Go Do Good – Do It

by Angie Klooster

SERVE 2019 was one of the most influential weeks of my life. Seeing the broken state some people live in is one thing but having the opportunity to help them and change their way of life is entirely different. We made a difference, even if all we did was weed a few rows of a community garden or paint the walls of a non-profit organization. And making a difference made a difference in me.

I was cautious to go on this trip. It was very out of my comfort zone. Then, when I found out no one from my church was in my SERVE small group, I was even more discouraged. However, as soon as I met my small group and spent one day with them, I knew I was here for a reason. The people I worked with and got to know were some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I quickly realized God sent me on SERVE to do good.

God sent me to a small church in Muskegon, Michigan both to help people and to grow, myself. I learned more about myself in those seven days than I have in my entire life. I learned to not take things for granted. I learned that God works miracles in the strangest of ways. I learned to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people. And I learned to make friends, even if it’s just for a week and I might never see them again.

With each service project – every time we handed out yogurt at the church or cleaned a lot – we made a difference, and I was so encouraged. It might not have been much, but it was something, and it was hopefully enough to encourage others to follow our footsteps, too.

One little nudge can make a change in someone’s life, like the way my life changed at Muskegon SERVE. If the people of Muskegon saw us planting a garden and growing food, it shows them that it’s possible. If the kids at Muskegon Heights High School saw that people were willing to help them, it shows them they can help people, too.

Muskegon SERVE was just one week, but the people I worked with have been doing this for years. They have dedicated their lives to helping their community and are very passionate about what they do. They work so hard with so little. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to see, and talk to, and help these people. It’s changed who I am, and I hope everyone gets a chance to have a similar experience. If you ever get the opportunity to go do good, do it. It will be beyond worth it.  

[This is an excerpt from the Fall 2019 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE]

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.

An Open Letter to Our Graduating Seniors

Dear High School Seniors,

It’s here! Your long-awaited, joy-filled, nerve-racking day is finally here! You are graduating from high school, and today we are certain you’re looking back saying, “Wait, where did the time go?!”

Oh seniors, there are so many things we want to tell you, it’s hard to know where to begin. Your life is such an adventure; each day ordained by God. In the days to come, you will know trial, pain, loss and grief. But more than these things, you will know peace, love, comfort, joy and hope beyond what you can even imagine.

God’s plans for you are so much bigger than you can comprehend, and this is only the beginning of a long period of looking back and being amazed at what God has done. Take this moment; take this day to stand in awe of his faithfulness to you over the last 18 years. The things God has brought you through, the doors he has opened for you and the passions he has placed on your heart are the opposite of small.

Perhaps as you look back you feel a mix of things. There are seasons where your life looks more like a battlefield than a safe haven. You have known loss and trial beyond what any 18 year old should know. You are in his hands, and yes, he IS working all things together for your good. There is time for things to improve. He has an amazing plan for YOU.

In other seasons, looking back is sweet. God has filled your life with joy and good things. Rejoice in what he has done and the ways he has provided! Know that every good and perfect gift is from above, and praise him for how gentle he has been with your heart. Use this season to pursue him more, so that when trials come, you have a solid rock to stand on.

Seniors, we want you to know how much we have loved you. Our prayer for you is that you go forth into the world in confidence and hope; knowing his ways are higher than your ways and his thoughts are higher than your thoughts.

We are so proud of you. You have accomplished much; you have amazed yourself, your parents and us through your service, love, commitment and growth. You’ve been leaders this year through your words and actions. As you step into new adventures, be they college, work or missions, know that we are right behind you, cheering you on and believing in you more than you’d ever think possible.

We are having a hard time letting you go. You’ve brought us joy, laughter, life and love. You’ve led us into a deeper knowledge and revelation of God; you’ve driven us into the throne room for intercession, and you’ve shown us what it means to live in wonder of God. Your leadership in your schools and youth group has inspired us to say “yes” to the Kingdom more, and you’ve blessed us beyond what you’ll ever know.

As you step into a new season of life, know that we are never far away. In your youth leaders, you will always have a confidant, a prayer warrior and a friend. God goes before you; do not be afraid.

With all our love,
Your youth leaders

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Learn about our SERVE high school summer mission trips.

Bridging Generations

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Why Your Next Training Event Will Fail

Do “life changing” events really change lives? The following is a post by Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders. To view the original post click here.

A few years ago, a university invited me to come and speak at their annual leadership lecture series. This is an endowed event every year, but that particular year—they decided to really make it big. The staff wanted to see life-change in the students who attended. We spent hours on the phone preparing for those two days, brainstorming creative elements, interviews to be done, videos we could show, etc. It was certain to be the highlight of the school year and a surefire life-transforming event.

We pulled off the event spectacularly. Everything came off without a hitch or a glitch. Sadly, however, the administration told me that within a month, nothing really changed. Within four to six weeks, life on the campus returned to normal. The routines continued and all the great ideas evaporated.

I wish this was an isolated incident. But too many life-changing events don’t actually change any lives.

As a kid, before I became a type one diabetic, I loved cotton candy. It was the snack of choice when our family visited a theme park or local carnival. For me, there was nothing like eating a huge swirl of blue or pink cotton candy on a summer day—walking between Tomorrowland and the Matterhorn at Disneyland. One afternoon, my sister couldn’t finish her cotton candy. Naturally, I offered to finish it for her. I had just downed mine, and I had no idea how a second helping would impact my stomach. I soon found out. I got sicker than a dog. It was an awful way to spend an afternoon.

I have since come to understand the true value of cotton candy. It is a tasty treat in small doses. It’s delicious, but it was never intended to replace a nutritious meal. It’s pure sugar, for Pete’s sake. It’s a dessert. You don’t eat it until you’re full. In fact, it disintegrates when it hits your tongue or fingers.

I could say the same things about leadership training events, hosted by organizations or schools across the U.S. Administrators make the mistake I did with cotton candy. We overdose on events that can never actually nourish us. They motivate, but they can’t mature someone in their leadership skills. And even the motivation vanishes quickly. I bet that annual conference you just attended is nothing but a great memory in the minds of your students. No lasting change took place—except for a notebook that now collects dust on your shelf. Like cotton candy, we all love events—but they’re sugar. They energize us, but don’t last.

Events and Process

It’s not a new thought. People enjoy events because they stimulate and motivate—but we all know we need a growth process following the event, if we hope to make it last. In other words, after attending a training event, most people require an on-going journey; a community of relationships where the discussion expands. In the process, people continue to talk about and apply the principles that were introduced at the event. This is how good habits begin. This is how life change occurs. Every one of us needs a process that follows the event to seal what was learned. Look at the value of both:

Events Process
1. Encourage decisions 1. Encourages development
2. Motivate people 2. Matures people
3. Create a calendar issue 3. Creates a consistency issue
4. Challenge people 4. Changes people
5. Become a catalyst 5. Becomes a culture
6. Usually influence a big group 6. Usually influences a small group
7. Typically are easy 7. Typically is difficult

There is nothing wrong with events. I believe, however, that both students and adults require the combination of events and process in order to grow. They often need a catalyst (at an event) to spark a decision. Then they need a week by week process to follow through and implement that decision into their life. The younger an audience is, the more they need a process to be in place to foster growth. Further, the younger an audience is, the more concrete this process must be. It cannot be abstract or conceptual. The process must be specific and intentional. Sadly, for most students—this is a luxury. We whisk them off to the next concert, retreat, conference or convention. We’re on to a new subject. This is why so few lasting changes happen after summer youth camp. It was a great event—but no process followed

The Non-Negotiables: What Does a Student Development Process Look Like?

So just what is required to do a leader-development process? No doubt the process can take on many forms. No two may look alike. I believe, however, the essential elements are listed below.

  1. Community Interaction

People need to interact. They learn as much through uploading as they do receiving a download of information from a leader. They learn best in social contexts. Engagement and ownership of the issue increases as students have the opportunity to push back and think out loud with a handful of others.

  1. Relevant Resources

To insure the interaction doesn’t get hijacked into a black hole, resources are helpful to furnish direction and discovery. They are not a “god” but a guide. A resource could be a book, a podcast, MP3 download, article, CD or DVD to stimulate thoughtful reflection and discussion on the topic.

  1. Facilitated Exercise

This element stimulates members of the community by involving them in more than discussion. It invites other senses through role-playing, case studies, activities, or hypothetical situations. By engaging their imagination, these exercises awake the creative right brain.

  1. Real-Time Modeling

A good process always includes a leader within the community who incarnates the principle being discussed. Because people do what people see, the conversation gains traction because a leader is providing a living example—not merely words. As the saying goes, actions always speak louder.

  1. Action Steps

At some point in the process, a leader should challenge the community with a real-life assignment. People must have the opportunity to practice the truth they are learning. Many students today are primarily kinesthetic learners, and they require activity in their growth process.

  1. Measured Assessment

It has been said that experience is the best teacher. I believe evaluated experience is the best teacher, because folks can easily have a bad experience and draw the wrong conclusion. Students need adults to help them process successes and failures in order to draw the right life application. A process should include a time of evaluation of each student’s growth.

  1. Time Elapse

A process cannot take place overnight, any more than a mom or dad can parent a child overnight. Learning requires time to pass for ideas to be digested. Most plants and animals do not grow up in a day or two. Neither do leaders. They are grown in crockpots—not microwave ovens.

I suggest that you never plan an event unless you also plan a process to follow that event. When I visit a campus and teach leadership, our team works with the host to plan that follow-up process. When students are placed in mentoring groups for a semester, they begin to apply leadership principles to their life. The event gains traction. The groups provide accountability, support and a laboratory to practice leadership skills with one another. Someone once said: “You can usually do less than you think you can in one week, but more than you think you can in one year.” I believe the same is true about events and process. Never underestimate the power of the process—it leads to healthy growth. You might say that process is like eating several good meals…along with your cotton candy.

He Delights in Using Young People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 jeff@youthunlimited.org.

Partners in ministering to students,

Jeff

TV and Kingdom Work

by Barry Ruiter, Youth Unlimited Account/Business Manager

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

I admit to often watching television shows that feature buyers looking for a fixer upper home to renovate, programs that chop, cut and rebuild cars, or even the show where a specialty builder constructs treehouses for clients. I generally like shows that renovate and restore. In watching these types of shows, I’m reminded of my role and yours in the Kingdom, and specifically how it relates to Youth Unlimited.

For Youth Unlimited, I have a very much “behind the scenes” role. I pay bills, make deposits and generally put the dot on the “i” and the cross on the “t”. I am quite removed from the ministry work that happens when Youth Unlimited holds or arranges their events and yet, I am an important cog, as are you, in the Kingdom work that flows from this building.

Let me take you back to the TV theme to explore that thought. On a show called The Guild, cars are routinely rescued from slow erosion at the hands of rust and moth. In a twist, a recent episode revolved around an antique toy car, about the size of a shoebox. Besides the intrigue of assigning this “miniature” work to mechanics used to working on full size cars, there was the challenge of finding or creating parts. One such part was a small brass internal gear that was stripped and unusable. The mechanic scratched his head several times and remarked that he wasn’t a “watchmaker”, but in the end, he hand filed a brass rod down into a working gear. The payoff came when the owner of the car received a restored car that looked good and was functioning exactly as it intended.

I help Youth Unlimited function as intended by virtue of being a little, but important, internal gear. If you are reading this, then you should also know that you play some role in helping the functionality as well. Imagine if the miniature car were presented to the owner, but was missing one wheel. What if it was repainted, but the rear window had a big crack or was missing.

As I think of how I support the work of a Serve project, I think too of how it requires teens willing to put hand to shovel. I think of how it requires volunteers and host churches and I think of how it requires finances. There are many cogs, parts and pieces that make up a functional ministry, one that lives up to the owner’s specs. The staff at Youth Unlimited, you and I are a “Guild” of a different sort. We are craftsman charged with completing the King’s ultimate restoration project. I’m praying that we function exactly as intended.