43,750 – this number has a story to tell – actually many stories – but they are only the introduction to a much larger story. These stories include themes of sacrifice, selflessness, inspiration, life change, pain, understanding, discipleship, faith, friends, fun, brokenness, challenge and more. These stories will give some hope, others joy and others peace!
So what does this number represent? It represents a small sampling of stories from Christian Reformed youth leading the Church, bringing redemption, restoration and the love of Jesus to people across Canada and the United States. 43,750 is the number of hours students gave in serving others in the name of Jesus through the Youth Unlimited Serve youth summer mission trip experiences in 2014. It’s a small sampling because it only represents 1,600 students from approximately 25% of the Christian Reformed Churches during one week of the summer.
Imagine if I had the number of students from the remaining 75% of CRC congregations who gave a week of service – that number could be 175,000 hours or even more, yet that still wouldn’t tell the whole story. Now imagine if I could add up all the weekly or monthly youth group service projects over the year (raking a widow’s yard, serving in a food kitchen for those on the streets, sorting clothes, leading Vacation Bible Schools, etc., etc., etc.)! Or even greater still, what if I could add up the number of times students served someone, not because of a youth group event or trip but just out of obedience and love for Jesus and others! God is working in and through our youth and we need to fan that flame!
On the contrary, I often read church and youth ministry articles and participate in conversations that focus on the challenging reality of “youth leaving the local church”. Those articles and conversations are based on reality. There are few youth in many local congregations across Canada and the United States. Youth Unlimited even sees it in the number of event registrations each year. While I am a firm believer in knowing and understanding all the facts and facing reality head on, it appears to me that our focus is mostly on the shrinking number of youth rather than on those who are engaged, invested and making a great impact for the Kingdom of Christ.
May we be a community of congregations with great hope and trust in our Lord and one that fans into flames the faith and work of his people, our youth. Let’s be quick to listen, offer an encouraging word, provide heart felt appreciation and allow them some freedom to speak into the future of the Church!