From striking the match that sparks the flame to adding fuel to an already-burning fire, we can all help a young person in their faith journey. Read these reflections from our Baptist youth leaders and be encouraged and inspired to help this ministry burn brightly.    

We choose Jesus! 

Maya Edmunds, Youth Team Leader with Royal Oak Baptist Church

There are many memorable firsts in life: your first car, your first boyfriend or girlfriend, your first day at a new job. But how often do we think about the first time we chose life with Jesus? 

Royal Oak Baptist Church’s High School Youth Ministry took a bunch of young people to Northern Easter Camp this year. There were so many moments of connection, fun, and conversation at Easter Camp, but many of our young people shared one moment in particular as their most significant: Sunday night. Jesus is Risen! Carey lecturer Michael Rhodes had just spoken and over half our group stood at the call to respond. They stood arm-in-arm in a circle. There were tears and big smiles, and a shared feeling of needing to respond. “I choose Jesus!" they proclaimed together.  

This was the first commitment to follow Jesus for some of them, and doing it arm-in-arm, in community, made it that bit more special. We then split off into the small groups we have been in since the start of the year. There were deep, authentic, vulnerable conversations and prayers. And this was their highlight of Easter Camp. Not the dancing, the sports, the food, or the hype. It was deciding to choose Jesus, in community.

For those of us who've walked this path for a while, let's pause and reflect: when was the last time we felt that same fire, that same passion, that same unwavering commitment to choose Jesus?

We need to invest in our youth ministries to continue to provide a space for young people to choose Jesus!

Extraordinary encounters

Mikayla Reid, Youth Ministry Coordinator for Windsor Park Baptist Church

At Easter Camp this year we experienced a bit of heaven meeting earth. We saw young people so desperate to know God that they walked away from sports games for a chance to sit with the Spirit. We saw young people who were quietly in love with Jesus find their voice, ask questions, and refuse to back down. We saw stoic tradies wipe tears from their eyes and lift their hands in worship. We saw clumps of young heads grouped close as they whispered prayers of healing over each other. We saw giddy joy that started as we jumped to worship music, banging into the white plastic chairs. 

After that weekend at Easter Camp and their encounters with Jesus they are asking, “How do we keep this experience alive? How do we keep the flames burning?” They’re not just asking for better worship music or more lights; they want more ways to meet with their Creator, they want to actively follow him. The experience at Easter Camp changed them, and they are unsatisfied with anything that isn’t helping them turn this passion into determined action.

So, parents, people in youth ministry, congregation members, let’s answer their cries for authentic praise and wholehearted living for Christ. Let’s give them the chance to lead – not just to be led. Easter Camp is not only an opportunity for young people to get to know Jesus, but for us to see how much Jesus is already at work in the next generation. Let’s rise to the challenge to dream bigger than ever before, and to stoke the fires so we may see an outbreak of flames across our nation.

Planting seeds

Emily Brown, Youth Team Leader with Connect Blenheim

Shortly after I became a youth leader with Connect Youth in Blenheim, a young person in the group gave her life to Christ. Even though I hadn’t been journeying with her long, I could still support her. A wise person once said, "Youth ministry is the participation in God's actions in the lives of young people." 

While supporting this young person, I’ve been able to see her leadership potential, although, right now we are just trying to encourage her to go to school every day and be there on time. This is not always successful, but we are encouraging the small wins because sometimes those small wins to us can in fact be a massive win for the young person. We’ve also had several short conversations with her about what it means to be Christian and to live a Christian life. In youth ministry our job is to plant seeds; you don’t always get to see the growth, but it is there, just sitting under the surface until God’s timing makes it visible. 

One of the most important things you can do as a youth ministry leader is to form relationships with young people, to help them on their faith journey and to help them see their own potential. Teenagers are going through so many changes; they need a stable person who is there for them during this time, someone else they can always turn to and rely on for help. This statement has always stuck with me, “You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love”. 

When we are involved in youth group, we can show God’s love and grace to teenagers. 

Real relationships

Nate Herbert, Youth Pastor at Northpoint Baptist Church, Taranaki

Do you have a heart that is willing to listen, to care, and not to judge? I want to inspire you right here, right now. You don’t need a theological degree, all the answers, or even to be employed as a youth worker to invest in our young people. They long to be heard. They desperately need people who are willing to offer pastoral care. 

I know of one young woman who, from the outside, appeared to be coping with life, when in reality she was struggling with her identity, faith, and self-worth. This became apparent at a youth event where she was able to share some parts of her story with me. She kept other parts of her story hidden as she feared what could happen if others knew. She feared being judged, cast out, and called ‘different’ by the church and her peers.  

The thing that made her stay was her relationships. The youth leaders and I intentionally made her feel welcome regardless of what she brought to the group each week; irrespective of the pain she experienced, we welcomed her with open arms.

We would catch up at church, youth group, and at times for coffee. Each time she’d often share a little bit more of her story, and I offered only empathy, understanding and kindness. She eventually shared what weighed her down the most, and again, only kindness and respect were shown back. I invested in this young person because I saw her through the lens of how much God cared. She was hurting and needed someone to listen. She has caring parents but felt she could not share with them. I offered her a listening ear and support when she needed it. 

This young person still has many faith questions and has decided to study at a bible college. We still catch up for virtual coffee at times, and it’s so good to see how far this young person has come in themselves, their confidence, and their faith. She has been able to look back and see how God has been at work all along – she was just blinded to it. 

Photos: Supplied by authors.

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