What I Appreciated So Much About Our Teen Takeover Service
Last night we celebrated what has become an annual occurrence for our youth ministry: our Teen Takeover Service and Dessert Auction. I have had many questions about our dessert auction, ranging from planning and preparation to execution, however, this article is going to focus on the Teen Takeover Service aspect. If you would like to know more about our Dessert Auction, I am hoping to write a follow-up post later.
The greatest introductory thought I can manage to put into one sentence about our Teen Takeover Service is this: last night we, as a church family, experienced the pouring out of the Spirit of Almighty God upon a group of young people in a very powerful and rewarding way. Every church should seek to pass on to the next generation the truth that the greatest relationship we cultivate every day is our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that one of the greatest ways we cultivate that is by cultivating our relationships with one another in a Christ-like way. Last night our church got to see that in person, and I am convinced that there are a few reasons why.
Now, before we get too deep into this, may I ask you to please understand that I do not believe this is a “formula”. God cannot fit inside our boxes, bottles, or articles for that matter. What God is doing in our church and youth group may not be what He is doing in your church and youth group. However, I do believe that there are principles that God has given us in His Word that He will bless consistently. Rewarding youth (and church) ministry is not a needle in a haystack that God sits back and hopes that we will find. He has clearly outlined principles such as charity, soul-consciousness, kindness, holiness, etc. in His Word that He desires to bless. The Christian life is not an egg hunt, and God is also not our genie in a bottle. That being said, I could not help but notice these three principles at work in our midst last night.
1. The Tone
The spirit of our Teen Takeover service took many forms as we headed into last night - busyness, frustration, prayer, patience, nervousness, and adrenaline. If you have ever planned a teen event, you're all too familiar with these emotions. Take the average emotions leading up to planning a big activity, and then multiply that by the fact that this event will be in front of the whole church. Better yet, it will be the church service for the evening. Sounds fun, right? Even as the service began so did the glitches. We had an order of service planned, however when we got up to show our Summer Camp 2015 Highlight Video we experienced technical difficulties. With a hope and a prayer I switched our order of service (after sitting for what seemed like 10 minutes waiting for the video to start) with a special later in the schedule. Thankfully the old adage seemed to ring true for us, that “all’s well that ends well,” to God be the glory.
So what made the tone of our service last night so special? Was it the singing? The preaching? The “amens”? To be honest, it was much more simple that it. It was the fact that the Spirit of the Lord was present. 2 Corinthians 3:17b says “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” That was it. Last night was a service full of liberty. Now please don't misunderstand me. It wasn't the type of liberty that says, “Que Sera, Sera.” We didn't strip down the platform of any “old fashioned” decor (though at times I’m tempted too), we didn't only use songs that were on the screen, and we didn't dim the lights. I’m not saying those things in and of themselves are wrong. I’m just saying we didn't do it. Why? Simple. That’s not our church. One of the greatest blessings from last night for me was to see our young people serve our current church in a way that our current church could appreciate. That, my friend, is what I would call liberty. Not a liberty unto themselves, but a liberty that they could lavish on others. Galatians 5:13-14 states, "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
I am thankful for a group of young people who recognize the awesome privilege to use our liberty as a chance to serve our church. Which leads me to my next point on what I appreciated so much about our Teen Takeover Service:
2. The Teenagers
I know, I know. Every youth pastor says it. They “love their youth group” or, “their youth group is the best!” Surely that’s just a gimmick, right? I mean, tell the young people you love them so that they can make you look good when they say it back to their parents, right? Unfortunately, that’s how many people (and sometimes parents) view youth ministry. Why not plug your young person into glorified baby-sitting? That way if there’s an issue, someone else is accountable for them, right? And thus begins the blame game. I feel it’s only fair to say that unfortunately, that’s how some youth ministers look at their ministries also.
I made a statement last night that the purpose of our youth ministry is not to have fun activities. We have lots of fun activities, but that’s not our purpose. The purpose of our youth group is not to create a social club for teenagers to feel safe in. We have many friendships that develop and grow inside the walls of our youth ministry, but that’s not our purpose. We exist as a youth ministry to be a bridge for young people to connect their heart with the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. If all I do as a youth pastor is create a relationship with a teenager, win them over to an action-packed schedule, and make sure they make every activity on the calendar then I still have, unfortunately, failed them. One day they're going to wake up as a graduate who needs a job and has less of both time and money. If they have sold their soul out to a social club that participates in “fun” activities, they will chase that desire, regardless of where it leads them. But if instead I have played a small part in helping to instill in them a desire to continue to grow in their discipleship and relationship to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they will chase that desire, regardless of where it leads them.
Luke 18:28-30: "Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."
So what was so awesome about last night’s service? Those who sang specials did so from a desire to sing to their Savior. Those who preached did so from a desire to please their Savior. The amount of study that went into our young men’s sermons (as was evident by their wonderful presentations of Scripture) came from a desire to know their Savior more. I thank God for every young person in our country (not just our youth group), who truly desires to serve their God. Last night was real because it was personal. I cannot help but make a quick application here…is you're Christianity personal? Is your attendance to church on Sunday’s personal? Are you really going to the house of your Father God and Brother Jesus Christ?
Gypsy Smith, the British 20th century evangelist, preached to audiences of hundreds of thousands. A delegation came to ask him how they could experience mass revival as he had. And this was his reply, “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” I thank God for teenagers who are willing not only to draw chalk circles, but to step inside of them.
3. The Testimony
Finally, last night would not have been possible without the testimony of two specific groups.
A. The testimony of our pastor
If you have ever heard or met our pastor, probably one thing in particular stands out to you: genuineness. Now he would humbly decline these comments, but that because he's genuine. Not perfect, sometimes preoccupied, but always genuine. Honestly, that could be his bumper sticker (hmm…youth activity idea?Jk.) I have served on staff at Christchurch Baptist Fellowship for five years now. Really, that’s just long enough to begin to realize my own mistakes. However, one of the greatest encouragements to my personal and public ministry during this time has been the genuineness of our Pastor. The reason I share this with you is to help you realize that more is caught than taught. Our teen’s are genuine because they have had genuineness modeled to them. They're not perfect and often times preoccupied, but they truly strive to be genuine in their relationship with their Lord Jesus Christ.
I often hear the question asked, “How can we get young people to stop leaving the church?” I think our answer is found in Acts 2:42-47: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (emphasis added is mine)
Many people believe that in order to have influence you simply need a title. Obviously, they are misguided. Still others believe that in order to have influence you must spend time. Less obviously, they also are wrong. True influence comes from spending genuine time together. Or as Acts puts it: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. ... And all that believed were together, and had all things common;” - Acts 2:42, 44. Clearly, the directive for the believers to have meet together and have all things common did not come as a command, but as an example of genuineness. Paul echoes this passing of the torch to Timothy when he states, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” -2 Timothy 3:14
Can I encourage you to be genuine!
B. The testimony of our parents
As the busyness of the dessert auction came to a close last night, I stopped to thank one the parents her investment in the night. Her son had preached for us, so she quickly replied that she didn't help at all with the preparation for the sermon. I could not pass the moment up, and had to let her know that it was not the preparation of the sermon I was thanking her for, but the preparation of the life. She smiled and adamantly admitted, yes, she had put a good amount of time into that project. She was one proud mama…and she had every right to be.
Proverbs 31:27-28 - "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”
Parents, may I echo the voice of youth ministers across the country for you to hear? Please understand that these are words of encouragement.
You have an incredible responsibility entrusted to you. You are by far and away the greatest influence in your child’s life. Please do not allow yourself to be insecure about that, regardless of how your young person acts or what they say. Please do not squander that influence. Please do not trade your responsibility as your teenager’s parent for the cheap replacement of being their friend. I truly believe that if you faithfully continue to parent and guide them in the tough times of their teen years God will reward you with the ability to grow in friendship with your young person in their adult years. And, if you show them that there is no other greater Friend that they can have than Jesus, you will not only have gained a relationship in this world, but also one in the next as well.
Parents, we thank you. For every time that you've stood up when no one was watching. For every time that you've supported when no one else would. For every time that you've sacrificed when no one else knew. For every time that you have trusted God over your feelings or their emotions. Thank you, one million times over. You are under-appreciated and over-worked, but I promise you this, you will not be under-paid. Nobody out-gives God. Trust Him with your greatest investment, and you will not be disappointed.
Thank you again to all who made our Teen Takeover Service a success. May God get all the honor and glory.
2 Peter 3:18b - "To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
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