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.

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

Students | Churches | Faith-Forming Experiences

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

Wow… where did that year go? With each passing year, I am forced to admit that my parents were right when they said, “the older you get the faster time flies”!

As we step into a new church ministry year, I’m praying God has refueled your passion for him and the students in your church and community! It is critical you have those in the right order—passion for Christ and then a passion for students. If those are in the reverse order, you will be ministering to students from your own strength and come this winter, you will be worn out, with a passion that went from a roaring fire to a few remaining embers. So please, start this year by investing in your relationship with Christ.

Our team has been working hard the past several months, preparing for the upcoming church year. We, again, have over 30 churches hosting Serve. The majority will be for high school age youth groups, but we will also have middle school and special needs sites too!

This past summer we assisted churches in a new way, customizing the Serve experience for those that maybe needed a shorter experience or the ability to broaden the age group to include younger and older participants. We’re glad to have been able to better serve churches in that way, and we look forward to continuing to meet the needs of more churches next summer as well.

The speakers and devotional material at each of our experiences next summer will be taking the students into the book of Mark, enabling students to encounter the person of Jesus Christ in very real ways during their time at Serve. Held in tandem with their ministry of service, relationships with peers and mentoring from small group leaders, this curriculum will allow students of all places in the walk of faith to meet more fully a Savior who humbly came to serve so that his love would be poured out for us!

As you begin making plans to get this ministry year kicked off, please remember that we are here for you! Our ministry exists to further the Kingdom with students, churches and faith-forming experiences, and we would welcome the opportunity to assist you in any way we can. So, whether you are in Canada or America or from somewhere between the east coast and west coast, we are here for you.

Humbled to serve you in ministry,

Jeff Kruithof

Executive Director

Youth Unlimited

PS – Youth Unlimited was blessed this summer to watch the Holy Spirit work in the lives of so many students through Serve and Live It! To read those stories and testimonies and see pictures, be sure to check out our blog, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Why Young Athletes Lack Grit and How to Build It

The following is a post by Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders. As you read it, consider what we can learn about our faith formation from these insights on the next generation. To view the original post, click here.

I recently spoke to a hitting coach for a professional baseball team. He told me how he’d tried to help a 19-year-old minor leaguer change his swing. After trying his suggestion three times, the player tossed down the bat saying, “It doesn’t work.”

The hitting coach replied, “But you gave it just three swings.”

“I know, and it doesn’t work,” retorted the frustrated player.

“But it’s gonna take you three thousand swings to get it right!” the coach exclaimed.

Such is the new dialogue coaches are having with today’s new breed of athlete. These players are not stupid or slow or untalented — they’ve just grown up in a world where they often get what they want with a quick click. A Google search. A single step.

In this world, it’s challenging to get young athletes to love the process. You know what I mean, don’t you? Excelling in any sport means you commit to a grueling process of preparation and habit. It’s not glitzy or glamorous, and few fans are likely watching. This is difficult for a generation of gifted athletes, where so much has come quickly and easily. To make matters worse, the media conditions them with constant pings on their smart phone, causing dopamine spikes in their systems. Consider today’s media:

  • We live in a day of one-minute highlight reels on SportsCenter. We watch Lebron James or Peyton Manning dunk shots and pass for touchdowns but never watch them put in the hours that enabled them to achieve such feats.
  • We live in a day of Instagram, Snapchat, microwave ovens, fast food, ATMs and high-speed Internet access. We don’t have to wait on too much or get too bored.
  • We live in a day of “before” and “after” photos — where people have lost weight or gotten toned or won prizes — but we only see the half-minute commercials. No details.

In 2000, adolescent attention spans were 12 seconds. Today, they are 6-8 seconds. They have dropped almost in half. While it’s not hard to capture your athlete’s attention, it is very hard to keeptheir attention. Is it any wonder why coaches or trainers must work so tenaciously to get them to stay in the conditioning process between games?

The Generation iY SCENE

Let me summarize the challenge in two columns below. The left side captures the world (the SCENE) we’ve created thanks to technology and parenting styles. The right side, however, reminds us of the unintended consequences of that scene:

Their World is Full of: Consequently, They Can Assume:
S – Speed Slow is bad.
C – Convenience Hard is bad.
E – Entertainment Boring is bad.
N – Nurture Risk is bad.
E – Entitlement Labor is bad.

How Do We Help Them Embrace the Process?

Consider this analogy. In many ways, the slow, boring and challenging process athletes must experience can be compared to the Bonsai Tree. Do you remember how it grows? Bonsai trees are beautiful to look at, but they require lots of care and shaping in order to attain that beauty. In the year 970, the Japanese book The Tale of the Hollow Tree included this passage: “A tree that’s left growing in its natural state is a crude thing. It is only when it is kept close to human beings who fashion it with loving care that its shape and style acquire the ability to move onward and grow well.”

What’s most intriguing to me is that many types of Bonsai trees grow roots as deeply as possible before showing any visible signs of growth. In other words, at first the growth is below the surface, so that the tree can establish its foundation before shooting up and out with beautiful branches and leaves. The growth is invisible for months, but then this incredible tree shoots up and outward visibly. Roots come first, then come branches.

This is a picture of the process. It’s often invisible at first — you have to learn to trust the process, or you’ll give up. It’s hard to engage in a process when we don’t see results, as we want a payoff. Below are six steps athletes can take to begin to embrace the process.

Six Steps to Engage in the Process:

  1. Set Micro Goals.

These are simply a set of smaller goals that are reachable each day or each week. They allow athletes to put “wins” under their belt quickly and spur them on to larger goals.

  1. Do something slightly different every 6 seconds.

During practice, re-arrange segments where athletes literally do something different every six seconds—about their attention span. Once these speed drills are complete, lengthen them.

  1. Focus on mini decisions and mini steps.

This is a second cousin to step one. Instruct athletes to make mini-decisions that lead to a maxi-decision. This helps them take small but incremental steps toward a larger goal.

  1. Simulate the “event” in practice regularly.

Because the “event” (the competition) is why most athletes join the team, take time to simulate (or create) game moments and debrief them. Both experience and reflection are key.

  1. Celebrate any and all visible progress.

One reason the process is hard is that we only celebrate the “game,” not the practice. Try celebrating any measurable progress, with tangible rewards and affirmation.

  1. Lose the “lottery mindset” and see discipline as a bridge. 

If needed, constantly re-calibrate their minds. Help them to ditch the “lottery” mindset that believes they’ll “fall into greatness overnight.” Discipline is like a bridge, taking them from where they are to where they want to be. No matter where they want to go, they’ll likely have to cross the bridge called “discipline.” (This is one of our Habitudes®.)

When athletes love the process, they carry no illusions about life, glitz or fanfare. In his book, Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges writes, “Wounded marines booed and hissed John Wayne when he visited them in a hospital ward in Hawaii during the Second World War. Wayne, who never served in the military and, for the visit, wore a fancy cowboy outfit that included spurs and pistols, would later star in the 1949 gung-ho war movie The Sands of Iwo Jima. The marines, some of whom had fought in Iwo Jima, grasped the manipulation and deceit of the celebrity culture. They understood that mass culture contributes to self-delusion…”

These marines understood what life is really about versus what’s merely a façade. They understood what true grit is. Great people—great athletes—learn to LOVE the process, to embrace and enjoy it. They trust the process will take them where they want to go.

Want to prepare athletes for excellence in sports and life? Check out Habitudes® for Athletes.

Stepping Out of Student Ministry

The following post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of LifeWay Student Ministry

Three years ago I stepped away from student ministry in a local church setting into my current position as the director of LifeWay Student Ministries. I had been a student pastor for 13 years and I was having the time of my life at an incredible church in Hampton, Virginia. It was one of those situations that you don’t just walk away from.

Over the last couple of years many of my friends have also transitioned out of student ministry into other roles. Some are pastors, others church planters, associate pastors, next generation pastors, young adult pastors, you name it and they’ve transitioned into it. All of them were in healthy situations where they were making an impact, and have made healthy transitions to these other positions.

This leads me to the question of the day. Not just today, but a question that has been asked of me many days throughout the last three years and a question that has been pondered frequently among those who have been in student ministry for a while.

When is it time to step out of student ministry?

I would like to admit up front that I don’t think there’s a concrete answer for this question. There’s no magic formula that you can use at the end of this blog to find out if you should step out of student ministry into another role. A current reality in student ministry is that we live in a day where the tenure of a student pastor seems short. I’m not referring to church switching here (different issue altogether), but the actual time that someone spends as a student pastor. It saddens me to think of how many “student pastors” are just using the student position as a catapult to something “greater.” Student ministry isn’t a stepping stone. If you are treating it as such, just go do what you’re really called to do.

Back to our question: when is it time to step out of student ministry? I think the best way to answer this question is to give you some observations from my own experience, and the experiences of others that I’ve gleaned from countless conversations with people who have made healthy transitions out of student ministry.

Observation 1: Healthy transition often comes when you aren’t seeking the transition on your own.

Observation 2: There are seasons of growth, and there aren’t. Being in one of the non-growth seasons doesn’t mean that you’re washed up and should leave student ministry. It IS a time that you can use to evaluate process, strategy, and vision.

Observation 3: Age isn’t a factor in this decision. Restructuring around where you are in life is always something to consider. For example, leading a student ministry when you have multiple children looks different than when it is just you or you and your spouse.

Observation 4: There will always be people who disagree with you and these people shouldn’t determine God’s call on your life.

Observation 5: Your response to authority says more about your own relationship with the Lord than it does about the leadership of your boss. Translation: leaving student ministry because of a bad relationship with your pastor is not the first option. There are many steps you can take before you get to that point.

Observation 6: The work is always going to be hard, and there’s always going to be a lot of it. This is true because what you’re doing is meaningful and when you consider the end goal of reaching and discipling the next generation, we should work hard at it.

Observation 7: As a student pastor you are serving in one of the most fertile mission fields on the planet.

Observation 8: It is a tremendous honor to be a student pastor, to disciple students and their families, and to speak into a person’s life at its most critical stage.

Observation 9: The grass isn’t greener over there, wherever “there” is. It’s just different.

Observation 10: It is difficult to lead an effective student ministry when one foot is with students and the other foot is trying to find the next step.

When is it time to step out of student ministry? In all honesty, I’m not really sure. What I am sure about is that student ministry needs people who will stick around. Churches and families need student pastors who will give their focus and energy wholeheartedly to student ministry until the moment that God decides to move them. This is the way it happened with the friends I mentioned above. They were wholeheartedly devoted to student ministry until the moment God transitioned them, and even in the transition there was reluctance and a hesitance to walk away from something they loved so much.

When is it time to step out of student ministry? At some level, it is time to step out when God calls you to something else, and you are hesitant, fearful, or remorseful (maybe all three) to step away from something that you love dearly.

Think Spring: Community Garden Toolkit

As a part of a national movement, many non-profits, schools, churches, and neighborhood organizations are considering community and cooperative gardening. Community gardens can provide sustainable ways to supplement food pantries, improve school lunch programs, increase neighborhood food security, create welcoming green spaces and build relationships.

ECHO exists to reduce hunger and improve the lives of small-scale farmers worldwide. They work to identify, validate, document and disseminate best practices in sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. They provide agriculture and technology training to development worker in over 165 countries.

A unique perspective that ECHO brings to the domestic community gardening movement is a perspective of agriculture shaped by their work with small-scale farmers in many of the poorest regions of the world. They seek to provide an opportunity for practical and affordable ideas to be shared and communicated across the globe. This often takes the form of low-cost and low-input recommendations, which typically include the use of nutritious tropical perennials and subtropical plant varieties as part of a sustainable agricultural system.

Download the ECHO Community Garden Toolkit.

This resource was designed to help you discover the diversity of resources available within your community, to meet the felt needs of your community, as well as promote intercultural understanding of issues regarding hunger, poverty, and justice in sustainable agriculture around the world. You can use it to better assist you in the organization and implementation of particular elements crucial to making a garden project successful.

Be creative. Get dirty. Have fun with your students.

What Educators Can Learn From Major Brands

For years, I have advocated something taught by futurist Dr. Leonard Sweet. In his book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, he suggests that youth today make up an EPIC Generation: they are Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich and Connected.

I regularly ask faculty members this question: How EPIC is your classroom? I believe the more EPIC we are, the better chances we’ll have of getting through.

Just look at some of the EPIC moves made by major brands recently.

E – Experiential

Last month, Starbucks opened something even more experiential than their typical stores. You could call it: Starbucks on steroids. It’s the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, a mega-store with specially carved teak doors in Seattle’s Capital Hill. Part-store, part-theatre part made-for-social-media-buzz tourist attraction, this special location stands at 15,000 square feet and could house a dozen typical sister-stores. It’s a factory and a store, mixing glitz with culture: the coffee is actually roasted right on the spot, bagged and shipped all over the world. There are 30 different coffees to be sold there; 45 people can sit at its “coffee experience” (100 can stand); and 250 jobs were created by this new location. In short, coffee drinking takes on a whole new experience.

Question: How can you create an environment that is more experiential as you teach students? How can you develop items that help clarify your message that students can see, touch, taste, smell or hear?

P – Participatory

McDonald’s just announced a new addition as well. Responding to their falling stock prices and shrinking population of young adult customers, the world’s largest fast-food chain will expand its “Create Your Taste” test platform. This allows customers to skip the counter and visit a kiosk where they can customize everything about their hamburger or chicken sandwich—sauces, buns, cheeses, extras, you name it. This is the biggest menu change McDonald’s has made since they introduced breakfast items four decades ago. This year, the platform expands to 2,000 locations across the U.S. Why? Because it gives the customer a chance to customize and personalize their order… just the way we like things today. (It wasn’t long ago that Nike introduced a way for everyone to customize their shoe orders). It makes us feel unique and gives us a greater sense of “ownership” of what we both eat and wear, in a world where we often feel like just a number.

Question: How can you offer a greater sense of “ownership” among your students by allowing them to personalize the subject or the pedagogy of your classroom? Is there any way they can put their fingerprints on the course so that it feels tailored.

I – Image-rich

More and more organizations are getting this one right. Students are part of a visual generation. That doesn’t make them anti-intellectual or simplistic, just iconic. They consume so much information day to day, they are drawn to metaphors in speeches and pictures on screens. And for those of us who communicate important messages, they prefer images. Just a few years ago, we began to see NCAA football programs switching to the use of images to call plays, snap counts and formations. The University of Oregon began doing this under Coach Chip Kelly and continues even to this day. As a result, dozens of other college football teams have switched to this strategy. Pictures communicate more quickly and more memorably than words. In short, images are quick and they stick. Do you suppose what works on a field may just work in a class?

Question: How could you incorporate a metaphor or word picture in your teaching that could anchor the “big idea” you’re trying to relay? Even though you might be sharing lots of complex ideas, could you enter the topic with an image?

C – Connected

Last fall, the new College Football Hall of Fame opened in Atlanta, GA. It’s just spectacular. CEO John Stephenson was kind enough to host a group of us from various NCAA schools, and immediately we recognized how the HOF and museum enabled guests to “connect” with the school, team and people they cared most about. When you enter, you see the helmet of every Division One program in the nation. You then identify the school you favor, and from that point on, wherever you tour in the building, people, plays and games in the exhibits will light up from your school. There are places for visitors to kick a football through the goal posts, do a personal touchdown dance and record it, watch video, sing a fight song… you name it. I guess you could say…the Hall of Fame is EPIC. Most of all, it enables people to connect.

Question: How could you enable students to connect with peers they care about as you teach? Is there a way you could create smaller communities for them to upload their own thoughts and “own” the topic they are learning?

By the way—if you like pondering this kind of creative communication, I’d love to invite you to our 2015 National Leadership Forum. Our theme this year is Communicate Better, and we have an incredible line up speakers and some EPIC moments planned. It will be our best one yet. CLICK HERE for information or to register.


For more information on Tim Elmore and/or Growing Leaders, click here.

Brighton’s Serve Journey

Brighton’s Serve Journey begins 10 years ago when our youth went on a Serve youth mission trip in 2005 – It’s amazing how the Lord works! He has been preparing us for the last 10 years to now come to this point of hosting Serve in Brighton.


Each year, we send a team of youth to participate in communities all across North America for one week. We have helped people struggling with finances, disabilities and life issues, people from different faiths or different walks of life and we have cared for God’s creation – people, all creatures and His world. We have been the hands and feet of Jesus and it has turned our lives around!


Two years ago during Serve in Orillia, our Pastor received a call to another church. Before we even came home from Serve, thoughts of hosting strongly came to mind. Our youth have always been saying that we should host in Brighton. Knowing the huge commitment involved, it was never an idea that stuck – until now. So, we came back from our mountain top experience and shared the idea with many in our Brighton congregation. Our church family responded with a very excited yes. We knew it would require a great community effort, especially when we would be without a senior pastor.


Brighton Fellowship is a church of ‘doers’. They are the greatest support to our youth group. Months earlier we did a mini visioning for our church and a real passion was to serve the Brighton community, but how does that look? Hosting a Serve project was a great way to help the church do just that.


The journey continued. Council gave their blessing and stands with us for the three year commitment. We made a sign-up board and the response has been amazing. Our church prays for Serve every week and reminds us all how we can make a difference as a church family. We job shadowed the Ajax Serve site this past summer and again were truly blessed. We have contacted potential job sites – the youth drop in centre in Brighton, the New Life Girls Home in Consecon, Community Care, Presquile Provincial Park, the local schools, the two senior homes in Brighton, the low income housing development, etc. Members of our church already help out individually but we look forward to sharing the love of Christ as a church for the Serve week and the ‘other 51 weeks’.


Last week we invited the congregation to join us for the Serve 101 teaching session and 38 people showed up, which is amazing after the short notice they received! After the teaching session, a church member came up to us and said his company would like to donate for the next three years! God is good! We are still without a senior pastor, but our church family has stepped up to the plate. We know the Lord goes before us, beside us, above us, below us and behind us. He truly is with us! We are an excited group and we look forward to hosting Serve


Let the journey continue!


For more on the outcomes of Serve, click here to download a one-page summary.

How Many Students Does it Take

I’m often asked how many students participate in Serve each summer. Here’s the short but powerful answer:

First, recognize that students and adults participate in Serve and the three major points of impact include:

  • The Host Church- The Host Church prays about how to creatively share the Gospel with their community and mobilize their congregation into the community. This isn’t just a one-week outreach or even three months of planning. Community outreach and home missions is written into the DNA of the Host Church, so the student workforce during this one week helps to enhance and advance what the congregation does throughout the year.
  • The Community – Persons in every community across North America are praying that God would meet their needs. Some of those needs are tangible, work-related projects that have a significant bearing on that person’s financial, social and emotional well being. Those people and organizations see the Church in action. They see teenagers as doers of the Word and not hearers only. Plus, the people receiving the work share their life story and perspective so their strengths are seen and not just their needs.
  • The Students and Youth Leaders – The Students and Youth Leaders who register have been praying about how to expand their worldview and fulfill the Great Commission. They are invited to serve the Host Church and community for one week then urged to go back and engage more fully with their own congregation to reach people down the street and around the world.

For more on Serve Outcomes in these areas of impact, click here to download a one-page summary.

Now here’s the break down of participants. These are approximates and on the conservative side (I never like to be “evangelistic” in my numbers):

  • 1,700 students and youth leaders
  • 400 Host Church volunteers
  • 1,700 Host Church Prayer Partners
  • 2,400 Sending Church Prayer and Financial Partners
  • 5,600 people receiving help and sharing their life perspective with students

10,000 plus participate in Serve each summer directly connected to a church.

That last part, “directly connected to a church”, is vital to Youth Unlimited. Serve is not a student mission trip where student groups “show up, blow up and blow out”. Everyone participating is or can be relationally connected to a long-term ministry. With Youth Unlimited, it’s all about faith for life.

If you’ve been on Youth Unlimited’s Serve and have a story of impact you’d like to share, please email Mandi at



Live 58 + Serve

Click here to watch the video about how Youth Unlimited, Live 58 and World Renew have teamed up to make Serve a life changing experience for students, their congregations and communities.

“In collaboration with Live 58 and World Renew, Youth Unlimited connected the one week Serve to a global initiative. Live 58 supplied much of the biblical messaging and World Renew supplied stories of international impact. Students learned about the needs in North American communities while also realizing the impact of their daily lives on food security around the world. 

Live 58’s invitation to Pray, Fast, Give and Shout became a rallying point with the hope that students will engage their own congregations throughout the year in efforts like the World Renew Hunger Campaign. Many churches and youth groups are now inspired not to simply feed the hungry, but to end hunger.

Youth Unlimited doesn’t just involve students in a one week mission trip. Youth Unlimited is engaging them and helping them to mobilize the church all throughout the year.” 

It’s not just about one week… It’s about The Other 51.

Faces of ThereforeGo, Fall 2014, Part 2 of 2

Jeff Schipper

Jeff Schipper | Youth Unlimited | Summer Teen Missions

Q. What’s your favorite place to meet with students, and why?

A. My favorite place would be at a local breakfast joint (The Windmill in Holland is tough to beat). Breakfast combines three of my favorite things: coffee, food and conversations in a booth. I also appreciate connecting with students before the pace of a regular day kicks into full gear.

Q. What do you do to stay relevant to youth?

A. I never felt the need to try until recently when I turned 30. Even now that I feel a bit irrelevant, I spend my time connecting with them personally at sporting events, dance competitions and coffee shops. In my mind, being present is more important than being relevant.

Q. I never leave for youth group without my…

A. Kickball and jumbo box of sidewalk chalk. The options are endless, and lately, our kids have become somewhat obsessed with 8 or 15-square. It’s a great mixer that anyone can play. Other options include parking lot kickball or a Jerry Meadows chalk portrait competition.

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. Other than the Heidelberg Catechism J, I have been spending the most time lately reading and applying Mark DeVries’ Sustainable Youth Ministry. I’ve also been blessed & challenged by Bonhoeffer’s Life Together as I think about Christian community.

Q. What do you do in your free time?

A. Free time is hard to come by as a youth director, homeowner, husband, and father of two kids under 2.5 years old. When I carve out a little “me time”, I’m probably on the golf course or downtown Holland meeting up with some guys from church.


Ellen Lyzenga

Ellen Lyzenga | Youth Unlimited | Summer Teen Missions

Q. Where could we find you at 10:00 AM on a Saturday morning?

A. If there are no youth retreats, fundraisers or leadership events, then I would be relaxing on my couch with a good book and a cup of coffee, probably with my cat sitting on my lap.

Q. If your students described you in five words or less, what would they say?

A. Best youth leader ever!

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. Both Essential Church? by Thom and Sam Rainer and The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer. These are some great researchers and authors who examine why our young people are walking away from the church and their books are full of good information and ideas on how to connect with our youth.

Q. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a youth group fundraiser?

A. I haven’t done it yet, but I want all the kids to paint a picture on canvas, something that inspires them or their favorite Bible verse or Bible story. Then we will display and sell the paintings in a silent auction.

Q. Where would you like to travel someday?

A. Turkey, Greece or Italy. I was blessed with an opportunity to see Israel with ThereforeGo a few years ago and walk where Jesus walked. Now I want to travel and see where the Apostles started the early church. I want to walk in Paul’s footsteps where he went to share the gospel and preach the word of God.