LIVE IT: Documenting our Journey

The following is an article from our Spring 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.

I recently had a discussion with some high school students about whether or not I was going to lock up their cell phones during our week long summer mission trip. They listed many reasons to keep their phones, but the one that surprised me most was their desire to be able to “check-in” to all the landmark locations we will be visiting while away.

Cell phones have become a modern day “Captain’s Log” documenting significant events, adventures and discoveries along life’s journey. In my new role as the LIVE IT Director for Youth Unlimited, I have been considering how our students log their spiritual journeys and what locations they’ll remember as the landmarks of their spiritual adventures.

Those of us who grew up without a cell phone can recall a specific service trip where our faith grew outside of our comfort zone or a youth convention where we discovered how our talents and abilities fit into God’s Kingdom.

Today, LIVE IT is an “unconventional youth convention” where students learn about their value in Christ while exploring how to use their talents to spread God’s love to their friends, community and world. By pairing students with like-minded peers and adults, they will see how God created them with a purpose so much greater than self-gratification. By offering different tracks in athletics, arts and service, students will recognize how each person comes to the table with their own personality, interests and God-given talents. Within each track they’ll learn spiritual disciplines to help discover how their voice helps create the body of Christ. Students are also challenged to return home and use what they’ve experienced at LIVE IT to spread God’s love throughout our communities and our world.

On July 30, 2017, hundreds of students and adults will converge in Estes Park, Colorado for LIVE IT 2017. It is my prayer that during this five-day event, students and adults will document deep in their hearts and minds their tremendous value in Christ. That they will discover their unique talents and abilities necessary for the building of God’s Kingdom. Most of all, I pray that LIVE IT 2017 will be more than just another place where students “check-in” but that it will be a place that will launch them into the next phase of their journey with Christ… And if they happen to have their cell phones with them, I hope they check-in, tweet and Instagram every adventure, every discovery and every new friend they meet, and that they tag it all with #LiveIt2017!

The Battle is His

The following is an excerpt from our Winter 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here

I will never forget my first year of full-time youth ministry. It started in 1996, 20 years ago, with Youth For Christ! There were many first time experiences like leading a student through the plan of salvation and a summer youth group trip to Colorado with two students released to me from the local juvenile detention center. I look back on these years and have so many great memories and emotions, and 2015 was no exception.

This past summer, while visiting many of Youth Unlimited’s summer experiences, I found myself at a first time Serve site in Brighton, ON and experienced sites like Grand Rapids, MI and Port Perry, ON. I also found myself at the Special Needs site in Ottawa, ON and in Chicago, IL at the Live It convention. As I traveled, I experienced students worshipping, praying, serving, playing and reading scripture. I had a front row seat to the power of the Holy Spirit transforming student’s lives…what a blessing! But I must be honest; he was also working and transforming me.

If you have been in ministry in a paid or volunteer capacity, you, like me, can testify to the “highs” and “lows” of our calling. There are those mountaintop moments when we see that one special student make a decision that will forever positively change their life or when we get a turnout of students we never could have dreamed! However, there are also the results that are just the opposite, which can drive us into the valleys. I have certainly had many of both over the past 20 years! Through each of them, God continues to teach me life and ministry lessons. This past summer he reminded me that he is the one that changes student’s lives, not me or even Youth Unlimited experiences. The battle is his and, therefore, I need to give it back to him by putting the students and this ministry at the feet of my Lord through prayer!

As we step into 2016, let’s be sure to make Christ the center of our life and ministry. May it start with each of us personally and intentionally spending time at his feet in prayer and reading his Word. May it overflow from there into every aspect of our ministry.

God is good and worthy of praise! As you see his blessings, be sure to thank him. I would love it if you would also share it with the Youth Unlimited staff and I. You can do that by emailing me at

Partners in ministering to students,


Finding the Missing Link at Live It

by Tony Butler

Spring Antioch Baptist Church

The following is an excerpt from our Winter 2016 Magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here

Our mission at Spring Antioch Baptist Church is to help our youth grow into what God wants them to be. We desire for them to first know who God is for themselves. But we also want to show them how to experience God in their everyday lives. Our lessons and our activities are geared to help them see God for who he is.

Through an organization called the Old Town Spring Heights Task Force, which is made up of churches of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures, we met Brandon Bajema of the New life Christian Reformed Church. He told us of an organization called Youth Unlimited that had ministry geared towards growing youth in Christ. At first, I was really skeptical because we had been to conferences before and left them with nothing and felt robbed, but Brandon was persistent in getting our youth to Live It. Eventually, my pastor and I decided it would be a good thing for our youth. We registered and waited in anticipation.

All along the way from Houston to Chicago on our trip to Live It, I looked at the kids and wondered if they will get something from this experience. Would they be challenged to grow on their level of understanding? Would they be ready for such a radical introduction to something this new to them? All kinds of questions ran through my mind, but I realized that it was more of an issue for me than it was for them.

After two days of travel, we arrived at Live It and immediately felt God’s presence. As we exited the van our kids began introducing themselves to every youth in sight. My wife, Vanessa, and I sat back and simply marveled in what we saw. This was just the beginning of what was to come. As we registered, it began to sink in as the spirit of excellence in which Youth Unlimited operated in began to shine through. If there was a problem, it was handled with a smile and heart felt action. My wife and I were blown away yet again.

I’ll be honest; the first night of worship was a little awkward for our youth. They had never had worship that was so free and it took a little getting used to but they caught on. By the end of the service they had their hands raised and were giving praise. This was another milestone accomplished and the bar was set.

The next day was track time. Myself, my wife and two of our youth took the leadership track. We also had one youth in the service track, one in the arts track and two in the athletics track. The leadership track took my mind to another level on the first day. Our teacher and her staff gave us what I didn’t expect. I expected to get a lesson about following certain steps to become a good leader, but we spent the week learning to get ourselves in order, so that we can be effective. Our teacher’s transparency and candor were refreshing. She showed us that you have to be genuine because youth will sniff out a fake in a minute. We were encouraged to learn to spend more time alone with God in order to hear what he has to say for us to do. It was sad to see the end of an experience like this draw near. A class like this has never touched me before. My wife Vanessa was encouraged beyond belief. The two youth, Tony Jr. and Jeremy that were in class with us were changed and I saw the change in them. It was truly awesome.

One of our youth, Michael, who took the arts track, could not believe his experience. He was challenged to stop holding back on his singing for God. He was shy before the class but his newfound confidence changed that.

One of our youth, Leon, who took the service track, had an eye-opening experience. He was shy and really didn’t talk to people he didn’t know. However, from working and reaching out while on work sites, he was changed. He now meets no stranger and is ready for whatever comes his way.

The last two of our youth we brought, Da’Vean and Jade, both took the athletics track. They were not expecting to be challenged in something they were good at, but the challenge was not physical, it was spiritual. It made them see, as believers, there is more to everything we do than what we see.

The biggest plus of the whole experience was the beautiful people we met and still have contact with. The kids made friends they still chat and text with. It was absolutely wonderful to see so many different denominations and ethnic backgrounds coming from different places in Canada and the United States loving God together. We were touched in ways that just blew our minds.

Live it proved it was not just another conference, but a life changing experience. It helps to get you and your youth’s focus towards Jesus, where it should be, which I’ve felt is the missing link in many conferences I have been to. They point to heaven, but not to Christ. I will guarantee that our youth will be attending more Youth Unlimited events because this experience has made a great difference in their lives.

Join the Ripple

Most people can point to a moment of impact that changed their lives forever. That moment of impact is the moment people begin to live, interact, see the world and believe differently. It’s not uncommon for an individual’s moment of impact to form a ripple effect, and further impact the lives of others, who then impact the lives of others and so on.

At Youth Unlimited, we’re continuously and gratefully amazed by the impact made for and by Christ at experiences like Serve and Live It. We’re blessed to have seen first-hand at these events the impactful moments in individual students’ lives and the ripple effect that stems from these moments into a beautiful tapestry of churches assisting churches, building the Kingdom of God.

Youth Unlimited’s Serve and Live It events are not about a one-week experience. They’re about the impact and the ripple effect that ensues. They’re about the student from London, Ontario who spends a week in Houston, Texas and returns home convicted of her call to share the gospel with her friends. They’re about the couple in California who saw the impact Live It made on their own children many years ago and how they’ve grown because of that impact, and continues to invest in the organization so that someone else’s children might be impacted similarly. They’re about the church in Holland, Michigan who returned home from their Serve experience in Washington D.C. and saw both the need and a way to meet the need in their own congregation/community for a food pantry.

Youth Unlimited’s Serve and Live It experiences are about the church, who helps the church, who helps the church, and so on, and that ripple can begin with the impact of a single student.

One Serve participant said, “To see the grateful faces of the many people we helped was eye-opening. It just goes to show that every small, helpful action can have an impact on someone’s life. This trip helped me realize that there are not only problems in places thousands of miles away, but that there are empty, longing hearts wanting to be filled right here in my own community.”

Another Serve participant reflected, “Through just this past week, I have found what it really means to be free—to be so free in Jesus Christ that I feel like I have to tell the world. Serve changed my life and got me back on track. Praise God!”

At Youth Unlimited, we’re humbled and blessed to play a role in creating a space for the ripple effect of impactful moments to begin. With your financial donation, you, too, can be a part of creating that space. You can help impact the course of a student’s life, who has the ability to impact his/her congregation and community in big ways, who have the ability to impact other congregations and communities as well.

Would you join the ripple with us and make an impact?

Humbled to make an impact with you,

Jeff Kruithof

Executive Director

Youth Unlimited

No Longer a Mission Trip – Just Life – The Other 51

The following is an excerpt from the student’s devotions in our 2015 theme material at Live It and Serve this summer.

It was Friday of my mission week. That week was the first week I had ever sat with a homeless man. I took my tray and sat with him at that soup kitchen. That moment changed my life. That was Monday night. For the rest of the week, I jumped right in. During the day, we served at a drop-in for children who did not know if there was a place for them to sleep at night. There were children as young as five years old living outside at night. My heart was broken. God had ripped my heart in half with the injustice that thrived in North America. Daily, I became better friends with these children. They had so much life in them. One young boy could almost dunk a basketball and he was much shorter than my six-foot frame. We re-told Bible stories, sang worship songs, and ate meals together. I loved the life I was living that week, but it was now Friday. We were going to leave the next day.

At lunch, that Friday, our church family for the weekend hosted an outdoor picnic for the people in the neighbourhood. Picnic tables were set up in the church parking lot as the sun blazed down. Beverages in coolers full of ice and ham sandwiches were brought out from the kitchen. As with the rest of the week, we sat with our friends on the street. We did not serve them. That sets up a power play. If you serve someone, you are telling him/her you are higher up and have power. If you sit with someone, you are declaring that you are his/her friend. In sitting together, you can serve one another. The impoverished can serve the rich and the rich can serve the poor. We are one. I sat with three people I recognized from the week. We shared a few laughs about pro football teams. We talked about the church.

“They really love this community – do meals like this quite regularly…and they even sit with us!”

“Not every church does that,” another chimed in.

We finished up the meal, chatted a bit longer, and they got up to leave. Handshakes and hugs followed.

“I’ll be praying for you brother as you go home.” Thomas said as he walked away.

Pastor Steve was standing and watching. He and I had had a few talks during the week about why they do what they do. After my three friends left, I walked over to him.

“You see those three much?” I enquired.

“Two of them yes. Thomas disappears every now and then…” Steve started.


“He gets too close to us. It reminds him of too much of his past and he just disappears. Drugs sometimes. Another city sometimes. He’s back right now, and I think he likes you.”

I smiled and started to drift into reflection. I wanted this life so badly. I wanted to know Thomas, each of those five year olds, my friend with whom I studied Romans in the soup kitchen. God had broken my heart and wasn’t putting it back together. I wanted this life. Steve could sense something in my silence.

“So,” He caught my eyes. “How are you gonna bring this home?” Steve went on to say none of this mission week really mattered if it was just a week. If it just stayed a nice memory, it would remain like a fun holiday at best. But, if I took some of it home, to live out, maybe this would allow God to change me forever.

I did take it home. Within five months, I had to quit my job – I no longer fit. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. I began working on the streets. It is something I do to this day. I am a pastor of a small church in the downtown area of a North American city. My friends are people who live under bridges, in tents, and in houses with four car garages. I have learned a little about love along the way, a little about poverty and a lot about Jesus.

I liked the mission experience so much that I made it my life. My prayer is one day we will no longer call it a mission trip. We will just call it life.

The Case for Well Rounded Kids

photo credit: 12 via photopin (license)

We live in a day when adults are pushing kids to discover their strengths and focus their lives. Thanks to the Gallup organization and author Marcus Buckingham, we have learned to concentrate on building strengths and to only play in that space. Not surprisingly, this has caused parents to hone our styles and launch our kids into football, ballet, piano, theatre, tennis or gymnastics at five years old. As a result, a lot of our kids today have the notion that they can just sharpen their skill until they go pro. We’ve embraced the idea of mental focus.

While this represents progress in many ways, it’s also had its downside. I’m not so sure we’ve embraced the idea of emotional health. Over the long haul, we’re now seeing the outcomes of our leadership styles. Parents, who are convinced they are raising the next Derek Jeter, or Tiger Woods or Serena Williams, push their children to make the grade, make the team, make the dream.

In our work with students, I’ve seen the problem surface in a handful of ways:

1. The Oversized Gift*

Young people cultivate a single gift (or talent), and it becomes their source of identity (sometimes, the sole source). The gift becomes bigger than they are. Soon, they begin to wing it in other areas of their lives, thinking they really don’t need to develop skills in other areas. After all, they’re an incredible ________________. (You fill in the blank: tennis player, singer, actor, musician, dancer, etc). Their growth

becomes distorted and lopsided. Later, when that gift is no longer able to carry them, they’re in trouble.

2. Early Burnout

Young people who are pushed in a single area often burnout early. They get sick of softball, gymnastics, you name it—and end up quitting the very activity they once loved. It was too much, too soon. They needed to have a childhood where they played a variety of games, but they never got it. It may just be my opinion, but kids should never “burn out” in middle school. They should be exploring at 12-13, building general, personal skills that’ll be relevant, regardless of where they end up.

3. Emotionally Unhealthy, Angst-filled Young Adults

Young people who are pushed too soon and too much are vulnerable to a lifestyle of angst and emotional depression. As their brain develops during adolescence, it becomes challenging to navigate the emotional highs and lows of hormone changes and intense competition. It’s especially sad when it’s mom or dad pushing them—simply because they enjoy the competition—but have no idea what it’s doing to their child.

Because we work with several NCAA Division 1 athletic departments, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of coaches, and more of them than ever are telling me they now recruit athletes from multiple sports, not just theirs. The reason? They believe they get a healthier student athlete, one that is more balanced and able to handle the ups and downs of wins and losses. In addition, they get an athlete who isn’t burned out, but one who’s ready and able to give a lot to the sport at 18 or 19 years old. They get happy, well-adjusted players.

Their Source of Stress

I have written much about how stressed out American high school and college students are today. 94% of college students say the number one word they use to describe their life is overwhelmed. In a UK survey, they report that their number one source of stress is their parents. This is negatively affecting everyone.

Dr. Eric Herman, a clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, tells us that when a parent pushes too much, the result is an overwhelmed child who is too stressed out to get things done. Your child needs to relax and have fun. It will help him recharge his batteries, just as relaxation helps you recharge your batteries.

For the past decade, Daryl Capuano, educator and founder of The Learning Consultants in New Haven, Conn., has been counseling parents on understanding key igniters in motivating children and the harmful effects of nagging. When a child hears a message repeatedly, she starts to view it as a big negative. If you often tell your child, “You are not going to get into college if you don’t study harder,” she might avoid studying or any discussion of college. She could begin to slack off on homework or even skip school. This pressure creates a significant motivation deflation, warns Capuano. Even a very young child can lose interest in playing baseball if he fears he’s not measuring up to his parents’ expectations.

A Balancing Act

I am simply arguing that we must strike a healthy balance in the lives of our students. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach or youth worker, we must balance:

1. Helping them find and develop their strengths so they can be productive.

2. Helping them mature emotionally and live healthy, balanced lives.

Here’s to developing well-rounded kids who become well-adjusted adults.

*(“The Oversized Gift” is a Habitude from Book One of the series.)

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Your Story and God’s Glory

Catching a glimpse of what God is doing across North America would be instantly overwhelming. It could be like what Moses experienced on the mountaintop (Exodus 33) when he asked to see God’s glory. In that passage, God agreed to show himself to a man, to a friend, but not in fullness.

Youth Unlimited has the incredible privilege of seeing a glimpse of God’s work each summer. All summer, we see, hear and experience the goodness of God displayed in the power of the Gospel through congregations and youth groups that are advancing the Gospel into their community and around the world.

Join us at Serve or Live It and you might catch a glimpse of:

  • The widow whose loneliness dissipates with the help of 12 students who didn’t just come to paint her garage but to help meet her social and emotional needs. She is cared for by a local church all year and this is tangible expression of that care.
  • The man living on the streets who has a “home” in a congregation. Even though he lives under a bridge – he belongs. He worships weekly, depends on others for daily care and, most fulfilling, he is depended on by those in the congregation for the care he can give to them.
  • The diverse congregation in a diverse setting effortlessly expressing body-like coordination and unity while beautifully highlighting the uniqueness of each ethnicity and each individual member.
  • The mono-ethnic youth group in a mono-ethnic region that prays for and longs for relationships with a diverse congregation. While this group is culturally sensitive and accepting of others, their community just does not have diversity in ethnicity. They really do reach out beyond their four walls and their congregation really does reflect the spectrum of ethnic diversity of their region (none or very little), so to make relationships and learn, they invest time and money to travel.
  • The girl who admits her eating disorder for the first time and, now that her secret is out, is willing to make a plan to deal with the roots of it.
  • The single mom who is moving her children out of the shelter and into her first home with the help of the church and the work force of students who came to a Serve week or participated in the Service Track of Live It.
  • The grade 12 student who realizes her college choice and career path can be used for Kingdom purposes.
  • “That Guy” in the youth group who never entered into worship before and finds his expression during a week focused on Christ.
  • The boy who struggles with self-esteem and self-condemnation, who, by God’s grace, grasps freedom.
  • The adult leader that is deeply moved.
  • The pastor overjoyed because the youth group inspires the adult congregation.

Join us at Serve or Live It, and we are very sure you will catch a glimpse of The Church mobilized and the glory of God.

You will see how your story and the story of your youth group is woven into the fabric of the North American Church and what God is doing down the street, across the continent and around the world the other 51 weeks of the year.

Food for Thought

Having just finished a humongous fudge-like brownie one night around 10:00pm, I was inspired to write about youth conventions, high school mission trips, camps, retreats and the like.

Earlier that day, I had a well-balanced meal complete with a side salad, broccoli and a great main course full of protein in the shape of a pulled pork sandwich. Therefore, my decision on the brownie was based on a desire to feed my sweet tooth. The brownie was so rich, I was enticed to have coffee with it (did I mention it was 10:00pm?) and then couldn’t sleep, thus, the analogy and this article.

When you plan to take your youth group on a faith-forming trip, what form of spiritual nourishment does it take?

The fudge-like brownie? This type of nourishment is full of empty calories that give a rush for a short time then leave students feeling down and spiritually sluggish after the superficial energy wears off. Does your faith-forming mission trip create spiritual cavities, holes of disillusionment, that need to be repaired later?

The garnish? No one eats that leaf placed on the plate for decoration. On a dare, I have watched a many 13 year olds eat it and wince with regret. When a youth group trip is placed on the calendar because it’s a tradition or an expectation, it can be a great looking symbol but lack substance, leaving a bitter taste. Make sure it is on the calendar because of God’s leading or don’t put it on at all.

The main course? I might pity this situation more than the others mentioned so far because so many eggs are in this basket (sorry to introduce breakfast into the analogy – now I’m hungry again). The youth leaders with this mentality believe the short experience stands on its own. Their group goes, grows and comes back, but the experience isn’t tied into anything before or after. The summer youth trip was viewed as a complete spiritual meal like a TV Dinner – just pop the students into the microwave discipleship of a van ride, confined space and compressed relationships then return them to everyday life.

A compliment or supplement? Here’s where I think the experience (or event) belongs. You serve up main courses all through the year – at youth group meetings, bible studies, Sunday services, Profession of Faith classes, etc. Through mentoring relationships and service opportunities, in their own community, students have well-rounded, regular “meals”. They even get the dessert or fast food now and then as you live life in community as Christ-followers. Then, the faith-forming event is a supplement or a compliment to their spiritual intake. It’s meant to give them a boost so you make the most of the momentum, integrating what they learned from new ideals and experiences into every day life.

They can take this supplement four to five times per year through mission trips like Serve, attending a convention like Live It and then your own fall retreat or camps as well.

The ideal is that your students would enjoy full spiritual meals with you every week of the year.

The Questions God Asks

If you could ask God a question, what would it be?

Go ahead; write it in the comments of this blog below. Take time to ponder and wordsmith if you want, type it in and then press enter or just scribble it down on a piece of scrap paper, crumple it up and throw it away. Either way, you can’t really “send it” or “throw it”. The question lingers and hopefully the answer will eventually linger as well.

If there’s no answer right now, my prayer is that wondering or even doubting will lead to leaning further into God’s wisdom and not into discouragement or disillusion. (Proverbs 3:5-6) There’s a tension that God lets linger when questions are on the table. Why does he do that?

Sometimes when we express those deeper questions it reflects a longing for the world to be reconciled or made right. The world groans for that day according to Romans 8. It seems God would move us from groaning for our own “personal world” to be made right into a groaning for the world, his world, to be made right.

At times it’s as if God has said to me, “Go ahead and question; long for answers in your personal life and for your family and the things that matter to you. Then, let me show you how I long for the people that matter to me. Then, let’s make a difference together.”

Ask your questions. Plead, cry, grieve, doubt and deliberate. Ancients of the faith did. Then, in the aftermath of our own questions, listen for his.

It’s when we turn our attention to God’s questions that we find peace in the tension. It’s when we turn our desire for the answers into the desire for his perspective that we become hungry and thirsty for the right things.

If that sounds trite or churchy, it might be necessary to return to the first paragraph and continue working through your own questions and struggle. There is a deep work God wants to do in and through our struggles and questions.

I remember reading a book that urged me to make the most of suffering and I just wasn’t ready to. I put my bookmark in the page, shut the book hard and threw it across the room. Eventually, there is grace to work on our own struggles and co-labor with Christ in the world. Don’t rush your own process if you’re struggling today.

What are the questions God asks?

Going through the Gospels and making a note of everything Jesus asked in conversations would be a great study.

There is also an “at-a-glance” outline in Isaiah 58. God’s people are asking why it seems he is not listening to them and blessing them and moving heaven and earth to help them. He moves them into his questions which will lead to the deeper answers for which they long.

For a seven part youth group curriculum that guides students through dealing with their own troubles, celebrating God’s work through Christ, true worship, a true fast and “kingdom living in the middle of normal”, please download the Youth Unlimited Student Curriculum at

Isaiah 58:5-9


“Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing [b]one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?
“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread [c]with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

What questions are you asking God today?

What questions is God asking you?

2015 Theme Summary – The Other 51

Happy (almost) New Year! At Youth Unlimited, 2015 is all about “The Other 51”, our theme for Live It and Serve this year. We are so excited for the many students whose lives will be changed through these faith-forming experiences and their interaction with The Other 51. To learn more about what these students will be learning and participating in, read below!

Key Passage:

John 20:21b, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive now the Holy Spirit.” (NRSV)

Live It and Serve are just one week of the year, and after that one week, students head back home. Then what?

Students don’t just go for that one week, though. They also go for the other 51. The other 51 weeks in the year matter too, and they know it. Serving God is not about going away for a weeklong “mission tourism” experience. It’s not just about hanging out, meeting new people, and seeing God in a different city. It’s about taking that experience, that one week, and making it their lives! It’s about participating in the Kingdom of God for one week in an intense way so that they can begin to (or continue to) see God’s amazing reign in the other 51 weeks of the year. It’s about seeing God in all aspects of what they do – all the time – The Other 51!

So, get ready for 2015! The one-week youth mission experiences at Serve and Live It are going to change students! Our purpose for this one week is to prepare them for the other 51. We are going to ask, “What would the world look like with a good God revealed in Jesus Christ in charge of it?” That’s God’s plan: to show his reign, his Kingdom, revealed in Jesus to all humanity, and God wants to use students to do it! In these one week experiences, students are going to hear about the size of God’s plan, which is so much bigger than they could imagine. They are going to hear about the people involved in God’s plan, being so many more than they probably thought. They’ll receive some “tools” for working in the Kingdom, and they are going to experience a taste of God’s Kingdom already alive on earth as it is in Heaven – so that they may desire to taste that Kingdom again and again – for the other 51 weeks.

So these one-week you mission experiences are just the beginning. The students who participate are continuing a journey, but not just for that one week. Jesus never asked for one week. He never asked for a little bit of their lives. He asked for it all. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive now the Holy Spirit.” Are you ready for 2015?

My 51

For decades there has been an ebb and flow of unity among churches in New England. It seems the water is rising again!


Student ministries gathered for a few hours to advance unity and intentionally create synergy among churches.


It sounds way too cliché to paint the evening as an event full of fun, food and fellowship, but those were on the surface the entire time and it just felt right. There was a sense of belonging and affirmation. It seemed like everyone in the room that Friday night was saying, “This is my night. This is my time with the Body of Christ. This is my act of worship. This is my life for him. This is one week I will end in praise.”


What about the other 51 weeks of the year? That was the challenge. How do we live a life of true worship and help others grow close to Christ?


If fellowship was on the surface that night, then true worship and the Word were present on the deeper level.


Bryan Weigers of New England Chapel spoke from his heart that night emphasizing, “You are loved.” He shared his own hard times. Recently, one of his daughters needed 11 surgeries in one year. His other daughter broke her back. He suffered a broken neck. All this took place within months of each other. Yet God saw his family through the hard times. Bryan urged students to sign on for a “4G Experience With God” for every week of the year.


  1. Grieve when you’re going through a hard time.
  2. Group up with other followers of Christ. Make sure you don’t isolate yourself.
  3. Give it up to God. Dedicate the struggle to him. Even give thanks for how he is working when you can’t yet see how he is.
  4. Give to others. Even when you’re hurting you have much to give and God will use you to help others.


The Andy Needham Band led worship, introducing a new song that became an anthem for the night called, “Love is the Song”. Another song that resounded with the message of the evening was “O Great Love”, which is a great reminder that the deep and abiding love of God has far reaching effects on our lives. To listen to the song, watch the video below.



Annika Bangsma, a catalyst for the event, said,


“It has been my prayer that ‘youth ministry’ wouldn’t consist of just one lone youth worker striving to do the impossible, but a community endeavor both within and between churches to help adopt teens into the body of Christ—and thus become an endeavor full of relationships, accountability, joy and belonging.


It is for this reason that Bryan and I are both big fans of Youth Unlimited events, as we feel that they are great opportunities for students to grow in their relationships with Christ and with others.


Bryan and I had already planned to attend the Youth Unlimited Live It convention this summer with our groups, and thus when we found out that Andy Needham Band was booked to be the band at Live It, God stirred us a little further. If ANB was coming from our area to go to Chicago, what if we could take all that good stuff that was going to be happening in Chicago this summer –and give our area a little taste of it?


The theme for Live It in Chicago this summer is “The Other 51”, therefore, we decided to take some ownership of that theme, and thus, “My 51” was born: we would plan a night to showcase the band and the opportunities that exist through the Live It experience, while also bringing together area church youth groups and youth groups from throughout our classis (Vermont, Connecticut) for an exciting night of relationship building – both with one another and with our Savior—just like at Live It.  As such, we used some basics from the Live It playbook – a dynamic night of worship, telling Christ’s story, and social time for youth to connect with one another and their leaders; and were very excited at the results.


Many from the group in Massachusetts and the Andy Needham Band plan to meet at Youth Unlimited’s Live It which is a one week convention beginning July 21, 2015, at Trinity Christian College.


For a free download of “O Great Love” by the Andy Needham Band to help inspire others through their 51, fill out the form below.

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A Look Ahead to Live It 2015

Youth Unlimited is excited for Live It 2015 and the opportunity to engage with high school age students at their point of interests and passions once again so they can learn about their value in Christ while exploring how to use their talents to spread God’s love to their friends, community and world. Watch the video below for a look ahead to Live It 2015!