He Delights in Using Young People

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.” Joel 2:28-29

Sometimes we forget I’m not old enough to rent a van…or drive a rental van, for that matter.

I started leading a youth group at the age of 19. Being just months older than a handful of my students was daunting at best, terrifying at worst. For every time a student questioned my authority, I questioned my own authority five times. I really did not have a clue, and now in my second year of youth ministry, I can confidently assert that I still have absolutely no clue how this came to pass in my life.

I’m still a baby in the faith, honestly. I made the commitment to serve God with my life five years ago this summer, and though I am a theology student at a brilliant private college, I find each day I have more questions about who God is and what he is doing than I did before I started.

My church is made up of young leadership. We have a young pastor, a young worship leader and a young youth leader. This has its negative aspects, for sure, but there are certainly some amazing positives.

I often feel like I have an incredible advantage because of my youth. The insider perspective I have on youth culture helps me to have grace for the students’ situations, however large or small they may be. This gives me grace to be an advocate for them, an advocate to their parents and an advocate before the throne of Jesus to intercede for them. This is a responsibility I do not take lightly.

I love to watch my students grow. I love to grow with them. I love that we are all new to this “follower of Jesus” thing and I love that we are asking the same questions. I love that we are asking different questions.

I love that Jesus delights in using young people, as messy, confused and fallible as we are. I love that his Spirit is poured out on all of us, men, women, young and old – he holds nothing back in his outpouring of revelation. I love that he is raising up a new generation of leaders, and that, for some crazy reason, he decided to give me a front row seat to the most beautiful journey I could ever imagine.

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.” 


Finding My Own Faith

I grew up in a tumultuous home. My family was lower class, and I was the middle child of a somewhat recovered alcoholic father and a mother who was trying to piece together what her newfound faith in God meant for her and for her household. As a child and well into my teen years, my mother’s journey toward God was a hodgepodge of regurgitated televangelists’ theology. Our family bounced from church to church, receiving offerings of extreme grace one Sunday and being pelted with hell-fire-and-brimstone the next.

I learned about Jesus at a young age. This foundation of knowledge was important, and along with my mother’s expanding journey, led me to say prayers I think I meant, ask Jesus into my heart (on a regular basis!) and feel the pricks of a guilty conscious when I was sure I was not doing what Jesus would like. During my early teen years I thought this was all there was to faith.

Thank God for my late mother, but thank God also for youth group leaders and the opportunities they gave me to explore my own faith among my peers and among adults who felt called to foster the faith of young people. I would not be who I am today without having had the chance to escape everyday life to a safe place where I could learn to cry out for God in my own way.

If you are a youth leader, take heart. Sometimes the smallest acts of care can change the trajectory of a young person’s life. While on a youth outing, my youth pastor, on a sudden whim of inspiration, gathered every available pot and bucket and turned them upside down for me to drum on as hard as I could. Banging on pots and pans at 13 or 14 to Wes King (showing my age) may not seem like a big deal, but it was the first time I felt like someone had taken the time to see into me, recognize my desires and encourage them. I still play the drums, and I still remember that it was my youth pastor who first took the time to foster my passion and taught me to use my gifts for Christ.

Then there was the camp week where I finally felt the freedom to say that “I just must not feel it as much as the other students” because my emotions and reactions to the week’s teachings and worship were just not like the rest, and I felt so guilty. One dear, elderly lady sat me down and said that I was just trying too hard. Her words finally released me to be myself, because not all faith journeys should look alike. What a release from such simple words. For the first time, I quit overthinking and trying to mimic what other’s faith looked like, and I cried out to God on my own. She probably had no idea what freedom she gave me that day, or that I still hear her words when I feel out of place or am striving too hard to reach God when he is always right by my side.

I needed escape from routine, home and everyday life to discover who I was in Christ. As an adult, I still need that. We are a people made for God’s whispers and shouts. Sometimes we just can’t hear them when we are surrounded by everyday life and all the things we think we’re supposed to be doing.

This is why I work at Youth Unlimited today; students need time and space to begin forging their own journey with Christ. They need to receive care and mentoring from other adult Christians who love them. They need opportunities to get out of their comfort zones and make their faith their own.