by Lisa Jordan
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them,“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)
These are my favorite youth ministry verses! Kids were important to Jesus. They need to be important to us.
Eighty-five percent of people who make a decision for Christ do it by age 13. Childhood and adolescence are critical times for spiritual formation. New research shows almost 80 percent of young adults walk away from the Lord because their faith has been a set of behaviors and not really a relationship with Jesus. When they fail in a behavior—which they will—they give up on their faith.
It’s my mission to create an environment that helps our teens be the other 20 percent. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I love the concept of training. It involves teaching, but also what it looks like to follow Jesus. It’s relational and experiential. It’s discipleship.
I’ve had the privilege of being part of youth ministry since I was in high school. I loved helping with children’s ministries and working at day camp. As an older teen I was encouraged by Chris Shay to serve alongside her in our teen ministry. She modeled strong leadership and built an intentional discipling relationship with me. Her love for God’s Word laid the foundation for our programming.
As the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., Corps’ (OBT) first youth ministries coordinator, Chris established the goal for our youth ministry that by age 18 teens are saved, discipled Salvationists. Her successor, Viki Payton, led our team to develop a mission statement to support that. It reads: “The purpose of OBT’s Youth Ministry is to join together to seek and glorify God, grow to be obedient followers of Christ, proclaim the gospel, demonstrate God’s love and discover our role in the body of Christ.”
I have the great joy to build on their legacies of loving kids, serving families and empowering leaders.