I participated in SERVE as a worksite supervisor for the three years my church hosted SERVE, and I can tell you that there are many good reasons to participate in SERVE.

First, it’s an excellent opportunity to engage with the next generation, the youth who will be called upon to sustain the Christian faith in the years ahead and pass it on to the generation after them.

Second, Youth Unlimited is very effective at partnering with churches and sharing their much needed experience so churches new to SERVE are able to host SERVE well right out of the starting blocks.

Third, I had recently completed a spiritual formation course where I discovered I had missed the mark in living a missionally obedient life. SERVE gave me an opportunity to get started.

Forth, once I experienced SERVE the first year and witnessed the impact on the youth, the adult volunteers and myself alike, I was ready to continue the following years. SERVE builds camaraderie among the youth and volunteers. It provides a sense of accomplishment for the projects completed. It emphasizes building relationships with people in the community by sharing God’s love in ways that meet their needs in very practical ways. It gives everyone opportunities to serve in the ways God has gifted them, thereby creating a beautiful orchestration of God’s body at work in unity together.

And most of all, it deepens our spiritual relationship with the Lord. Finally, when community residents come to the community dinner on the last night of SERVE and share their testimonies about the impact SERVE had on them, it caps off a great week by bringing glory to God, which is what we ultimately seek to do.

-SERVE Host Team Member

Would your church be interested in hosting SERVE? Click here for more information. You might also visit our SERVE Locations page to view other locations.

Concentrated Impact

by Brian Bierenga

Take a minute and recall your last youth leaders’ meeting. Perhaps someone suggested, “We should really help our students develop a heart for serving others.” Your group agreed and assigned people to investigate service options, check calendars with kids and parents, gather supplies and arrange transportation. Once that was done, your leadership team worked hard to publicize and promote a one-day event, tout it at several youth meetings and recruit as many students as possible. After the event, your team agrees that several service days over the summer would be better, but that when it is so much work to schedule one, planning several will never be an option.

Or perhaps, at your last youth leaders’ meeting, someone said, “We really just need to build community within our group. We have some great worship, service and discipleship elements for our students, but they just aren’t gelling as a community.” So your group proceeds to brainstorm about creative ways to bring the group together, mix them up, break down barriers, have fun and build trust. And since this sort of thing takes time, your team agrees to program a youth group event every other week for the next month, which means all of you will have to work together to organize, promote and run each of these events. Lots of fun, but also lots of work.

Or let’s say that your group is thriving and your students love serving others and just being with each other. At your meeting, a fellow leader says, “I love the events we do, and things are going great, but wouldn’t it be cool to really go deeper? Wouldn’t it be powerful if we had a special Koinonia service, or even celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a group?”

Suddenly, your whole team is inspired as they envision that experience: your whole team except for your youth director. She says, “I love the vision for this, but honestly, we only meet for one hour. I’m not sure how we can move kids from opening games, silly-string fights and high-energy music into a place of vulnerability and quiet reflection with God and one another in such a short time. I’d love to see this work, but I’m just not sure our regular format lends itself to such a deep worship experience.”

So many great ideas, but so many logistical hurdles to work through. Certainly, there must be an easier way!

What if there was a way to cover several huge ministry goals at once?

Take a minute to reconsider the idea of a service-learning trip for your group. A successful mission trip for teens can accomplish several big goals in a short but intensive amount of time. With good planning and God’s blessing, a one-week service-learning trip can produce more life change and impact in a student than an entire year of Sunday night meetings.

Imagine your students being immersed in the discipline of service as they work alongside others for several days in a row. Imagine the conversations and community created from doing life together for a week – and yes, even from the 16-hour van ride. Imagine how God’s Spirit can move through several nights in a row of worship, teaching and small group discussion. Imagine how God could use a whole week to work in the heart of a far-from-God-student and change their life trajectory.

These are things that happen at SERVE, five to seven-day high school mission trips that sends middle or high school age students out to care for and restore their world in an environment where they’ll encounter the concepts of justice and missional living. More than just a short trip, SERVE is a faith-forming experience where the communities, congregations and students involved all experience lasting transformation.

If the idea of a service-learning trip hasn’t been suggested recently at a youth leaders meeting, maybe you want to bring it up at your next one.

For more information, visit our SERVE Site Locations page.

SERVE – Sweeter By the Year

You should know that each host team for SERVE works nearly year-round to prepare for the week-long SERVE experience. So when the students and their leaders begin to walk through the doors on those warm Saturday afternoons, there is no feeling quite like the joy we have to welcome them!

Prairie SERVE out here in Sioux City/Sergeant Bluff, Iowa just wrapped up its third year. Each SERVE experience is unique and memorable, to be sure, but as a host team member, I can honestly say Prairie SERVE gets sweeter by the year.

The temperatures were high this year, but the joy of the Lord as our strength was quite evidently that which sustained us. The 42 students that came to Prairie SERVE left their hand, foot and heart-prints all over our worksites, making eternal impacts on the lives of refugees, the down-and-out and the native people that inhabit our Midwest region.

As we learned by Jesus’ example of making change and being changed, chains were broken through worship, intercession, encounters with brokenness and forming new relationships. Our amazing students and leaders loved harder than ever before, and it was truly a taste of the Kingdom on earth in a way I can only imagine caused Heaven to break out into celebration.

Through leading a Vacation Bible School, painting neglected houses, encountering those who come from a completely different lifestyle than us and learning the vast and rich history of our region, all of the participants of Prairie SERVE left with a taste of the Kingdom on their lips and a song of praise to the Lord in their hearts.

Leading and facilitating areas of Prairie SERVE has been a transformational experience for me as I build relationships within the community and fall in love with God’s children in Sioux City, Iowa. I want to extend the invitation to you and your youth group to join us next July as we discover new surprises from the Lord in unexpected and broken places. We hope to see you there!

Faces of ThereforeGo Summer, 2016

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

Tyler Gaastra

Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed Church

Grand Rapids, MI

Q. What do you do in your free time?

A. In my free time I read history, philosophy and theology books and visit Civil War sites.

Q. Where would you like to travel someday?

A. I’d like to do a Reformation History Tour: Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and England.

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

A. Embrace change and technology.

Q. I never leave for youth group without my _____.

A. Wife.

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

A. I like to have students over to our house for movies, sporting events and swimming.


Lesli Van Milligen

CrossPoint Christian Reformed Church

Brampton, ON

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

A. Probably doing some type of youth ministry re-visioning retreat on behalf of Faith Formation Ministries. Many churches are rethinking their approach to youth ministry and I enjoy coming alongside them as they brainstorm new ways of reaching their youth.

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

A. Any place with good coffee or interesting food—Student’s choice. I like them to introduce me to places that they enjoy and where they feel “safe”. They will want to introduce me to their friends or they will choose a place where they have the freedom to talk and not be recognized. I always make sure that their parents are aware that we are meeting and where.  

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

A. I find out what they are reading and read it myself so we can talk about it.  We often had students share music, TV shows or movie clips with the group, using a rubric we put together as a group to help students talk about why that particular piece of pop culture was relevant to them and to dissect where it supported or challenged their faith.  Great discussions. 

Q. What do you do in your free time?

A. Because we love to cook, when we are not having folks over for a meal, my husband and I are working through a list of 501 must see classic movies.

Q. Where would you like to travel someday?

A. I would love to return to Spain. I studied and interned there on several occasions. I even preached my first sermon in Spanish while working with youth outside of Madrid.  


Kevin VanderVeen

Covenant Christian Reformed Church

St. Catharines, ON

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. I have been journeying through the Ridder Church Renewal through Western Theological Seminary. The process has been inspiring and encouraging.

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

A. At home, sitting by my fireplace, reading Scripture. Saturdays are my Sabbath.

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

A. Giving, athletic and sensitive.

Q. What do you do in your free time?

A. In my free time I play hockey, exercise, host friends at my home or support my youth by going to their games/events.

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

A. Love them and listen to them. The most important part is being present with them and leading them into the Word of God.

SERVE and My Life Story

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

SERVE and My Life Story

by Thomas Kielstra

Discovering what my faith was as a teenager was not exactly easy. Feeling the various pushes from different Christian institutions to focus on different aspects of faith was challenging, but making my faith mine was very important to me.

In 2011 at the age of 14, I went to Muskegon SERVE in Muskegon, Michigan with a church that wasn’t mine. At the week of SERVE, I saw that the Reformed Church put a much larger emphasis on a personal relationship with God and personal relationships with others than I previously experienced. As a result, I began to analyse faith—specifically my faith—in a different way. I began investing in my own church’s youth group, and started to make connections within my church.

I went on to go to Woodstock SERVE in Woodstock, Ontario in 2012 and then back to Muskegon SERVE in 2013 with my own church in addition to four mission trips to Detroit, Michigan and one to Nicaragua with my high school.

In Grade 12, I wanted to do something more to help out with the SERVE. Having made a personal connection with Brian Kingshott, the youth director at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, which hosts Muskegon SERVE, I contacted him and asked if he would consider taking on an intern. I offered to help out with whatever needed to be done behind the scenes. He responded quickly saying that he would be interested, and he started connecting with Youth Unlimited to come up with a process to make this possible.

So in July of 2014, I went to Muskegon as an intern. I helped out with icebreaker games and activities and I was responsible for doing games before dinner and worship, but my favourite part about the internship was the personal connections I made with the participants and youth leaders. This is when I discovered how valuable friendship is to my personal faith journey. This is when my relationship with God truly became a friendship—not just something I believed.

I then went off to university, where I fell in love with my studies, and my faith took a back seat. By February, I still had not found a church that I called my own and my relationship with God became distant. This is when Brian reached out to me about coming back for another year, to help out with SERVE again. I hesitantly agreed.

Then, during my summer semester, I was invited to Royal City Evangelical Missionary Church’s youth group. Their focus is on relationship—Relationships with the youth and relationships with God.

As I attended Royal City, my relationship with God built over the summer as my relationships with my friends at Royal City grew. When I went back to Muskegon, again as an intern, in the summer of 2015, my relationship with God was much stronger than it had ever been. Now I am a Junior Youth Leader at Royal City. I have learned more about how to show the love of God and what my faith really is.

All in all, SERVE has taught me two things: first, I have a passion for serving others and second, having honest relationships with others and showing others that I will always be there for them is one of the best ways I am able to show God’s love to others.

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!

A Thread in the Tapestry

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

A Thread in the Tapestry

by Kyle De Boer

Joining forces for the third straight year, three Montana congregations are collaborating to host Gallatin Valley SERVE. We are an eclectic bunch with diverse gifts. Farmers and ranchers work side-by-side with educators and entrepreneurs. The unique community of volunteers for GV SERVE is the locale in which youth and adults offer their gifts for something greater than themselves. SERVE volunteers and participants are the needed characters in a much larger, gospel-centered story of love and transformation.

Youth are an integral part of Gallatin Valley SERVE. Consider a large tapestry—one larger than the size of a tall Dutch man! This aesthetically pleasing piece of art conveys a message as you soak in its magnitude. Step a little closer, and you begin to notice the detail of this magnificent work. Step even closer yet, and you notice how small strands of thread comprise this masterpiece. Students are some important strands of the thread that comprise GV SERVE.

Before GV SERVE came into existence, three “youth”, functioning as adult leaders, led a group on SERVE to Sioux Falls, SD. Ranging from 22 to 25 years old at the time, these three individuals returned to the Gallatin Valley with a conviction to host SERVE. Support for SERVE quickly expanded to include: area councils, high school students and many adults. Preparations were underway.

Since the inception, youth keep the pulse of GV SERVE beating, possibly even racing! On our day away, students want to summit a mountain. Their effort to conquer the high elevation is motivation for our adults to keep up! Students can step out of their comfort zone in order to engage the opportunities that are part of Montana. Conversation around the supper table can get quite loud in the Fellowship Hall as stories of relationships and service are swapped. Singing, clapping and dancing are expressed in evening worship, in both a church sanctuary and an alpine shoreline. Students from different churches in Montana join with peers from across North America to enter into a story that is much greater than themselves. All the while, adult volunteers and leaders have the privilege of learning from and growing with these important strands of thread.

I have the privilege of seeing both youth and adults integrate their gifts with Christ’s work in Montana. GV SERVE keeps the eyes of our Host Churches open to our community. With wide eyes, our congregations are able to engage the Gallatin Valley in continued and new ways because of the SERVE participants. However, the Gallatin Valley is only a small part of the large tapestry that God is weaving.

Youth are empowered at SERVE to live a transformed life of love and service at home. After seeing a new community and joining in Kingdom service during SERVE, adults and students have an opportunity to enter God’s redemptive story in their church, community and family. Some SERVE participants return home to provide support for a local non-profit. Some seek reconciliation with a parent or friend. Others allow the grace of Christ to shape their view of self.

Gallatin Valley SERVE has taught us that whether we are on SERVE or at home, we can continue to offer ourselves as thread, purposed and placed by the master weaver, Jesus Christ.

To connect with Gallatin Valley SERVE, click here to visit their Facebook page.

Next Generation Leaders

The following is a millennials response to a recent Growing Leaders post in regards to Serve.
As a millennial myself, I find myself immediately connecting with the “new school” way of thinking but I’m not sure how “new” this way of thinking/leading is. In fact, if I were to categorize Jesus into one of these categories, I’d say he would fit best under the new school. Jesus may not have a wireless connection or a verified social media account, but he doesn’t need one to pursue a relationship with us, empower us, fill our hearts and spirit with passion and lead us to the cross.
Serve is a very important time for students, and for some this may be their only opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and allow God into their hearts. Our host team and host church provide the venue and volunteers to fulfill Gods mission for that week and the number one thing I ask of my team is for them to allow God to work through them as he pursues a relationship with these students, their leaders and the community.
From my perspective, the key to a successful Serve is the atmosphere established by the host team and supporting volunteers. From the moment the students enter the Serve church, they need to be surrounded by a host team and student leaders that have a relationship with God and a strong passion for sharing his love and the gospel with others. Our interaction and activities with the students need to be empowering, thought provoking and encouraging. The guidelines in Tim Elmore’s article, Six Rules Next Generation Leaders Follow provide a great outline…
Trust – an atmosphere that allows the students to feel open and trusting ranks high on the list. From my experience, when these students trust their surroundings, they are willing to step out of their comfort zones and present whatever is on their heart to God. It is also important that they know they can trust God.
Why? – provide an environment that allows our students to ask whatever is on their mind. In most cases, students have an endless amount of questions and we want to encourage them to ask! This is a great opportunity for them to have a deeper understanding.
Relationships/Discipline follows passion – a relationship with God will put the passion in their hearts and discipline will follow. This also follows the guideline, relationship before results. In addition, it’s important for these students to develop relationships within the Christian community for guidance and support
Encourage – leading and encouraging the students will give them a sense of confidence and self-worth. It will empower them. In result, they will lead others to God when they return home.
There may also be a way for the students, with guidance from Serve, to utilize social media to spread the gospel and their love for God.
To summarize, I feel the “new school” leadership qualities is a great way to connect and inspire the students attending Serve. I think this would be a great brainstorming topic and the outline provided in the article would be a good starting point.


Don’t Eat the Last Twinky

The following post is from How to Plan a Mission Trip. To view the original post, click here.

For years, I have invited long term missionaries to the trainings I do with short termers. One story in particular stood out… the missionary recounted how the remoteness of their field left little room for luxury. Each time they returned to the USA, they brought back a package of Twinkies for the freezer. On a family member’s birthday, they pulled one out… put a candle in it… and sang Happy Birthday.

One summer, a short term team came. The missionaries offered the typical “mi casa es su casa” to the team but were horrified a few days later when one of their children ran in blurting through tears “They ate the WHOLE Twinkies package!”

Undoubtedly, the short term missionary was hungry for a late night snack, walked to the fridge and said to a teammate “Dude, they have Twinkies in here! Want one?” One simple act of inconsideration obliterated a year’s stash of birthday hope.

Short term missions can easily deflate, discourage and undermine the work of a long term missionary. How do you make sure that your team does the opposite on your visit? Here are a few principles to follow.

1. Go as a servant rather than a consumer. Ask short term participants to discuss how they would want a guest to behave in their own home. Then ask them to apply these thoughts to their stay as a guest with the missionary.

2. Let the missionary set the pace. Sometimes a short term missionary attempts to help by being proactive and creates more work for the host. Show your willingness to help, but let the missionary tell you what to do, how much and when.

3. Remember, they may want something different. It may be that help with the dishes is far less important than the enjoyment of carrying on a full conversation in English. Missionaries have physical and emotional needs that result from their location and service. Be sensitive to these needs and try to meet them, even if they are not so obvious at first glance.

What Teens Need

by Amanda Roozeboom

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

There is a lot of discussion regarding the “Needs of Adolescence”. Most scholars agree that teens need: love, security, community, purpose, creative expression, achievement, structure/clear limits, self-definition and confidence/self-worth. Chap Clark summarizes it this way, “Teens need Identity, (Who am I), Autonomy (Do my choices matter) Belonging (Where do I fit)”.

I would add teens need a faith that lasts beyond high school! In Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, Almost Christian, her research found that teens with “consequential faith”, faith that lasted beyond high school, had four characteristics: a God-Story, Community, Calling (purpose) and Hope.

Teens need a God-Story. Dean describes teens that have a “God Story” as; “Christian teenagers who referred to their faith frequently, interpreted their lives in religious terms, or grasped their faith traditions’ primary teachings also had a ready religious vocabulary at their disposal.” There is power in testimony. Kids will speak as we speak! Youth workers need to make sure that we are equipping our teens for life-long faith by passing down a clear and vibrant faith vocabulary.

Teens need a Community. Teens will find community in parties, in school activities, in sports, in online gaming communities, etc. As youth workers, we need to make sure our teens are also finding community in our sanctuaries during Sunday worship, in our main youth group sessions, on service/mission trips and in youth convention experiences.

Teens need a Calling (purpose). They need a place where they can contribute, a place where their voice matters. Youth workers therefore need to be advocates for our teens. We need to give them opportunities to lead prayers on Sundays, help make a committee decision or choose the color of the youth room walls! I love the part in C S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when young Lucy asks the Beaver if the godlike figure Aslan is safe, “Safe? Said Mr. Beaver…Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He is the King, I tell you.” Let’s strive to give teens a calling worthy of the King!

Finally, teens need Hope. Young people look to adults for meaning and hope. They need us to model a theology marked by patience, determination and humility as we face challenging research that causes us to question who we thought we were. This world needs adults who model hope as Kierkegaard described hope – “leaping in expectation”. Do we joyfully “leap to faith” not because we are faithful, or our ministries are faithful – but because our God is faithful?

Our teens have many needs. It is our job, as adults, to actively engage in fulfilling their need for a life-long faith. Join me in striving to give our teens God-Stories, Community, Calling and Hope.

Faces of ThereforeGo – Winter 2016

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

Aaron Au

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

A. One of the incredible Farmer’s Markets that we have in Edmonton. I love the local produce and goods.

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

A. I often meet students (or anyone for that matter) at our local, neighbourhood coffee shop, the Carrot Arts Coffeehouse. Our neighbourhood plays such an integral role in the lives of my wife and me and our church plant and the Carrot is one of the hubs of our neighbourhood. In a community that is struggling to overcome poverty and crime, it’s fun to bring people into a warm, safe, inviting place and show them what our neighbourhood is really about!

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. I’ve been loving the many resources that Tim Keller has on the Gospel in Life website and their new YouTube channel. I’m learning how, as a church planter, the message I preach and the ministry I live has to be grounded in the truth and expressed in love and grace in a way that makes sense for the culture we’re in and connects with people’s hearts.

Q. What do you do in your free time?

A. I love my sports! I play goalie in ice hockey and also enjoy cheering for the Blue Jays.

Annika Bangma

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

A. On my family’s farm, having coffee with my husband, parents, and grandfather – and planning out weekend projects; which could include anything from fixing fences, to mucking out a chicken coop, to refinishing antique furniture.

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

A. I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, I don’t have to do much to “stay relevant”. I simply need to form caring relationships with students and they will KEEP me relevant (and they are also quick to let me know when I’m missing the mark)! In practice, this means taking a caring but “unknowing” stance and letting them see that I am actively looking to learn about their world – asking them things that aren’t immediately obvious to me about their choices, likes/dislikes, etc.; and showing up at the events they are involved in (concerts, games, etc.).

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. The list of ThereforeGo Serve Outcomes. 2016 will be the first summer that our church is hosting Serve in many years, and we are utilizing the Outcomes to set the tone for our entire ministry year.

Q. Where would you like to travel someday?

A. My husband and I have a goal of visiting every United States National Park in our lifetime. Sixteen down, forty-three to go!

Natasha Veder

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

A. I talk to my own youth! It’s more important to me to know what my own students are into than the general teen population, so I find out what movies they’re watching, what music they listen to and attend some of their sports games and school performances.

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

A. The first place you’d want to look would be my couch or kitchen at home. If I’m not there, check my local independent coffee shop, a nearby thrift store or I might be hiking one of BC’s beautiful mountains!

Q. What resource has inspired you for ministry lately?

A. Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden

Q. What is one website that you visit every day?

A. Facebook – I get world news updates, updates on my students lives, learn about youth ministry resources from my colleagues in other churches and can keep in touch one-on-one or in small groups with my students.

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

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

An Introduction to the 2016 Serve Theme Adapted from the 2016 Spiritual Life Guide

I can remember my friends saying that over and over in my life. Sometimes it was with wide eyes, searching to see how I was going to cope with tremendous pain; like the time I was 9 and tried to jump my bike over some barrels – epic wipeout. Or the time I was running hurdles in high school, miss stepped and face planted into the track. Other times they could hardly get the words out, because they were laughing hysterically; like the time I embarrassed myself in front of the new girl.

Once I overheard my dad whisper that phrase to my mom after I was recognized for an achievement. He knew that it’s not just the negative things that leave a mark. Affirmation, positive circumstances and good relationships also connect deeply within us and leave a mark of confidence and strength.

Just walking through everyday life we encounter people and circumstances that leave a mark on us. Some are hurt like a bruise. Some are good and show up in a smile. Some are as obvious as a new tattoo and some are hidden deep and unshared.

Through the book of Mark we see Jesus Christ walking through everyday life with people. He helps them identify hurtful marks this world has left on them through circumstances, misplaced values, wrong philosophies, bad decisions, negative relationships, etc. Through love and grace he gives understanding, forgiveness and wisdom. If they follow him, those marks are healed and even, as mind boggling as this is, can be redeemed for strength and used to build wisdom and confidence in others.

Jesus also identifies strengths and abilities, uniqueness and character traits that reflect God’s image. From a little boy with a lunch to the old neglected woman, he is quick to identify positive traits (marks) and whisper that God the Father approves.

Through a study on the book of Mark, we hope that students will allow Jesus to walk with them through their lives, redeeming the difficult times and leading them into making a positive mark on others, their community and this world.

A key prayer we pray is that they will have friends who walk with Christ and with them, through difficult times, wide eyed, helping them work through the pain. And friends who also see their incredible God-given potential and can whisper that their Heavenly Father approves.

The purpose of the 2016 curriculum is to enable 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.