“Habits are unparalleled predictors of long-term outcomes. They affect performance more than talent, intelligence…or decision-making. Yet we struggle to take control of our habits to get the outcomes we want. There are no organizations or individuals without habits. There are only those who deliberately design them and those who do not.” The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
In youth ministry, we often make plans for events and lessons but pay little attention to helping students develop godly habits that will last for a lifetime. As a youth leader, you can help your students form habits that will lay the foundation for their relationship with Christ. The formation of these spiritual habits is the most life-changing thing you can invest in! To do this you will need to have three key mindsets:
1. Remember: Godliness Comes Through Discipline
God primarily uses three catalysts to grow us in our relationship with Christ: people (both good and difficult people), circumstances (He controls these perfectly), and spiritual disciplines or habits. Of these three, the only one we control is spiritual habits. In 1 Timothy 4:7, we read, “Exercise yourself toward godliness.” Notice that this verse tells us WHAT to do: exercise. This word means to exercise vigorously; think about the daily regimen of an Olympic athlete. Next, we see WHO is to do the exercising: yourself. Every believer is given the responsibility for their own growth. Lastly, we see the goal: godliness. Every believer is to be growing to be like Jesus Christ. We don’t just live life and become godly, rather, we are to pursue and seek after it. There is a level of effort needed!
2. Recognize the Power of Habits
It is easy to fall into the trap of overemphasizing the importance of one defining moment in the life of a student, like a retreat or camp dedication decision. What I mean by overemphasizing is thinking that this decision alone will change everything. Though these types of decisions are important, what they provide is a new direction–not spiritual maturity. Be careful to not underestimate the value of building small daily spiritual habits. Spiritual habits are like small doses of medicine, which, applied over time, will yield incredible results. As they compound year after year, they yield godliness.
3. Determine to Start Small and Check-Up Often
No one starts training for a marathon by running 26.2 miles. They set realistic daily and weekly goals and then work from there to do more mileage each week. It is the same with spiritual habits! It would be wise to start a student who has not developed any spiritual habits with Bible reading and prayer two to three days a week, because that is attainable. Because these habits are brand new, messaging them on days they have agreed to practice those disciplines will help them with consistency. When you see them each week, encourage them on any progress they make. Then, gradually encourage them to develop this into a daily habit. Remember to remind them of the goal: to be like Jesus. Also, sharing about your daily time with the Lord can be a great motivator as you set the example in your own life.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”, 1 John 2:3.
One day we will be like Jesus when we see Him as He is, but here on Earth, spiritual growth is a lifelong journey.
Spiritual habits are unparalleled predictors of the long-term growth in the lives of your students. These will have a huge influence on who they become as a follower of Jesus. Make helping students form spiritual habits a focus for your ministry.
John is the Director of Word of Life Youth Ministries. He and his wife Pam have served with Word of Life for over 33 years in several regions including Southern California and North East Pennsylvania. They currently live in upstate NY where John has been serving in his current role since November, 2014.