I've been taking high schoolers to Steubenville conferences for the last 6 years I've been in ministry. It's an amazing experience and really a huge surge of evangelistic momentum for any group of high school students. The problem a lot of us youth ministers have is following up intentionally on this event and using the momentum to bring youth into a deeper understanding of what it means to follow Jesus as His disciple.
So my co-captain Tim and I came up with a plan to hack this evangelistic momentum. The intention is two-fold: to capitalize on teens committing/recommitting to a decision to follow Jesus and make changes in their life, and to continue to foster the Christian community created in our Steubenville conference small groups.
Our plan is to use commitment cards and a Discipleship 101 series as followup. Feel free to download and use the resources we created! If you try something like this, let me know your thoughts.
#1. Commitment Cards
I first heard about commitment cards being used at chastity talks, and I wasn't that keen on them. Then recently I heard about them again, this time through Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. The idea of a written commitment that gives teens practical next steps started to sound like the answer to the nagging feeling that comes one week after an event like Steubenville or a Lifeteen summer camp. "How did everything go? Did teens encounter Jesus? Have I done enough to follow up? Did I do a good job?"
So our commitment card serves a few purposes. First, it gives teens a physical sign of an interior movement that may have occured at the Steubenville conference. There is a brief explanation of how to pray to Jesus and make a decision of faith to follow him. Then they can sign the card and keep it in their Bible or place it somewhere in their room.
There is also place for teens to put their contact info. We printed these cards on perforated raffle tickets we picked up at Office Max. (You can download the word file we used below.) This way we can track who made a commitment and follow up with them individually after the conference.
We asked ourselves, "What are the first basic and practical habits that someone who has just given their life to Jesus can start committing to that very day?"
Reading Matthew 23:27 Jesus gives a great commandment "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul." So we decided that, at the very least, if a teen comes away from this conference committed to following one command of Jesus, this would be the best (greatest) one to follow.
So the three basic habits we will encourage teens to commit to are:
- Loving God with my heart through daily quiet time with Jesus.
- Loving God with my soul through weekly worship of God.
- Loving God with my mind through setting aside time monthly to grow as a disciple.
Daily quiet, weekly worship, and monthly growth. If a non-Christian teen comes on this conference, has a life-changing encounter with Jesus, commits their life to following Him and practicing these three habits, and then we never see that teen again, I would feel confident that teen has been prepared for a life-long relationship with Jesus. Everything else will come from those three habits. They will be seeking God in prayer every day, they will be coming to Church every week, and they will eventually seek out RCIA as a way to grow if he hasn't been baptized, or at least strive to grow in his understanding of what it now means to be a disciple of Jesus.
#2. Discipleship 101 Series
At a Steubenville conference, the Gospel message (kerygma) is proclaimed with the intention of bringing about a conversion of heart, repentance of sin, and a decision of faith. The first three means of insertion into the mystery of Christ are used, with an emphasis on Scripture, evangelistic talks, and Liturgy and Sacraments.
There are four ways of insertion into the mystery of Christ:
- Sacred Scripture
- Systematic Catechesis
- Liturgy and Sacraments
- Authentic Christian Community
Another aspect of the Steubenville conference is the power of Christian community. Our youth ministry at our parish, as a lot of youth ministries around the country, is trying to adopt small discipleship group ministry as a way to help teens grow deeper into mature disciples after having a meaningful encounter with Jesus.
So our plan is to have three "reunions" immediately following the Steubenville conference. This will be our Discipleship 101 series where each night we will do a mini-Young Church night (following the Lifeteen gather/proclaim/break/send format) with all the teens and chaperones and adults of the steubenville conference.
Each night we will meet in our youth center to unpack one of the three basic habits of a disciple: daily quiet, weekly worship, and monthly growth. We'll have a quick fun activity, a short teaching, and then break back into their small groups from the Steubenville conference. We'll end with something practical to do that week.
Here's the real power play: after those three sessions, we will challenge and encourage those still coming to meet for *three more* sessions with their small group outside of the Church.
We're hoping that these adults and teens who make it to this phase will have enough momentum to continue meeting as a discipleship group. That's the prayer at least.
So this is our plan. We'll let you know how it goes! Please say a quick prayer for us right now. Who knows what will happen, but its worth a shot! And if you'll be at Steubenville Lonestar in Dallas and you see me, say hi! I'd love to meet you.
Resources and Assets
Below are a bunch of the resources we created. Feel free to use them and edit them as you need. If you do something similar, let me know how it goes!
I also recorded a video explaining this all to the parents and encouraging them to follow up with their child after the conference. Check it out below.