Park Rangers

The following is an excerpt from our Youth Unlimited Summer Magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.

The opportunity to have been part of the “Park Rangers” group at my church has drastically changed the way I look at and interact with my church today.

Planning to host a SERVE trip with a congregation of our size didn’t seem possible, but I was amazed to see the abundance of support from the members of our church and community. People were signing up to lead games, cook meals, help out with job sites and be a part of the main Host Team. The Park Rangers group, in particular, became a very tight knit group as we spent the whole week on site together. We ate together, worked together, organized together and if we were ever seen without the others it was very rare!

Being at our church for a week straight was odd at first, but that mentality quickly changed as we made new relationships within our church community. As a group, we got to know many of our staff members better. For example, our cook on site, Donna, became like a member of our family after the week was over. People we never used to talk to at church were quickly becoming people we wanted to be around all the time.

Hosting SERVE was a huge undertaking, but the reward was well worth the effort put in. For the Park Rangers, our group walked away from a week of SERVE with a feeling of genuine community, and many new relationships formed within our own church walls. 

-Park CRC Student


As a volunteer youth leader and a member of our SERVE Host Team, it has been such a blessing to work with our Park Rangers and watch them develop into team members and grow as church volunteers. The experience has been incredibly positive in that the students were able to use their talents and energy for God. Relationships between the “Park Rangers” grew and friendships that were not there before blossomed.

As the week progressed and everyone became tired, I was able to see them dig their heels in even deeper to make sure the experience for those at our site was not just good, but great. Members from our church who volunteered throughout the week were able to see our Park Rangers in action, setting things up, tearing things down, playing games, cleaning bathrooms, hauling food, carting supplies, motivating students at worksites and enjoying serving others.

This has allowed many other relationships within our church to grow. I often see our youth talking with some of the people that volunteered in the kitchen or at the worksites. A sense of community has grown that spans all ages. I believe it is so very important that the youth feel valued as church members and I think Park Rangers helps them to be just that. By using their gifts to glorify God, they are a valued member of the Body of Christ.

-Park CRC Volunteer Youth Leader

Bridging Generations

One of the many tensions in youth ministry is how much to integrate youth programs with the larger church. Many youth programs have their own separate wing of the church and do not feel connected to the church. It is essential that teenagers maintain their Christian identity with the larger church so they continue to attend, post-graduation. However, teenagers have unique needs that are different from children and adults that require special attention. So how does a church find this balance?

The first thing a youth pastor can do is observe and assess what is currently being done. How many graduates stay in the church if they stay local? Do they attend another church if they are carrying out their vocation elsewhere? What types of services do students attend currently? Is the midweek program highly attended by teens but not Sunday mornings? If there is also a Sunday morning youth gathering, and do students attend that and the preaching service? If not, a good, small change to start is to encourage students to attend the preaching service so they will continue to attend upon graduation.

Another area of consideration, in addition to regular weekly programming, is how much to integrate events. Even though many teenagers loathe their parents during their teenage years, they can be connected to other generations. Perhaps high schoolers can join a young adult group for worship or they can share a camp for a winter retreat. Giving students informal ways to connect with older generations, other than their parents, gives them valuable relationships.

Some churches opt to involve parents in annual events such as a school year kick off. It really depends on the culture of the church. Some churches, however, find it best to have parent meetings separate from youth gatherings. Having “parent nights” or events where parents attend alienates students who do not come from Christian families. It wouldn’t be uncommon at an event in which parents were encouraged to attend with their students for the youth pastor to ask the parents to pray with their students. This has the potential to be a difficult situation to navigate, both practically and emotionally speaking, for a student whose parents may either not be present or may be present, but not be Christians. Youth pastors must think through the implications of events like this. Perhaps, the youth pastor could have warned the student before and/or assigned him another family with whom he/she could pray.

Youth can join their parents and be included in annual church wide events such as picnics. However, the key to getting teenagers to attend is getting them to serve in some way, or having an aspect of the events that will appeal to them. (Lots of students have always wanted to put their youth pastor in a dunk tank!) Teenagers have gifts that need to be used by the church at large—from dishing out food to playing music. These experiences are invaluable to their spiritual development and religious identity.

Overall, a youth pastor should not be making these decisions on his or her own. “Outsiders”, such as parents, elders and other pastors, ought to be included on these discussions. Asking outsiders to brainstorm alongside the youth pastor can bring in different perspectives and judgment calls. Ultimately, a youth pastor should be in prayer on this tension to seek the Spirit’s guidance on what is best for the specific congregation.


Youth Unlimited organizes summer missions trips for young adults, high school and middle school age at locations across the United States and Canada. Visit our SERVE page for more information about the trips, or visit our site locations page to see where some of our next SERVE Missions will be held.

Why Use ThereforeGo?

The following is an excerpt from the ThereforeGo Fall Magazine. To read more, click here.

Life Changing – the single most important thing that can happen in a student’s life is that they form a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ and commit to living for him.

In a world so full of noise and distractions, ThereforeGo’s SERVE mission experiences are incredibly effective at creating the space for students to encounter Jesus. We have testimony after testimony from students saying their SERVE experience was the moment in time when they first came to understand Jesus’ love, grace and desire for a personal relationship.

Because these experiences can be such an integral point in a student’s life, ThereforeGo is committed to having the following values as essential components of every one of our experiences: worship, reading scripture, introducing students to our broken world that needs Jesus, serving in the name of Jesus, fostering healthy adult/student relationships and encouraging students to live their life for Jesus.

In order to make this happen, ThereforeGo works with a team – the SERVE mission experience is not created in some office and then packaged and sent to 30 different host sites across Canada and the United States. Each SERVE site is created and led by a planning team of volunteers who live, worship, work and raise their families in the community you will be serving.

Prepared & Organized – Each planning team is trained and equipped by the ThereforeGo staff, and each February, all of the teams come together to be trained, share best practices, network and worship together. During this weekend, there is also a lot of celebration for what God has done over the past year and a lively discussion about the coming year! Many of our planning teams have been hosting SERVE for years. From the lessons learned over 25 years of offering Serve and the sharing of best practices by all the planning teams, every site is well prepared and organized. From the speakers, worship teams, community life, food and meaningful worksites, we will provide a great experience for you and your students!

Intentional – Each SERVE site also uses and teaches from the same theme and devotional material. The 2016 material was written by the next generation of church leaders, students from Calvin Theological Seminary. To ensure it connected with students, they tested it by teaching it to a church youth group and then adjusted it according to how it connected with them. The material focuses on Mark’s Gospel, allowing students to see how Jesus Christ, walking through everyday life, identified in people and communities both the hurtful bruises this world has left on them and the incredible image of God in them and how they can do the same in their lives.

Customizable – If you feel your group could better benefit from the SERVE experience in a different way (i.e. for larger groups, those looking to build their own group dynamic, those planning a multi-generational trip or any others in a unique situation), customizing SERVE gives you the chance to set dates, modify the schedule, lead your own worship sessions, etc. while ThereforeGo supplies the key values found in all of our faith-forming experiences.

What does a SERVE day look like?

7:00 AM – Breakfast/Prepare Lunches | 8:00 AM – Devotions | 8:45 AM – Leave for Worksites

4:00 PM – Showers/Free Time | 6:00 PM – Dinner | 7:30 PM – Evening Session

9:00 PM – Small Group Discussion | 10:00 PM – Snack and Free Time | 11:00 PM – Lights Out

Rebuilders of Almost Anything

Are we, as the North American Church, living in sin by spending so much time trying to keep our kids moral and safe? Or are we equipping and mobilizing our youth to live for something that is worth Jesus dying for?

Youth/Family Pastor and Youth Unlimited Mission Director Jerry Meadows shares a journey through questions on how we help students live on mission for Christ everyday.

For a free E-book on teaching students about missional living, click here. To hear further conversation by church leaders on this topic and others including when pastors aren’t missional enough and moralistic therapeutic deism, click here or watch the video below.

My 51 – Menno, South Dakota Community

Three years ago I came to the small town of Menno, South Dakota to serve as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church (NALC/LCMC). It was the first time I had ever heard of this “thing” called Serve. Our town has a population of 608 and five (yes, count them: FIVE) churches. Our churches are Immanuel Lutheran Church (LCMS), Peace Christian Reformed Church, Salem Reformed Church (CCCC), Zion Reformed Church (RCUS) and Grace Lutheran Church, where I currently serve.

For a number of years now, youth from all five of these churches have attended Serve in various locations, from Platte, South Dakota to Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas and everywhere in between. I had the privilege of attending as a leader in 2013. Our group went to Houston, Texas, and one of the messages I heard there was that the youth were to take what they had learned from their experience with Serve and to put into action locally. In other words, Serve is not just one week in a place away from home. Serve is also about the other 51 weeks throughout the year.

Some of our other adult leaders who have been active with Serve took that call seriously, and with many brilliant minds TUG was born. TUG stands for Teens United in God. This August will be our third year of TUG. We begin on Friday evening and throughout all day Saturday. The kids do not get to sleep in on Saturday morning. They come early. We eat together. And then we go into our community of 608 people and we work. Last year we helped with cleaning up a rural cemetery and repainting the picnic shelter located there. Another group repainted the dugout shelters at our local softball field. Another group repainted a very large building located on our main street in town. And another group did clean-up and painting at our local park. The kids of Menno, South Dakota and surrounding towns were so diligent in their work, they finished early, so another group repainted a garage (albeit small) in an hour and a half!!


When the kids are finished with a long day of working, it does not stop there. We get together and we worship and sing. We are reminded of why we are doing what we are doing in the first place. God has called us to live out our lives pleasing to him, and because of the gracious gift he has given to us in Jesus Christ, serving our community is the least we can do.

In addition to the kids volunteering, we need many adults to help out. We had entire families helping us that day. This year, we have had people asking what projects the kids are doing for TUG. We now have other groups in town giving donations for TUG.

The local people are looking forward to seeing all the kids and adults out working in the community.

As a pastor of a small town, I cannot even begin to say how proud I am of this community. It is a community filled with faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, we do have residents who do not attend church, who do not believe that God is almighty and loves them so much he would give the greatest sacrifice of all. And it is because of that, that my hope and my prayer is that these kids and their families can be witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A New Attitude in Missions

I love mission trips and service projects! In forty years of youth ministry, I have been on close to 100 of them. What’s not to love? We get to obey God’s command to minister to the “least of these.” We travel and experience different cultures as we meet new people, make new friends, and strengthen the unity of the youth group. We come home excited, blessed, and ready to live fully for Christ. It’s all good, right? Well…maybe not.

Experts are discovering that one barrier to effective ministry is that sometimes our good intentions and well-meaning help can actually harm those we are trying to serve when we do it without sensitivity and understanding. Another barrier is the rise of narcissism in youth culture. Students have told me they will go on a mission trip if it is out of the county, someplace warm, or if there is a fun “day away” activity. How can we break these barriers and open up our hearts and minds so the Spirit can work through us to bless others and glorify God?

Perhaps we can begin by asking and wrestling with some questions such as:

  • Does the ministry we do strengthen or weaken those we are serving?
  • Is this service going to enhance or erode the recipient’s work ethic?
  • Will this cause the recipient to become more independent or more dependent?

We need to be sure that the ministry we offer does not in any way diminish the recipients, rob them of dignity, or devalue their unique individuality. We don’t intend to do that, but without understanding and sensitivity, it can happen.

Here are some questions and suggestions to help you and your students wrestle with these issues as you prepare yourself to be servants of the one true King:

  • Why am I doing this? Is it to get away for a nice trip with friends or is there a willingness to deny oneself, give sacrificially, and put the needs of others first?
  • What is my attitude? Do I see myself as some kind of redeemer come to rescue from injustice or am I aware I am a fellow pilgrim on this journey of life willing to walk with a brother or sister while we lean on and learn from each other?
  • Who am I ministering to? Am I willing to set aside all preconceived ideas, judgmental attitudes, and biases to see those I meet as image bearer of God, redeemed sinners, brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I humble enough to learn what they have to teach me? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way.”
  • How am I ministering? Am I willing to work hard work to understand what it means to live with injustice, bigotry, or marginalization? Am I willing to try to walk in their shoes, to be sensitive to their unique situation?

For a better understanding on how to develop a new attitude that will enable you to serve effectively, I recommend two books to use with your group before the mission trip: “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton and “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert.

To view the original post, click here.

Making Justice a Part of Everyday Life

The following is a post on justice from Live 58, an organization that emphasizes helping pastors and leaders equip and empower the Church to live the True Fast.

Justice is often invoked by passionate teachers, pastors, and leaders inviting us into new action. For example, a justice-themed sermon from a leader or pastor to encourage the church to volunteer, go on a youth missions trip, or give to a cause. Justice is often focused upon doing something new, but what about the actions you and I take every day?

Here’s the thing: justice isn’t always about doing something new; it’s about infusing what we already do with Kingdom values. We wake up every day and make about fifty decisions – we decide what clothes to wear, what food to eat, how to commute to work or school, how to treat our friends, family, and strangers, what to pray for, where to invest our money, and so on. Justice isn’t simply an action once a year; it is a lifestyle. Our prayer is that our everyday actions will be infused with justice – not our definition of justice but God’s revelation of justice in Scripture.

The scriptures and the movement of the Holy Spirit call us to seek justice and permeate our everyday life choices – pushing us not just to seek justice but also to live justly. Perhaps you too feel that call to seek justice. You are not alone in this experience–countless churches, campus groups, small groups, families, and individuals have heard the call and asked us “what’s next?”

Live Justly is an in-depth scriptural and practical study to help people live justly in 6 key areas of life: advocacy, prayer, consumption, generosity, creation care and relationships. This study is organized in 10 sessions. The first 3 explore foundational concepts and the following 6 discuss practical life application. The final chapter is about action plans both individually and for the church.

Live Justly was developed by Micah Challenge. For more information, check out the Live Justly site. You can also explore tips on leading this curriculum here. Order the book, get a group together, and begin the process of living life justly everyday.

We would love to celebrate your story of how this process changed your life and impacted your church.

Feed the Need with a Can in Hand

I want to believe that there is a something rooted deep within our being that can drive upward and outward the passions and actions to willingly help those around us. For some of us, it comes seemingly easy, and for others, it takes a personal experience to loosen those chains holding us back. This stirring began about a year ago as a series of events were already taking place.

First, our high school youth group was in the midst of a study of the book of Acts, with a focus on how the first church responded to each other and those around them. Two different sections of verses from the book of Acts were of real importance: Acts 2:45 “…they (the believers) gave to anyone as he had need”, and Acts 4:32-34, “All the believers were one in heart and mind… They shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them.” This challenged our youth group to begin to think of ways to help assist those around us.

Second, we were preparing for our 2014 summer mission trips with Youth Unlimited and we were challenged to look at Isaiah 58 on “True Fasting” and read a book entitled Fast Living by Dr. Scott C. Todd. The chapter from Scripture and this book would be of great assistance to preparing us for our Serve mission trip to Washington DC in July, and for how we can view and assist those around us with real needs.

Third, due to some extenuating circumstances, our middle school youth group needed to change locations for their local summer service weekend. Connections were discussed about how Bravo CRC, located just south of Fennville, MI would be willing to host the group so that we could assist the Sonshine Thrift Store and Food Pantry. The group went out and spent a weekend in June helping out around the thrift store, the church and in other small ways to impact those located in the Bravo community. These events all came together to pave the way for developing the Can In Hand Ministry.

After spending last summer and fall getting to know some of the members of Bravo CRC and individuals in the Bravo Community, it became very apparent that clothes, household items, and food were all needed and could be of greater assistance. So what could the youth groups, my church and I do to assist with this need?

While this question and others were being discussed, two things were also happening. First, following our summer Serve trip with Youth Unlimited, we were challenged to start something 45-90 days later that could help serve others around us. Second, my church was kicking of a 9 month series around the book The Story (published by Zondervan) and is a look at “the Bible as one continuing story of God and His people.” Throughout God’s story, he is continually showing his love and grace for his people by providing for their needs – from their daily needs to their spiritual needs – and is challenging the people to do the same for others.

One such story (from Genesis 41) was how Joseph took the vision from God to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams to store up food during the seven good years of harvest to provide for the people of his nation and other nations during the seven lean years. This story of Joseph was part of the process to reveal to us a way to both love God and love others and Can In Hand Ministry then developed out of this revelation.

Leading up to this new ministry, our church, like many others, would do a few food drives throughout the year to help support our local food distribution agencies as well as ministries that served those with needs. We realized that Graafschap was a church with a congregation that could be described as living in the “seven good years” and our food drives were serving those living in the “seven lean years”.

The challenge was then created to try to build up a storehouse of food, so that when local food distribution agencies could benefit from food assistance, we could just open the doors. How exactly do we get to the point of building up the storehouses? Can in Hand became this answer and is a challenge for our congregation to come to church with your Bible in one hand (Love God) and a can of food in the other (Love Others).

Our goal was set high but our expectations were set low. If, as a goal, 300 people from our church – young and old alike – would each bring a can a week, this could total up to 1200 cans a month! Just think of the people that could be impacted! With this goal being set, our expectation was for 20-30% of the congregation to participate, because we realized that we are challenging the way for our congregation to think differently about giving/generosity and how they prepare for Sunday mornings.

Since the kick-off of this ministry last October, we have met our expectations and have averaged 80-100 non-perishable food items. Still, we realize it is still early in the ministry life of Can in Hand and, that being said, the majority of the food is being sent down to the Sonshine Thrift Store Food Pantry because of our direct connections from last summer. Some would call this a success (which I do, because even 40 cans of food is still better than zero cans of food), but I believe that God is still challenging us to do more for him and for those around us.

week 3

holiday boxes 3

While we have ebbed and flowed with the giving and participation from week to week, our congregation is hopefully grasping the concept that Loving God and Loving Others is about abiding in Christ and inviting others to join us too. Sometimes this starts by changing the way it means to live generously, which could include ”feeding the need with a can in hand”.

Click here if you would like to start a Can in Hand ministry at your church/organization to download an editable information sheet for your congregation.

The Church in the Park

Unity, worship, power, witness… those and many more words could be used to describe some of what God is doing in Peterborough, Ontario.


A few years ago, our church and youth group set out to extend our ministry and our presence into the community by loving others genuinely and intentionally outside the walls of our church building. We realized that as much as we talked about being changed and affecting change, effectiveness would rely on being intentional enough that we would actually leave what’s comfortable (i.e.: our building) and move into the community.


With this in mind, we began regularly canceling “youth group as usual” and organized service nights, connecting with service providers in our community, working to serve those who serve others. As we did that, we ran into unexpected co-workers… brothers and sisters from the church down the road. I walked into the “The Bridge”, a youth drop in for street involved kids in our city. And there was Jim, the youth pastor from Ferndale Bible Church. As we looked at each other and tried to figure out what each other was doing there, we laughed as we realized that we had booked the same service night at the same place on the same week. After that exact thing happened a second time, we figured that God was up to something.


One of the great things about ministry in our city is the connections and unity we experience. It’s an amazing thing to know, support and love others who are kingdom workers here in Peterborough. Church in the City is an organized group of pastors and ministries who pray for and with each other, work together for the common mission of Christ in our city. Jim and I know each other, know each other’s church and trust the call that God has placed in our hearts.


A year later, Jim and I found ourselves co-hosting Youth Unlimited’s Serve week together, celebrating the mission that God has not only placed each of us on, but placed us on together. We kicked off Peterborough Serve 2014 in the middle of Peterborough, the city God has called both our churches to. We held our Sunday service in a downtown park, overlooking the marina on Little Lake: in the same place that just the night before had been the location of Peterborough’s twice weekly free music concert series. In the middle of our community, Ferndale, Living Hope and all our Serve participants sang praises to our God and were commissioned to serving faithfully and enthusiastically for the whole week!


Amazing work was done, we were able to bless some families in their homes and draw alongside all of the same service providers that we had initially begun serving.
 We even got to send teams to The Bridge for fresh paint and a new look! We also dove deep into what poverty really looks like in our world, and specifically, in our town.


There was some great work done, and not a small part of that work was the binding of hearts of God’s people, on mission.



If you want to get your student ministry out of the church building, download this youth group curriculum  called, “Kingdom Living By Mere Mortals”. It is seven sessions based on Isaiah 58 that will educate, inspire and inform your group. It is suggested that your speaker watch the LIVE 58 Film and clips of that film in this series. See after downloading and reading through the curriculum.

Changing the Meaning of “Church Service”

Bethel CRC in Brockville, Ontario, has left the building. Rather than seeing a teen summer mission trip as a mountaintop experience, they are working to build serving into the DNA of the congregation.


Students from Bethel have participated in Youth Unlimited’s Serve many times and have taken it home to help reach their own congregation.


Pastor Jack Van de Hoef and his team planned three days of worship, prayer and serving with a total of 10 very local work sites. Here is the report in his words:


Most of the sites involved revitalizing properties and creation care (pretty fancy words for pulling lots of weeds). We also helped out at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore because the damp weather interfered with our outdoor painting projects. Two of the sites were through our local social services agency; the others were through our own church connections. Only two of the sites were for members of our church. 


We set it up much like Youth Unlimited’s Serve, with devotions in the morning, work for the day, supper together and worship in the evening. We slept in our own homes. It made for a long day, especially for our seniors, but no one complained.


On Sunday morning, participants were invited to share their thoughts of how they saw God at work. The comments included appreciation for the inter-generational experience and the blessing of seeing the look of appreciation on the faces of those we served. There was the joy of serving, of experiencing teamwork, of coming back to church after a day of work and knowing someone had prepared supper for us.


It was a very positive experience. We will see how the Lord continues to bless our church through this. I’m sure the impact will be felt beyond this one week and into the other 51 weeks of the year.


Thank you for the theme material on Isaiah 58.  I gleaned from it to prepare a handout for the morning devotions (with credit being given to Youth Unlimited). I also used the idea of living out of the centre of normal for our Friday evening worship. Instead of a speaker, I interviewed three members of our church who volunteer on a regular basis for different community agencies. I introduced them as three normal people, doing normal volunteering as their service for the Lord and his kingdom.


I could probably say a lot more, but this gives you an idea of how things went. 


Thanks again for your support. 


Blessings, Pastor Jack


To see a video of Bethel CRC’s experience, click here.

Customizing Brings a Crowd

Detroit may be known as the City of Trees or even Hockeytown (did I just hear all of Canada collectively clear their throat?) but it’s the roots of Motown that had over one million people lined up for the Woodward Dream Cruise. Thousands of custom cars lined Woodward Avenue as onlookers admired hotrods, antiques and some bizarre automobiles. The owners of the vehicles each had a varying degree of time, money and interest and you could tell a lot about them by how they customized their car.


Have you considered customizing a mission trip? For example, maybe you feel your students need one of the following:

  • A cultural experience – consider heading to an Aboriginal community in Saskatchewan or the Winnebago Tribe in Iowa.
  • To see a suburban Church reaching into an urban area – consider Crown Point, IN.
  • To get away from it all and get a glimpse at rural poverty and a Church responding – consider Minnesota West or Platte, SD.


With a Custom Serve experience, the Host Church requests an optimal number of servers, typically between 40 and 60. You, then, can fill the site with your own group (even making it a multi-generational experience) or call a couple friends you know in youth ministry and fill the site with just 2-3 churches.


Youth Unlimited strongly recommends using the Host Church Speaker but that is an option for customizing your Serve experience. Other ways to customize include:

  • Picking the dates of your trip (the Host Church will supply two options).
  • Picking who leads worship.
  • Picking your “day away”.


The cost of Custom Serve ranges from the typical $340.00 down to $310.00, but filling the site is required because the Host Church as a certain amount of community outreach they are planning to get done.


For more information, visit our website or call 616.241.5616 ext. 3040.

Mentor for Life

I’m a new youth pastor at Trinity CRC. I started last September, and I absolutely love it. It’s a dream job. I would do it for free if I could afford it. One of the big parts of my job is mentoring. I started taking out my youth for lattes and lunches and although it was fantastic – it was overwhelming: There were so many youth!


I attended a conference in Vancouver and went to a breakout session on mentoring. I heard a lot of stories of people who were mentored and had great memories and experiences. It was meant to be an encouraging session, but I walked away sad. I was sad because I wanted so badly to give all of my youth those experiences but I couldn’t. I was limited. I was limited on time, meaning I wasn’t going to be able to develop a deep relationship with every single one of my youth. There were too many and I might not have connected well with all of them. I was also limited because I’m a woman and I wanted all the guys in my youth group to have a guy that they could talk to about “guy things”.


When I came back to Edmonton, I was wrestling and praying with how to mentor more efficiently when I had a fantastic idea that I believe was inspired by the Holy Spirit: I can’t do it, but the church can.


The idea of the mentorship program blossomed from there: I would pair up all the youth with someone from our church – a guy with a guy and a girl with a girl. They would be responsible for building deep relationships with the youth.


I began emailing and calling some of the people that I knew would be great mentors. The response I received was wonderful and I knew I had enough volunteers to get started. I began forming what the program would look like – focusing on simplicity and joy. When I was finished, I met with a youth ministry consultant who further encouraged me. I remember him looking at the program and calling it “gold”. This assured me again that I was following the Holy Spirit.


He gave me a few pointers and agreed to be a part of the mentor training. We went over the program with all of the volunteers and paired them all up with the youth, starting with grade 7.


Right now we have a total of 19 mentors who are roughly between the ages of 20 and 30. They are paired up with kids from grades 7 to 10 and some in grades 11 and 12. The mentors were all told that it is a lifelong commitment. The main goal and purpose is to love their youth and do life with them. Their main responsibilities are: praying for their kid, saying hi to them every Sunday, and hanging out with them once a month.


The volunteers are not just mentors though. They are disciples making disciples. The program starts in grade 7 and “ends” in grade 12. When I say it “ends” in grade 12, I mean I will stop holding them accountable after that and just assume and trust they will naturally be in their lives. The first 2 years (grades 7-8) is simple relationship building. The next few years (grades 9-11) we have a bible reading plan. The last year will focus on apologetics. Although we have this in the program, nothing is set in stone – the rule is to follow the Holy Spirit. Some mentors have said that rather than reading the Bible, they would prefer to do topical Bible studies. Great!


Another major aspect of our program is our prayer partners. We have people in our church who have committed to pray for a handful of our mentors on a regular basis. They are also instrumental in this program.


For the most part, this program has flourished. Some of the mentors have a hard time hanging out once a month because of their schedules, but they make more of an effort to call and email or to talk more on Sundays. The mentors are going to kid’s basketball games, taking them to movies, going for walks in the river valley – someone even took their kid to the Harlem Globetrotters game!


Because this is the first time we are doing this, they were told to expect kinks and we would just talk them out and get better. It’s not a perfect program, and it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be joyful. It’s meant to be meaningful. It’s meant to glorify God.


Below are some quotes from some of the mentors currently involved in the program:


 “I find it challenging but interesting to get to know my kid, to help her and myself grow in Christian faith together is something I look forward to.”


“Being a mentor creates opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee to explore and grow in their faith. It allows the mentor to provide encouragement and advice to the mentee, in which the aim is to promote a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.”


“What I like so much about the mentorship program is that it is set up to be long-term. Although our relationship is still pretty new, I think there is a lot to look forward to. It’s not always easy to find things to talk about with someone you barely know, but I’m having a lot of fun just being there for her. I’ve started out just getting to know my mentee, but I hope to be able to develop a spiritual partnership as well as a friendship. The mentorship gives me a chance to connect with someone who is going through a life-stage that I have been through. I wish that when I was girl in junior high, I had someone who was older (and not my mom) to talk to and ask all my questions. I want to be that person for my mentee, and hopefully it just becomes natural.”
“When asked if I would like to mentor a young girl at church, I was a bit hesitant, as it was completely out of my comfort zone. I took on the challenge and I am so glad that I did. I have started to get to know a beautiful, young girl who has taught me more about the innocence of our youth, a need for leaders and to love as Christ loved. God has blessed me through her quiet disposition and sensitive spirit. As Betty Ramsay said, ‘We all know investing in our young people makes good sense. The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow and will shape the destiny of our country and the future of their children and so on and so on'”
“Starting and maintaining a relationship can be challenging even amongst people of similar age. Having just recently started the mentorship program, it’s going to take some time to establish a mutual trust. The biggest challenge for me so far has been to be in contact with my mentee frequently enough that the level of trust and familiarity grows. With some effort on my part and some help from God, I hope to continue to grow our relationship so that I can be a positive influence on my mentee’s life.”
“I really enjoy being able to share my experiences and advice and watch my mentee grow in all aspects of life. I am blessed to be part of her journey and excited to see where God takes her.”