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Building a Bible-Engaged Youth Ministry

Renée Griffith-Grantham

Josh Wellborn, National Youth Director for the Assemblies of God, returned to Springfield, MO, with his family in 2018 after serving as the Michigan District Student Ministries Director. Before then, he served as a youth pastor in Lansing, Michigan; Brussels, Belgium; and Seattle, Washington. In this interview with BEP, Josh shares his passion for Bible Engagement and his heart for how youth leaders can fuel their fire for the Word.

 

 

BEP: What’s one of the top things you love about youth ministry?

 

Josh: One of the main reasons I love youth ministry is that many people’s journey to God started there. Quite a few of our credential holders today can trace their calling back to a youth camp or other youth events where God spoke to them powerfully, and they dedicated their lives to His service.

 

 

BEP: When you first heard that Bible Engagement would be front and center in AG priorities, what went through your mind? 

 

Josh: When I heard General Superintendent Clay say two years ago that the AG was really going to focus on Bible engagement, something leapt up within me and, really, I think within all those who have hung their hats on biblical study and expository preaching. Our fellowship has always focused on missions and Spirit empowerment and the Word of God, but this renewed emphasis on the Bible reminds us that we start with Scripture. It is because of Scripture that the other two emphases find their place.

 

Our distinctive as the AG fellowship is baptism in the Holy Spirit, which doesn’t mean that we have a corner on Him, but the Holy Spirit is foundationally associated with us, even more so than our other two emphases. 

 

 

BEP: What does National Youth Ministries have coming down the pike in 2020 in terms of Bible engagement? 

 

Josh: This year we’re committed to providing one free preaching resource every month to local youth pastors. These are expository preaching resources more than topical, although many topics can be pulled out. We also have a full Bible study on the Gospel of John, in line with the focus of Bible Quiz this year. 

 

As well, in the past year we released an AIM journal (Ambassadors in Mission) with daily Scriptures and devotional thoughts for students going on missions trips. Obviously, the demand for this journal looks different now, with the coronavirus pandemic. The journal has daily devotions for before, during, and after an AIM trip, so students receive a month’s worth of readings.

 

 

BEP: In addition to new resources from NYM, what are some evergreen resources and opportunities that highlight Bible engagement? 

 

Josh: I would definitely say Fine Arts Festival. It’s a resource and our biggest event! At its heart is students doing what God has called them to do. We have created opportunities for students to discover, develop, and deploy their ministry gifts. God’s Word says He created us for a purpose, and this platform helps students discover what their purpose is. The “deploy” part of our motto is about the Great Commission. When we operate in our talents and giftings, we’re caring for the body of Christ. 

 

 

BEP: Please share some tips from your experience for youth pastors to stay engaged with the Bible in all their ministry efforts and outlets.

 

Josh:

  • One. Most importantly, spend time in the Word of God for yourself. Just like with anything, it only works if you use it. Time in the Word, not just for the next sermon or event, but for feeding your own soul, is indispensable.  

 

  • Two. Start with Scripture during your sermon preparation. I’m a big advocate of this. I think that in youth ministry there are topics that every student needs to hear, including dating, honoring parents, hearing from God, and making wise decisions for the future; however, I also think that driving these conversations from Scripture rather than from the issues is the best way to present these conversations.

 

  • Three. Stay engaged with a biblical community. I say this because of Proverbs 14:12: “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (NLT). Our own lines of logic don’t always take us to the right place. So, how do we guard against this? We find a community of people who are engaged with the Bible, and we engage with the Word with them. The Assemblies of God fellowship, in all its ministry networks and districts, is full of people who can be family to us in this way. Our fellowship is only as good as you make it, so invest in people! 

 

  • Four. Remember that relationships matter most. This is close to the third point above. Make sure to have trusted people hold you accountable, and bounce your creative ideas off them. These are two elements absolutely necessary to a healthy ministry and minister.

 

 

BEP: Can you share with us a window into your devotional life? 

 

Josh: Currently, I’m working through a chronological Bible. I love the One-Year Bible, too, and have gone through that several times. As well, I choose to study things that I’m reading in the Bible, whether through outlining a biblical book or trying my hand at unpacking a deep theological point or a position paper – engaging at a deeper level helps us have that tender heart to keep asking, “How is Scripture transforming my life?” We can’t be content with just asking, “What does this Scripture mean?” That’s stopping short. We have to let it transform us, and then we have to wrestle with how to teach what is transforming us. For me, I often preach about what God is doing in my life. 

 

 

BEP: What’s your hope for the AG with Bible engagement?

 

Josh: I love that the curriculum we have created will really promote Bible engagement. My hope is for the bigger picture, that every fellowship, every denomination, every network, and not just those within the AG would start with a biblical view of who God is and what He desires for His people and the world, and what that means missionally for us as Christians. This bigger picture is very exciting to me.

 

My hope is that Bible engagement will encourage the Bible teachers (in church, colleges, wherever) of the AG to really rise to the top as it relates to expanded influence. When we think of top Bible-teachers in America, who comes to mind? How many of those are AG? I think we need more of these teachers, especially because they can infuse teachings about the Holy Spirit. I’d love to see more leading Bible teachers in our country talk about the gifts of the Spirit and operate in the gifts of the Spirit—and why not have them come from within our fellowship?