Earlier this month, I had the privilege to accompany high school students from Grace Polaris Church to Momentum Youth Conference in Indiana. For five days, we lived the college life at Indiana Wesleyan University. We slept in dorms and ate in the cafeteria. Aside from the great fellowship and group time during these experiences, our main focus was attending the conference sessions. Each morning and evening the conference, comprised of 2,300 students and adult leaders from across the Midwest, was led into worship by the Jordan Howerton Band. Following worship, dynamic speakers and pastors spoke on topics related to the theme of the week, The Comeback.
The idea behind the comeback is no matter if you are coming to Jesus for the first time or the hundredth time, you can always come back to him. Stories such as the woman at the well (John 4) and Moses (Exodus 2) were explored as examples of those who came and responded to Jesus. Pastor Keith Minear, speaking from Luke 9:23 said, “The comeback is sustained by daily comebacks to Jesus,” meaning every day we have to “take up our cross” and come to Jesus. We have to seek him through reading the Bible and studying his words to see him clearly. Once we see him clearly, his call on our lives becomes evident. Daily Jesus calls us to follow him – not just with our eternity but with our living. Followers of Jesus trust him with their death, believing they will go to Heaven after they die to spend forever with Jesus. Likewise, followers of Jesus should trust him with their day-to-day living.
Although the late-night talks, dance parties, coffee runs, and shared laughs made the week fun, one particular night brought the most joy to me personally. Friday night, two pastors tag-teamed a discussion on a life in ministry and what that could look like. The talk concluded with a no-frills altar call to those who felt God was calling them to pursue full-time vocational ministry at some point in their lives. Of the 22 students from our church who were there, eight of them responded. What an amazing response! After much excitement and worship (and tears), our group gathered to celebrate with those students and hear why they responded. Several said they didn’t know what the future held, they just heard God say “go” so they went! One felt he was called to be a youth pastor, and another a missionary. All eight of these students have the willingness and power to do great things for God in the future, and I can’t wait to see how they change the world! The best part is they don’t have to wait long – they are all committed to starting now! Through ministry involvement, discipleship, and prayer they are starting to seek out God’s call on their lives and to respond accordingly. The students were prayed over and celebrated that night. What a powerful moment to experience!
Gathered in a circle, with our hands laid over these eight students, I was reminded of a similar call I answered eight years ago. Summer of 2009, I had just graduated high school and was attending the same Momentum Youth Conference as a student. I don’t remember what the message was that night, but I remember kneeling on the gym floor, arms raised high in worship, surrendering my future to God. I had no idea what that would look like – I had hopes it would be moving to Mexico – but I knew God was going to use me and I made myself available to that. That following winter I was asked to be an adult leader at a weekend retreat with the middle school youth group. At the time, I was excited to go to the retreat and to spend time with the other leaders and students. I had no idea how lifechanging that weekend would turn out to be. Coming home, I decided to start helping with the middle school youth group on a weekly basis. While awkward and uncomfortable at first, I soon fell into a good routine and looked forward to Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights with the middle schoolers. I was able to lead a small group of girls each year, growing with the girls as they passed from sixth to seventh to eighth grade, and then started over again with a new group of sixth grade girls who I have now served for five years. Many of these girls were at Momentum this summer, and several of them answered the call to full-time ministry. What a blessing to meet girls as awkward eleven and twelve year-olds, and then see them mature over the years and dedicate their lives to God as sixteen and seventeen year-olds!
While youth ministry is not my full-time vocation, it is my ministry nonetheless. Seeing those eight students respond to the Lord was confirmation I was right where I needed to be. During the past eight years I struggled with where God had placed me, battled the feelings of failure for not being in a full-time vocational ministry, and felt the disappointment of not moving away to be a missionary.
This week at Momentum, God used those eight students to reaffirm the call on my life, and to remind me that he has a plan. I believe God called me to be a minister for him, and right now he has placed me in youth ministry. He is using me to accomplish His goals with the students and to point them to him. I am so humbled by the opportunity to be part of these students’ lives and to support them in answering the call on their hearts. I am thankful for the reminder that the movie nights, Christmas parties, ice cream socials, and cookouts have not been planned in vain. Those special nights, combined with the regular teaching and discussion the students participate in each week, are part of the foundation of their faith.
I am blessed to serve in the youth ministry, and I am looking forward to the coming school year and all of the changes, challenges, and joys that will come.