discussions and strategies are not inherently bad, the line between grace-empowered transformation and human ‘hunker-down’ obedience must be walked with a prayerful balance. Therefore, I am not here to propose a 7-part strategy to grow your students quicker and better, rather historically the Church has broken the spiritual formation process down into three practices; corporate worship, doing life together, and serving others. It is when we understand and emphasize these practices in our ministries that we are able to navigate away from the production of church consumers and toward forming mature Christ followers

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Death Has No Sting

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Since the first of this year, I’ve had two friends pass away too young and with anointing, calling and passion for what God has placed in their hearts. A number of friends have encountered physical issues that were and/or are life threatening.

As I’ve prayed, cried and grieved for the dear friends and family that have had their world’s turned up side down, mixed emotions have flooded my mind. Shock, questions and fear just to name a few. Through these a few lessons, hopefully, have been gleaned that I’d like to share. This isn’t a completed course, nor are these all that are to be learned; but they are a solid foundation.

One, none of these situations took God by surprise. God knows ALL, regardless of proponents of open theism. Not only does He know all, He has already provided for us the means by which to encounter, endure and be victorious through tragedy and loss. It’s called GRACE – God’s enabling power!

Not only has He equipped us for these heart rending challenges, but He trusts us to respond with what He’s equipped us with. Think of it, the God of the universe trusts you and I.

Second, God created us with emotions. It’s not wrong to have emotions or feelings. How we respond to and/or with them will determine whether they are right or wrong. Giving expression to those feelings is also “okay”, provided we pour them out to the Lord, letting Him hear what we’re feeling. Yes, I know He already knows, but it’s for our benefit to release them as we commune with the Lord. Don’t hold back either. God knows our hearts and He is secure in His unconditional love for us.

Another lesson like the two above is progressive, expressing love, appreciation gratefulness to people in general; but in particular those who have impacted my life. The words “I love you” have crossed my lips more since the first of the year to more people than ever before. For my wife, Kathy, it’s several times a day. More phone conversations are closing with those words as well.

I’ll close this session sharing this lesson, the value and how precious family and friends are. Over the years “stuff” has been lost that gave rise too often to wrong kinds of emotions/feelings, yet they can be replaced and if not replaced the reality of how insignificant they really were. Relationships, family and friends can’t be replaced; they can only grow and expand.

God’s love is awesome, without doubt. When His love is expressed through us – it gives a greater clarity of His love in a tangible way.

Remember, you’re loved and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Gary Hines

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Leadership Team

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