August 25, 2021
Pastor Walt Baertsch
One of the truisms of youth ministry is that students always come in shorter than me and they leave taller than me. I say that often as each of our students hits a growth spurt somewhere during their six years in the youth ministries. Seemingly, they leave youth group on Sunday and return the next week at least six inches taller.
That’s kind of how it is with their spiritual growth as well. That’s one of the reasons that youth ministry and our volunteers play such a pivotal role in students’ lives. I still remember one time when I was teaching and a student suddenly blurted out “I’ve read that passage probably a dozen times, but I finally get it just now!” Quite honestly, it is so much fun to see when the Holy Spirit turns on the light of His word to our students.
Through our youth ministries we have an intentional plan to walk alongside each family as we work together to reach and disciple students. Within the youth ministries we teach God’s Word in a variety of different ways, so students “get it” and have the opportunity to “live it” before they graduate.
We do our best to follow the example of how Jesus made disciples. As Jesus called disciples, He invited them to “Come and See” while walking alongside of Him as He ministered to others. He invited them to “Come and Grow” as He taught them, as they helped Him minister, and as they walked along the way. Jesus then sent the disciples to go and “minister to others” and ultimately to “Shepherd the flock.”
At East White Oak, we also try to follow this strategy in helping to make disciples in our youth ministries.
“Come and See”
If you don’t have students in the youth ministries, you may only hear about some of the fun events that we do and you might wonder what they are all about. Some might even wonder if all we do is play games and entertain students. That is far from what we do.
As I wrote about in my previous Oak Leaf article, there is a purpose behind everything we do. Each of our events are designed to be as fun as possible, so our students feel great about inviting their friends to “come and see” what Jesus is all about.
“Come and Grow”
During Sunday Youth Bible Fellowships, our Jr High goes through an overview of the Bible every two years, alternating years between the New and the Old Testaments. So our students will have a solid grasp on God’s Word even if they just begin to join us in 7th grade. In Senior High, we go deeper as we take a closer look at various books of the Bible.
At Junior High Crosstrainers and Senior High Sunday Nights we focus on a lot of fun, while being serious about creating long-lasting relationships with students, and we’re all about our students knowing and growing in Christ. We accomplish this through a variety of small group studies (Jr High on Wednesday nights and Senior High throughout the week), teaching times at youth group (varying between topical and straight Bible studies), and relationships built with strong, dynamic volunteer leaders who are living out their faith in real life. This is where our fantastic volunteer staff comes in. Their role is to build Christ-honoring relationships with each of our students through interactions at youth group, on trips and events, and various other interactions.
“Minister to Others”
We teach, challenge, and send our students out to minister to others in a variety of ways as well. Here are just a few of the ways that we accomplish this:
- Teaching them to share their faith and giving them opportunities to do so
- Teaching through experience serving others with no expectation of anything in return
- Taking them on experiences that put these things into action (Serve Sundays, Mission Trips, serving inside the church, Rake and Runs, etc.)
- Praying for each other
- Creating an atmosphere of encouragement
“Shepherd the Flock”
These opportunities come mostly in Senior High, but our goal is that each student would learn how they are gifted, and how they can use their gifts and talents to minister to each other, but also to take over leadership in a variety of areas.
- Sherpas – This is a limited group of Juniors and Seniors who serve and work with our Jr High ministries. Many of these Sherpas go on to minister in churches and campus groups. Some also come back (or stay) as leaders within our church, or many other ways within the larger Church.
- Worship Team – Students have an opportunity to serve on Jr High and Sr High Worship Teams. These teams lead the rest of the group in worship. This also serves as an opportunity for the students to grow into more and more responsibility and prepares them for a lifetime of worship leading, even as adults. You see many of our students leading with the adult worship teams on Sunday mornings as well.
- Missions – One of the reasons we do a variety of different mission trips throughout students’ time in the youth ministries is to expose them to the many different ways that God is working in people’s lives, with the prayerful hope that God may call them to serve Him through missions at home and abroad.
- AWANA and Children’s Ministries – Many of our students are also serving in various ways as they fill volunteer roles while working with our Children’s Ministries.
- Other: If you look around, you will see youth in many different roles inside and outside the church, in school and on teams, always making a difference for Christ and in large or small ways, shepherding the flock.
These are just some of the ways that God grows our children in Christ as we work together to reach, teach, and challenge them in God’s Word. We are all in this together as our teens are looking around to see if this faith thing is real. It is so important that each of us continue to grow in Christ and that we pray for each other – teens for adults including their families; and adults for teens – as we grow together in Christ.
Thanks for praying for our youth as they grow in Christ!