Ministering to Individual Youth
“Coming close to God as one spirit in repentance is better in God's sight than all sacrifices, for there is nothing in the world that God prefers than the human soul, for everything in the world passes away except the soul which does not.” Thus said one of the saints.
The Lord showed us clearly on many occasions how important He thought
ministering to individuals was. We see Him, for instance, insisting on going
through Samaria in order to meet after a six-hour walk with the Samaritan woman
and to save her from her sin. Or He sits in the quiet of the night with Nicodemus
to explain the second birth to him. He treats his disciples differently depending on
the personality and ability of each; He is tender with John allowing him to lean
against his breast because He knows that this heart will grow in love. He warns
Judas several times, concealing his wrongdoings and being careful not to hurt his
feelings, leaving the purse with him although He knew he was a thief in order to
give him a chance to repent.
Ministering to individuals is absolutely necessary for the salvation of souls. This
is what caused the apostle to instruct his disciples in the letter to the Ephesians
saying, “for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with
tears” (Acts 20: 31). He says to the Colossians, “warning every man and teaching
every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”
(Col. 1: 28). Because the apostle personally experienced the Lord’s feelings for
him as a lost sheep, he followed the same method in his ministry. “Who is weak,
and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?”
(2 Cor. 11: 29)
First: The Importance of Ministering to Individuals:
Each human being has a soul that is different from others because of
inherited forces as well as his environment and the experiences he has had. The
Lord uses approaches and methods that are as numerous and varied as the number
of human beings themselves
There are different kinds of youth, each with their own needs and appropriate
ways of ministering to them:
Reckless youth who are far from God’s house and need the living word to
counter their heedlessness. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn
and weep” (Lk. 6: 25). But forcing the issue can lead to a negative reaction,
driving the young people to more recklessness and strong aversion.
There are youth that submits to sin in discouragement and humiliation,
despairing of repentance and cleansing. These need to hear the glad news of
saving grace to all and to be encouraged in their struggle. They need to fix
their sights on Christ, the end and means of our struggle, so that they can break
out of their egotism and self-reliance and turn their hearts to Christ in love and
trust. He is their real objective and living in His presence is an enduring goal.
They become preoccupied with Christ and are no longer focused on self or on
their sins. However, a wrong approach or a message that is not anointed by the
Holy Spirit could lead the young person to greater confusion and to surrender
to sin, despairing of salvation.
3. There is the young person who is regular in church attendance and in
spiritual exercises without experiencing Christianity in depth and without an inner
surrender to Christ. This young person needs the seed of life to be implanted in his
heart and to have his dangerous complacency disturbed. He needs to be led to a
sincere repentance, inner depth, and a real change. Approaching this individual as
one giving advice or issuing warnings, or in the proud spirit of one who has had
better experiences, could confirm this person in his routine so that he remains
unconvinced of his need for change.
4. There is the young person who is walking along the Lord’s way with a
sincere heart. He needs a small push and some direction. However, if the
minister storms this lovely soul as a guide and leader using his own emotional
techniques without heavenly guidance, or without being entrusted by the Lord with
this task, this could stunt the growth of the young person and cause him to leave
Christ’s realm. This could also make of this young person “a proud saint” who
will easily fall prey to attacks from the right (that is, of pride and selfrighteousness).
5. There is the doubting young individual who asks a lot of questions and who
relies on his efforts and exercises which he carries out with morbid
punctiliousness. He is constantly making specific inquiries about correct behavior,
speech, and relations. He needs a living message that will make him stop thinking
that he can make it on his own and will stop him making of self an idol he
worships. He needs to accept the fact that he can make mistakes and learn from
them, and that he can be misunderstood and slighted. He needs to know that his
weakness can destroy his false respectability. As a result, he will be able to travel
along Christ’s way in absolute fidelity to His person and in obedience to His
commandments without doubts, fears, or anxieties, but rather in the security,
confidence, and joy whose source is Christ’s light inside him, the Holy Spirit’s
clear guiding voice, and the providence of his spiritual father. He will have a
whole heart that focuses on Christ and asks nothing for itself. However, a wrong
approach to this soul could increase its confusion, making him misinterpret our
talk about the freedom of the children of God as an opportunity for negligence and
an occasion for the sins of the flesh.
Therefore, although ministering to individuals is vitally important, it is a twoedged
sword. It can become a harmful weapon in our hands. That is why the
servant needs special grace to minister to individuals and to direct souls wisely.
“He who wins souls is wise.” (Pr. 11: 30).
Second, The Limitations of Individual Ministry:
There are limitations to ministering to individuals that constrain the
minister and which he should be aware of:
The extent of his responsibility for a soul:
The servant sometimes assumes that he is responsible for the salvation of
sinners and for bringing them to repentance through his blessed ministry. The
truth is that the salvation of man is more difficult that the creation of heaven and
earth, or Christ would not have been entrusted with His incarnation or crucifixion.
God’s intervention is clearly necessary for the salvation of souls.
The Holy Spirit alone can rebuke and without His loving and wise rebuke, man’s
condemnation of a sinner can turn into an abhorrent poison. He is the guide who
leads people to the heart of Christ and the blood of the cross, helping them to have
faith and to trust in Him. He persuades them of the possibility of salvation through
the person of Christ. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the instructions of
the servant are burdensome to the young person and as boring as a monotonous
record whose tunes send him to sleep.
The Holy Spirit is the real minister and man (whether priest or servant) is
merely a tool in the hands of the Spirit to use or not as He sees fit, to win this
particular soul and not another at that particular time and not another. That is why
the servant must set aside all his personal weapons and the feeling that he is able to
bring people to repentance. He must discard all fleshly zeal, surrendering himself
in utter weakness to the Holy Spirit to use him as He wishes, only telling Him
about the souls and asking Him to intervene and do the work.
The extent of his fruitfulness:
God may use us in bringing about the repentance of an individual, so we
imagine that we are the cause although “others have labored and you have entered
into their labors.” (Jn. 4: 38).
It is therefore not appropriate for a servant (priest or deacon) to count the
souls who have repented through his ministry or through that of others.
Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit and it is not for man to attribute to
himself the ability to save others. The servant’s responsibility to be fruitful resides
in the extent to which he offers himself as a living sacrifice to Christ and His word,
and when Christ is lifted up, He draws all to Himself.
The extent to which he guides souls:
When a young person asks us about the spiritual path, we sometimes
imagine that we are responsible for making him “a disciple”. How dangerous this
word has become nowadays! No apostle or teacher in the early church considered
his children to be his personal disciples. He and his children were Christ’s
disciples. The role of the minister as defined by St. Paul is: “My little children for
whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” (Gal. 4: 19). That is,
his role is to pray earnestly for them, and to guide them gently and from a distance,
pointing out the signposts along the way. He has to remind them always of the
necessity to throw oneself onto Christ’s breast and to train oneself to hear the
Lord’s loving voice, receiving His faithful guidance in living daily fellowship with
Oftentimes the idea of discipleship in church is perverted into a self-deception that
justifies its crafty aims of forming disciples and followers who adopt the ways,
mannerisms, ideas, and tendencies of their teacher without a living experience of
the freedom of interacting with God and becoming attached to Christ. This
method creates flawed copies that do not reflect the image of Christ, and not even
the image of the “teacher”.
A young person might assume the personality of his teacher, especially in
adolescence. But it is up to the servant to attract him to Christ, and to drive him
away from himself towards the Savior by distancing himself and treating the
young person in a matter of fact fashion. He should not focus on him, but pray
sincerely for him and lead him to others. Discipleship means that minister and
ministered unto should all become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The young
people perceive that the image of Christ is reflected in their minister. They see
that he has grown more and is further along the way than they are and so use him
as a guide to direct and motivate them to follow the Lord. They absorb the correct
way and life from him.
4. The extent to which he storms the spirit:
Often, souls are stormed and invaded so that their secrets are revealed (even by
father confessors) as though we had all the solutions to all their problems or as
though we had the right to commit this blunder. The servant must observe certain
limits and not even ask the young person about, or easily consent to listen to his
secrets, or else:
He might himself be made to stumble by the revelations he hears.
He may drive the young person away when the latter discovers this spirit
in him after a great deal of trouble.
They might both enjoy these conversations without making the least
progress towards repentance.
The servant might become responsible for violating the sacrament of
The young person might form a morbid attachment to his father confessor,
relying on him for guidance in all matters, great and small.
Therefore, it is best for the servant to arm himself with the realization of his
weakness, with purity of heart, with caution, and with the refusal to storm souls
that Christ does not open up Himself. In that case, he is to be reserved and pure,
humble and prayerful, so that the Lord will plant in this blessed heart he is
ministering to the seeds and promises He wants and that He should lead him soon
to the sacrament of confession.
4. The Objective of Ministering to Individuals:
Ministering to individuals is an opportunity for sharing the comfort that is
engendered by the faith within us with those we minister to. It is not talk about
being at a higher level or about a feeling of superiority, nor is it an attempt to
forcibly capture souls. It is just a chance for both minister and charge to sit at the
feet of the Lord, listening to His tender voice, deriving comfort from His filling
presence, and receiving His blessed instructions. The servant is a means of
conveying the presence of the Savior to the home and heart of the one he serves.
And when the Lord of glory comes to the room through much prayer and
supplication, both will make known their needs and receive what they want from
Him in the way of repentance, grace, or solutions to problems.
The most capable of spiritual servants can with great effort suggest a solution to a
problem. But it is impossible for him to impart the grace necessary for the
practical implementation of the solution. That is why the Lord of Glory, through
His Holy Spirit, reveals an essential element in individual ministry and reveals the
main role of the servant: to pour himself out in prayer so that the Lord may speak
through him and comfort the one his is ministering to.
Third, The Methods of Ministering to Individuals:
There are important considerations:
Before the Visit:
When he leaves his home, the servant has to forget that he is a guide and
director and throw himself at Christ’s feet, acknowledging that he is weak,
powerless, and negligent, asking the Lord’s blessing on this opportunity for doing
good granted to him and to those he is to visit. The only feeling that he is required
to have is the clear one that he is the Lord’s partner, that He is accompanying him
and will come to that soul to do the work Himself. The Lord is to assume
leadership and choose those whom he is to visit. He prepares them for this
meeting, guiding them, comforting them, lighting their way, and living with them.
The servant must be in a state of constant prayer throughout the visit.
2. During the Visit:
The minister also needs a spirit of constant prayer in the inner chamber of
the heart throughout the visit. He is to take the lowest seat to give the Lord the
chance to appear and minister. In this spirit of prayer, the blessed instructions and
living words that his charge needs will be uttered.
The visit should not be an occasion to embarrass the youth about his lack of
attendance at meetings, neither the occasion to invade his private life and to ask
about his spiritual exercises. All these remarks should arise naturally and
spontaneously, or they will have a contrary effect. Likewise, the visit is not an
occasion to chatter about worldly matters, nor is it the time for vacuous religious
As soon as you enter the house, ask God to lead you and show you where to
begin. They young person might begin with a useful spiritual discussion or he
might bring a problem to your attention. Lead him to Christ’s arms without going
into many details, so that he might find rest there.
After the Visit:
Entrust all the souls of those you have visited to the grace of God, invoking His
help for each according to his needs, confident that God loves them more than you
do and that He will not forget them.
|| The Orthodox Faith (Dogma) || Family and Youth || Sermons || Bible Study || Devotional || Spirituals || Fasts & Feasts || Coptics || Religious Education || Monasticism || Seasons || Missiology || Ethics || Ecumenical Relations || Church Music || Pentecost || Miscellaneous || Saints || Church History || Pope Shenouda || Patrology || Canon Law || Lent || Pastoral Theology || Father Matta || Bibles || Iconography || Liturgics || Orthodox Biblical topics || Orthodox articles || St Chrysostom |||| Bible Study || Biblical topics || Bibles || Orthodox Bible Study || Coptic Bible Study || King James Version || New King James Version || Scripture Nuggets || Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus || Index of the Miracles of Jesus || Index of Doctrines || Index of Charts || Index of Maps || Index of Topical Essays || Index of Word Studies || Colored Maps || Index of Biblical names Notes || Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids || New Testament activities for Sunday School kids || Bible Illustrations || Bible short notes
|| Prayer of the First Hour || Third Hour || Sixth Hour || Ninth Hour || Vespers (Eleventh Hour) || Compline (Twelfth Hour) || The First Watch of the midnight prayers || The Second Watch of the midnight prayers || The Third Watch of the midnight prayers || The Prayer of the Veil || Various Prayers from the Agbia || Synaxarium