“If you have a group of twelve kids who don’t understand your illustrations and one of them wants to kill you, you have a youth group like Jesus.” –Mark Yaconelli
If you just think of this quote on the surface level, for it quickly gets dark if you dive deeper, it’s a funny analogy. I came upon this quote while reading Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It by Mark DeVries. At first, it made me chuckle, for I have one teen who jokes about using nukes against me whenever I challenge him to a wrestling match . . . and win. And another who has watched way too many crime shows and claims to know how to get away with hiding a dead body. . . .
But after my chuckling, I began to think about Jesus and his disciples, how he may have been the first youth minister and what his youth group would have been like.
It’s very possible the men who Jesus chose to surround himself with, were a group of teenagers. With the exception of Peter (Luke 4:38-40), it sounds like the other disciples were unmarried men, which means they may have been young men learning trades, since the norm of that culture was for older men to take on younger wives (as soon as they were the age of child bearing) after they had a sustainable job and housing.
Jesus chose to be a mentor to twelve young men. Teaching them how to be men of God, giving them wisdom, and revealing many confusing ideas that his disciples never really got until after his resurrection. He did not choose the richest nor brightest to be in his company, but four fisherman, who would have been looked down on in their society, uneducated men. A tax collector–a traitor to his own people who had a trade working with the ruling foreign authorities, and even a Zealot–a man dedicated in taking down the Roman government. And a man with a heart of greed, who would ultimately betray him.
These seven men, plus five others, were the intimate circle that Jesus chose to spend the majority of his time with for three or so years in the wilderness. Travelling, showing them signs, revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom, and bathing them in his love. These twelve men who we look up today, would not have been thought of as saints in their time, but as outcasts and lower class. Men who struggled with pride (Mark 10:35-45), compassion (John 9:1-12), and doubt (Matthew 26:69-75). And men who didn’t shower regularly, who probably didn’t know what deodorant was and stank (more than a junior high cabin). Yet it was these men, who Jesus chose to be the first leaders of his Church. His first baptizers and messengers. The men he entrusted to carry on his legacy after his ascension into heaven. The first temples of his Holy Spirit. Ordinary men, who Jesus used for extraordinary purposes.
No matter if your a teen, a child, or an adult, you can be used by God. And if you think of yourself as an outcast, well, know that God can especially use you to expand His Kingdom.