If you have ever put a jigsaw puzzle together, you know what happens when a piece is missing. Hours of labor have gone into assembling the picture only to discover that it is incomplete.
Youth ministry is very similar. Imagine a group of teens who grow into adulthood knowing the gospel, understanding theology, sharing their faith with others who need to hear, and more, yet they have no desire nor ability to serve others.
In fact, everything that we do as a church would falter in the long run if our teens do not grow into adults who serve. Within a generation, ministry after ministry would crumble for lack of volunteer help: nursey, Sunday school, AWANA, Camp Zion, Missions, and much more.
Therefore, it is vital to have service projects as a key component to our youth. For their sake. For the church’s sake. For the world’s sake.
This month marks the seventh straight summer in which our senior high students have participated in the Many Hands Project (MHP) in cooperation with other area youth ministries and Love INC (In the Name of Christ) of Lake County. MHP is a weeklong local missions project where teens pay to come and live at the church for the whole week and spend their days serving others and their nights worshipping together. Let me say that again: teens PAY for the opportunity to serve others. And yet we have to cut off applications every year because so many of our students want to participate in the project. There is nothing glamorous. Just hard work in the summer heat. But here they are: eager and willing to serve.
Every year we encounter people in the community who are dumbfounded to see teens serving. They often assume that the students are either being paid or that MHP is some kind of community service program for those with court-ordered hours to fulfill. They are unprepared for teens who give a week to serve without any tangible benefit to themselves.
Recently, some of those same teens spent a Saturday morning at Love INC’s warehouse in Waukegan helping to reorganize some things, to organize others, and to simply help in any way that they could. Afterwards, they received this praise from Love INC, “Nancy was so pleased with the group. She said it was her favorite group she’s ever worked with. You guys are welcome back anytime. I think you really blessed her, and you got a ton finished!”
We are blessed to have teens with that kind of reputation in our community. Parents, you can hold your head up proud. Your teens are different and we are glad to have many opportunities for them to practice serving others. From weeklong projects like MHP and short term mission trips to week to week ministries such as AWANA to half day projects like the annual Great Rake and twice a year service in Love INC’s warehouse, there are plenty of places for your teen to plug in and serve.
Questions or comments? Contact Youth Pastor Leo Barnes.