The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ELCA Study Emails #2: Adults that Care...

A couple weeks ago, I sent out an email talking about the recent study of youth and involvement that was done by the ECLA church. In that email I talked about how the number one factor in predicting involvement of older teens in the life of a church was the level of involvement of their whole family in the faith experience.

This week, I want to look at what the second factor is: the involvement of 3 or more adult mentors from their faith community in their lives. These adults were over and beyond the paid religious leaders and their parents. These adults played a significant role in the ministry of helping students feel connected to the life of the church.

When I made the decision to follow Christ as an almost 16 year old, I needed support and involvement in my life from caring adult Christians. When I look back on that time, I think about people like:

  • Chip, the youth director at our church
  • Jeff, my Young Life leader who started a Bible Study for all the geek kids who didn’t fit in anywhere else. (Yes, I am a recovered(?) high school nerd…)
  • Steve, a dad from my church who just loved us high school guys by being at youth group every week
  • Nancy, a mom from our church who did whatever was asked of her, including shuttling ten of us home every week after youth group.

And there are many more. And I needed those folks to help me navigate my teenage years as God continued to work on me and help me grow in faith. Because of their willingness to share their lives, I grew deeper and stronger in the faith than any of us realized. (When I go to my home church, they all shake their heads and wonder, because I was the quintessential problem kid in the youth group until I was college aged.)

And the truth is, some of you are making a difference in the lives of the youth here at Bethlehem. In one of the first combined Synagos at the first of the year, we talked about people that the students look on as examples of faith. Many of your names came up and as we shared, I realized how much an impact you all are making in the lives of students, both now and in the past. In a world where the extended family lives hundreds of miles away, the local church is helping students to grow strong and deep in the faith.

I want to encourage you to realize you can make a difference. We have some really amazing adults that are serving students right now- as Sunday School leaders, as Youth Choir helpers, as small group Bible study leaders. At times, I know that those of you in those roles are frustrated, aggravated and you wonder if you are making a difference. Trust me- you are! Students know they are loved and cared about because of you faithfully giving your time and energy to them!

But there is always room for more! One of the things that I am most passionate about is helping more people discover the joy of serving in a place where they really fit. I get the most excited personally in seeing God change the lives of students. It is what I am gifted at and called to. But you think about putting me in charge of some 4 year olds and I break out in hives and cold sweats: it just isn’t my gift or my call. Some of you may be missing the call and I want to encourage you as Lent moves closer and closer to beginning to consider getting involved in a ministry with youth or children. As much as Lent can be about us giving up something, it can also be about us adding things into our lives, both inside the life of the church and outside its walls.

As we want to grow and expand as a youth ministry, it is going to mean more hands and hearts being willing to love students. Right now, we have some great folks involved and we need more! So, if God is tugging on your heart, please consider calling me and seeing where you may fit. In particular, we could use some adults to come be a part of what we are doing on Sunday nights at MYF. Just being present, loving kids and being with us as we play, worship and learn together!


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