As youth leaders, we long for more than cool events and impressive numbers. We long for the presence of God to touch the thoughts, emotions, and choices of the teenagers He has placed in our care.

How to Prioritize the Presence of Jesus

by David Sliker
9/21/15 Featured

I have built and been involved with youth ministries that have prioritized the knowledge of God with music and singing in corporate gatherings. I have watched as—time and time again—bored, distracted, and disconnected young people are awakened by grace to the beauty of Jesus. I have watched them give all with tears and delight as they sing and present their hearts to God.

Big numbers from “cool” events and programs in youth ministry can makes us look good. But as youth leaders, we long for more than cool events and impressive numbers. We long for the presence of God to touch the thoughts, emotions, and choices of the teenagers He has placed in our care.

Don’t get me wrong—growing the ministry is good! It just needs to be the right kind of growth; our priority must be His Presence, not our programs. If we grow teens deep, they will come up strong.

This kind of internal growth will usually lead to plenty of numerical growth. In fact, it will lead to the kind of multiplied growth that will impact groups, schools, and cities. Only the ever-spreading, multiplying presence of Jesus will cause that to happen! This is why we must remember to prioritize the presence of Jesus in our lives.

There are many ways we can help young people grow in their experience of the presence of Jesus.

1. We can help young people learn to sing the Scriptures. The chariot that the Spirit of God rides on best is the Word of God. Saint Augustine (AD 430) is credited with the saying, “Qui bene cantat bis orat.” This means, “He who sings well prays twice.”

The truth of the Scripture goes much deeper when we sing it—both by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the power of singing itself. Saint Augustine understood that the “love song of the heart” possesses power to deeply transform our emotions as we sing.

The mystery of music is in the being of God Himself. Music is the greatest form of entertainment in every culture, because a musical God made the human spirit to be musical too. God is a musician, and music surrounds and fills His throne room, as seen in Revelation 4. Around the throne of God, the saints and angels experience the power of the Holy Spirit through music as they worship and sing to the Father.

Music positions our hearts to experience the presence of God in the midst of our ministries and programs. The combination of anointed music and biblical preaching on the emotions of God stirs the hearts of young people in a profound manner. It helps them feel truth in a deeper way than they understand consciously. Teenagers may not be able to break down the details of propitiation or justification, but singing escorts their hearts into an encounter with Truth that is greater than their understanding.

2. We can help young people become fascinated with Jesus. Youth ministers who are fascinated with the beauty and majesty of Jesus, His heart, and His leadership are desperately needed today.  The content of our teaching and preaching must reflect who Jesus is, what He is like, and the details of how He loves us.

There is a growing cry among teenagers to be fully committed to pursuing, knowing, and encountering Jesus in an intimate way. We can help them move from just knowing Him to having hearts fascinated with and by Him.

Without a sense of awe, we live aimless and spiritually bored, which makes us weak and vulnerable to Satan. A fascinated believer is strong and equipped to face temptation.

There is a craving in every human spirit to be fascinated and to marvel. Because of our divine design, we have a sense of wonderment in the core of our beings. We long to be awestruck and filled with endless wonder.

The grace of God is available to captivate thousands of young believers with the glory of Jesus and the greatness of His love. Like King David, they too can become preoccupied with God while their hands are occupied with the work of ministry.

3. We can help young people connect with Jesus through prayer. This is the most difficult, but also the most rewarding, part. Young people can be taught, coached, and encouraged in a life of prayer. Daring to do so can have a dramatic effect on your life and ministry.

As teenagers connect and engage with the Holy Spirit, talking with Him about what is true, noble, right, pure, and lovely (Phil. 4:8), they will find their hearts very different over time. As they pray for a spirit of wisdom and revelation, the Holy Spirit will release the revelation of the knowledge of Jesus. It is a very powerful thing that takes place inside of us when God reveals God to the human spirit. Divine information is not neutral; it tenderizes us, changes us, moves us forward, marks us, and imparts power to us. Most of the time, it will be a subtle but measurable difference that is real.

There are few things more beautiful to me on the earth than seeing young people opening their hearts to God, confident in and exhilarated by His love. A young person who knows the truth about Jesus, His heart, and His leadership is someone who is positioned and equipped to pursue and enjoy the presence of the Lord. Truths about Jesus awaken the reach to know Him more. Young people want so much more than knowing about Jesus—they want to know the Man intimately and fully. They were made for this pursuit.

David Sliker


  • President, IHOPU
  • Executive Director, Internships

David Sliker has been a senior leader at the International House of Prayer Missions Base in Kansas City, Missouri, for the past 20 years. Ministering and serving with his wife, Tracey, and their four children, Riley, Lauren, Daniel, and Finney, David’s primary ministry calling is as an intercessor. Additionally, he ministers internationally, equipping saints in prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, passion for the Word of God, and the proclamation of Jesus’ return. He is the president of International House of Prayer University, where he teaches about prayer and intimacy with Jesus, missions, biblical studies, and the return of Jesus. He is the author of End-Times Simplified: Preparing Your Heart for the Coming StormThe Nations Rage: Prayer, Promise, and Power in an Anti-Christian Age, and The Triumph of Beauty: God’s Radiant Answer to the World’s Growing Darkness.

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