A Special Note To Parents of Youth
From Luke, Youth Director: God has been doing an awesome work in my life and in the lives of many others in recent weeks and months. Last July, I went to a life-changing training event called “Lead The Cause University” with four other students. I have always had a strong interest in evangelism but during that week God gave a bigger vision for His Kingdom and a real passion to reach the lost with His love. I knew that things could not go back to “normal”.
A new chapter was opened in the youth ministry of Atonement. We began centering everything on the incredible, powerful Gospel message and the invitation from Jesus to follow Him and have Him make us fishers of men. We call it “The Cause”. There are many “causes” that people urge us to give toward or volunteer for but this is The Cause above all causes – that people would come to know the Savior and would then join in sharing Him with even more people until everyone has heard!
What about discipleship? Some feel like they should be discipled for a certain number of years before sharing their faith. However, this is not the model Jesus gave us with His disciples. They were involved in reaching out and discipled along the way. I believe that evangelism is the “flashpoint” of discipleship – it’s where spiritual growth explodes because we are stretched in our faith, articulating what we believe, stepping out of our comfort zone, etc. Even brand-new believers are often very effective in sharing their faith. Just this week, a girl in the youth ministry shared her faith with a friend just hours after receiving Christ personally!
We’re not into the ‘youth group’ thing. For some families, the “youth group” thing just doesn’t seem right. I agree 100%. I am not a fan of the typical focus, goals, methods or philosophy of much in modern “Youth Ministry” (an entertainment menu with a few verses sprinkled on top, while undermining the family and creating peer dependence) but, I firmly believe that this is something completely different. Consider this: the phrase “A group of young people fighting with weapons” can either describe a street gang or an army unit. One is selfish and out of control; the other is focused, disciplined, and mightily used for good to set the oppressed free! I believe that God has given young people incredible potential to be part of a mighty army of the Kingdom of God and used by Him to bring many out of darkness and into the a relationship with the King of kings! In fact, I believe that the majority of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. (See more about this at the end of this letter.*)
Why did Jesus invest in young people? Perhaps it is because these have potential to be like an army of young soldiers, standing in faith, ready to lay it all on the line, possessing freedom and energy that is unique to this time of life. Or perhaps it was simply to show His power through those who may otherwise be overlooked.
With such potential, is it any wonder that there is such an attack on youth? There is no question that the enemy wants them to be either inactive or ineffective as soldiers of the Gospel. Furthermore, many churches or families don’t challenge young people to lead forward The Cause of spreading the Gospel. Instead, what could be called a “daycare” mentality prevails: “Our goal is for you to stay good, happy, and out of trouble until you can raise a family of your own that is good, happy and stays out of trouble.” Isn’t there a higher calling? What about those who have never heard about our Savior? Who will reach this lost generation?
Something More God has given a vision of young people who are mighty for God – ones who live for more than just themselves. Ones who are transformed by the Gospel and living sold out for the true and living God.
In a few short bullet points….this is the philosophy of the youth ministry here:
-Priority: Prayer is the priority!
-Vision: Training, equipping and mobilizing for The Cause of Christ vs. Simply staying out of trouble
-Goal: Training vs. Entertaining (Ministry BY youth; not simply TO youth)
-Emphasis: Family priority vs. Peer priority (Support the family with further exposure to the Word of God, combined outreach, and additional avenues to reach peers in this lost generation for Christ!)
-Approach: Combined Jr & Sr High vs. Segregation. (The upper high schoolers are challenged to have a ministry focus with the younger ones.)
-Focus: Focus on God vs. Boyfriend/Girlfriend (Pursuing God’s purposes vs. a focus on the opposite sex.)
-Method: Evangelism is the flashpoint of Discipleship (We grow as we reach out with the Gospel. Jesus’ model)
But we’re so busy! For many families, adding one more thing to life seems like just too much. I understand that. However, this is something that I would propose is worth reassessing priorities or even making sacrifices for.
River Just about four weeks ago we launched The Cause as we also changed the name of the Wednesday night youth gathering to “River.” We love the picture of “river” used in Scripture. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38) He invites us to be filled with His love but then not just keep it to ourselves. We can be tributaries of this river flowing to others - part of the river of God’s love touching those around us!
It has already begun to happen! Many students have already begun to have Gospel conversations with friends, classmates, coworkers, and strangers and at least two have come to faith in Christ! How exciting to think of more and more being filled and equipped to share His love with others!
The Cause is bigger than us, bigger than our church, bigger than our own lives. I am not writing to try to twist any arms. Every family is different and I respect that (I just felt bad that I didn’t let each family know about this sooner). I figured each one should at least know about this and have opportunity to consider it! I want you to be aware of what God is doing, the vision that we are so excited about and the incredible opportunity right now to engage in The Cause with great training, equipping, and mobilizing! The “River” meeting happens every Wednesday night at 6:30pm. Small discipleship groups meet just before (at 6:10pm) to get more practical equipping in The Cause and pray together. The evening concludes at 8pm or students can stay until 9pm.
Thank you for reading this (if you still are:) Please let me know if you have questions or other feedback.
God bless you!
*I believe most of the early disciples were teenagers! Look at Matthew 17:24-27: “After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, ‘Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?’ ‘Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?’ he asked. ‘From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?’ ‘From others,’ Peter answered. ‘Then the children are exempt,’ Jesus said to him. ‘But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.’” Does it strike you as significant that all the disciples are there in Capernaum but only Peter and Jesus pay the temple tax? Weren’t they all responsible to do pay that tax? Sure, but only if they were old enough to fork over the two drachma price tag. According to Exodus 30:14, “All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD.” The tabernacle tax which morphed into the temple tax was only applicable to those twenty years old or older and only Peter and Jesus paid. If this is correct then Jesus invested heavily in a handful of teenagers who were used to “turn the world upside down”!