The next generation…

Last week I had the privilege of leading our LP|Youth students and leaders at Engage Camp where we joined with 13 other churches and over 400 students and leaders from all over New England. This year our camp location changed and we got to spend the week at Word of Life in Pottersville, NY, while the camp, staff, and activities that we loved remained the same. Throughout the week I caught myself repeatedly just looking around at all God was doing. There were three big areas that I saw God throughout the week.

First, we were brought to an amazing campus that really showed off God’s work in the natural beauty. The two and a half hour drive up showed so much of the splendor in God’s creation. Once we got on campus, I continued to see beauty in everything that he made. Word of Life is located in upstate New York, about 30 minutes past Lake George. All around there are mountains, and trees, and nature. Every morning I’d get up and get our team coffee (another one of God’s great creations after limited sleep lol). For the record, the closest Dunkin was 20 minutes away. Instead of seeing that as a problem, I viewed it as an opportunity to really take in the beauty around me. Every morning I’d get in the car and start the drive, talking with God about what had happened the day before, praying, and praising Him. As the fog rose over the mountains with the sun popping up, I saw so much splendor in God’s masterpiece. Man, is God the best artist!

Secondly, I saw God working in and through the adults that give of their time to be at camp for the week. Many of the leaders from our church and the other participating churches take a week off from their job to go serve students. Whether they are hyping students up for games, worshipping alongside them, or having tough conversations, our adult leaders are amazing. I’m sure there are some of you calling us crazy, but there is a true calling for those who serve with teens. I can remember when I felt the calling on my heart from God, and my own personal resistance to it. But I know there is no where I’d rather have been last week than at camp, seeing God work in and through students. It’s amazing to walk alongside our students as they really figure out their faith and make it their own. I am so thankful to the many people who give of their time and talents to encourage this next generation. And not only do I see them supporting our students’ faith journeys, they are growing in their own walks. Teenagers are asking questions and sharing things that make us as adults think deeper and learn more. Our teenagers need strong role models and I’m so thankful for the men and women God has placed in their lives.

Finally, and most importantly, God is working in our teens. Throughout the week I was in awe at the conversations we were having in our connect time as we broke down each of the messages. And this isn’t my first time at camp, but this is an everyday thing for me that I constantly am in awe of. We have students who are so on fire for God that I’m left speechless. To see them loving the Lord in a such a way, embracing him and doing their best to follow his commands, knowing that he is a good God. One evening my small group asked if they could do a bible study together even though it was late. Who was I to say no to that? They were being intentional not only to grow through the large group teachings and our small group Connect time, but in independently opening the Word and working through it together.

I also saw their servant’s hearts each day, in offering to help others, clear plates at the end of meals, cleaning up after an activity. Oh, and did I share about their passion for prayer?! I’ll give just one example of the many times throughout the week that they sprung to prayer.  One of our male leaders shared this with me. A student from another church was being picked up at 11:30pm by his family to return home in the middle of the week. You know when a family is driving that far to pick up a student at that time of day, something is going on. Instead of getting gossipy or nosy, our boys small group came together and began praying for this student and their family. They didn’t know him or what the problem was, but knew they needed prayer. They turned to God to protect and care for this student and his family in whatever the struggle they were going through was. The fire and passion this upcoming generation has for Jesus is why we need to invest and pour into these students.

Okay, do you see why camp is so important to our students and leaders? This is my fourth year at Engage Camp and my sixth year in youth ministry and I still am in awe and get emotional seeing our students, the next leaders of our church, falling in love with the Lord and following him.
During one of the last sessions at camp, we sang The Blessing by Elevation Worship. Many of you are familiar with the song. In it we sing,

“May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children”

I’ll be honest, I was standing in the back of the auditorium packed with over 400 students for this song, and couldn’t help but stretch out my arms, praying this over each student there. Yes, let His favor be upon them, but let that continue for generations. Let us lead them and raise them up to continue to lead the next generation to know and love the Lord. They are all right on the cusp of figuring out their faith for themselves. Let us help them to see the goodness of God as they grow up. Let us be an example to them. And most importantly let us pray for them! Pray for our teens as they wrestle with their faith and understand it for themselves. Pray for our teens who are not in Christian households as they bring the light and love of Jesus to their families. Pray for our teens who are going out into the world, in schools, jobs, college, and other areas, that they continue to hold onto truth and faith in a troubling world. Pray for our leaders who aim to show Jesus to students each and every week.

And so I leave you with this…

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

Let us be an example to our students but let us also allow them to encourage us and be an example to us in our faith. I’d encourage you, talk with the teens of our church. Ask them questions. Share your story with them and allow them to share theirs. We all have something to learn from each other and we all have something to give to another. Let us be a church that encourages these leaders of tomorrow to start leading today.