This last week I had the privilege of hanging out with Doug Fields, Josh Griffin, Heather Flies, Walt Mueller, Duffy Robbins, Jim Burns, Mark Oestreicher, Karl Romeus, Katie Edwards, Kurt Johnston and 200 amazing youth leaders from across the United States at Download Youth Ministry's #DYM200 event.
It was an amazing time and we all had a blast!
There were games, short teaching sessions, hot seat questions, small group meetings, great food, fun prizes and even a few arm wrestling matches. Suffice it to say that we all had a great time (and my arm is still sore!)
Heather Flies did an amazing talk on remembering what it was like to be in Middle School and how that empathy can help us change the way we relate to teenagers. Marko unpacked ideas on how we can effectively minister to LGBTQ teenagers. Walt Mueller laid out what we are up against in trying to reach this current generation of increasingly post-Christian teenagers.
What Walt shared was startling and staggering. But, as challenging as it was, we all needed to clearly hear what we are up against in this epic battle for the hearts, souls and minds of Generation Z.
On the final day of the event Doug Fields did a hot seat type question and answer session with all of the speakers. By the time it got down to me (the last one) I was a little nervous about which question I'd be asked. Health and balance in youth ministry or programming a game night for youth group is not my cup of tea.
I was praying for the right question and the right answer as Josh Griffin handed the microphone to the final youth leader asking a question. He said something like, "I was in Walt's small group and we have been talking about the staggering statistics about the spiritual condition of this next generation. It's been eye-opening and kind of discouraging to see what we are up against. Should we as youth leaders be afraid?"
This youth leader articulated, I believe, what many youth leaders feel down deep inside. As they realize more and more what they are up against when it comes to seeking to reach this next generation it can be overwhelming, discouraging and, sometimes, downright debilitating.
Praise be to God that Walt set up the challenges we are facing! Praise be to God that He gave me the right words in that moment to encourage the youth leaders in the room.
May these words encourage you as. well. Although I don't remember the exact wording my response went something like this,
"Don't be afraid! You have everything you need for life and godliness...and so do your teens! He has given you the Holy Scriptures, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit! Through prayer we have the power of the divine Trinity at our disposal! Jesus said, 'I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.' Jesus will build his church through you and through your teenagers. Jesus will not be stopped. His church will triumph! It's not us who doesn't stand a chance. It's Satan! God does his best work in the blackest of backdrops. His light shines brightest in the dark! This is true of every spiritual awakening. Maybe the darkness of this current culture means that God is about to unleash a spiritual movement of historic proportions. I believe God is about to do just that! I'm a student of revival and, to be honest, I'm tired of just reading about the great revivals of the past. I want to be a part of one...and so do you! Don't be afraid. Be excited to be in youth ministry in this current culture! God has raised us up for such a time as this!"
The response of the youth leaders was electric! They applauded and whooped as only youth leaders can, not because of me, but because God used me in that moment to deliver some encouragement to the youth leaders that day.
May these words encourage you as well! And may God use you and your teenagers to lead the way for revival in your community.
By the way, if you want to be a part of triggering that movement in the hearts of your teenagers hurry and sign up to take your teens to Dare 2 Share Live coming up on October 13th. Teens from coast to coast (in 96 satellite sites) will be praying for and pushing for revival that day. After being equipped to lovingly and confidently share the Gospel, teens will be unleashed to share the good news with their friends and the people in their communities! Download the free Dare 2 Share Live app right now to get a taste of what they will experience that day!
It's time to light it up! It's time to revive! Don't miss out! Don't let your teens miss out! Yes, we are up against some big challenges but our God is bigger!
Do NOT be afraid!