Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Rick Lawrence's new book, Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, (Group Publishing, 2007).

You work hard to plan great activities for the kids in the youth ministry at your church – Bible studies, service projects, games, discussions, retreats, mission trips, and more. But does every part of the youth ministry directly connect kids to Jesus?

Despite your best intentions, however, you can easily end up spending time and energy on activities that don’t really point the kids to Jesus. Here’s how you can keep your youth ministry focused on Jesus:

Take an inventory of what you’re doing. Consider everything you’re currently doing in youth ministry and honestly discern whether or not each activity is connecting kids to Jesus. Whenever you recognize something that’s not doing so, ask God to show you how to change your plans so that you’re either doing new activities or shifting the focus of your old activities.

Ask the Holy Spirit to transform your mind. Pray for the Spirit to renew your mind each day so you’re constantly aware of what Jesus is doing in your everyday life. Help the kids in your youth group notice and articulate what Jesus is doing in their everyday lives, so they’ll see the relevance and importance of a dynamic relationship with Him.

Deconstruct kids’ wrong ideas about Jesus. Break down misconceptions that kids in your youth ministry have about Jesus so they won’t be deceived and will be ready to hear and respond to the truth about Him. Teach kids critical thinking skills. Encourage them to ask questions rather than just accepting concepts they encounter about Jesus, holding those concepts up to the light of biblical truth to see whether or not they’re reliable. As kids study accounts of Jesus in the Bible, have them ask three questions about whatever passage they’re reading: “What did Jesus really say?” (What was the context of His remarks – who was He speaking to, where was He speaking, and why was He speaking?), “What did Jesus really do?” (In the context of “normal behavior” in His culture, what impact did His actions have on those who heard Him – both positive and negative?), and “How did people really experience Jesus?” (What is the array of emotional reactions people had to Jesus, and why did they react that way?). Encourage kids to ask surprising, specific, and personal questions about Jesus and His kingdom. Use humor and satire to expose kids’ false mental models of Jesus.

Show kids what a passion for Jesus looks like. Model a passionate relationship with Jesus in your own life so the kids in your youth ministry can see what it looks like and be inspired to draw closer to Jesus themselves. Make a habit of talking with God about everything in your life, holding nothing back. Pay close attention to God’s voice speaking to you, and alert to the story of His work unfolding in your life. Set aside one or two days a month to go on a spiritual retreat.

Follow Jesus' example when discipling the kids. Remember how Jesus helped His disciples grow in their faith: He conferred on them the spiritual authority they needed to do the job; He started them out with a doable challenge; He gave them specific boundaries for their responsibilities; He told them to expect God to meet their needs along the way; He told them to look for people who were open to what they had to give; He told them to expect trouble and not be surprised when it came; He showed His trust in them by not shadowing them as they ventured into the unknown; and He helped His disciples debrief their ministry adventures after they returned. Let these same principles guide you as you disciple the kids in your youth ministry.