I was invited to speak to a group of international leaders about Kairos’ approach to youth ministry, particularly what we call the Youth Bridge. The conference (the Charismatic Leaders Conference) was in Augusta, Georgia. Following the conference, I led a one-day retreat for the youth of the host community in Augusta.
Our Kairos vision for the Youth Bridge is that there is a path or ‘bridge’ on which every young person travels in their journey from childhood to adulthood. Our job is to meet them every step of the way. Kairos sponsors programs for 12-14-year-olds (for example, our Kairos Fellowship adventure trips). We very much encourage dads and moms to work alongside staff for retreats and trips.
As young people move into high school, there are many challenges that assault them. Kairos sponsors mission trips, supplies help with local youth groups, and sponsors the annual YES! Retreat. We encourage high school juniors and seniors to seriously consider attending a college or university where there is a vibrant college outreach (like University Christian Outreach or Saint Paul’s Outreach). We also challenge seniors to consider taking a year before beginning college to spend that time “Standing in the Gap.”
During the first few weeks of university, a staggering number of young people lose their faith. All too often, young students lose their childhood faith to the enticements of the university world. This dynamic is why our college outreach members work so hard to make contact with freshmen and bring them along to evangelistic activities, get them connected with a Bible study, invite them to a party, and form relationships with them.
We have found that each step along the ‘youth bridge’ must be strong, inspected, continually reinforced and repaired—just like a bridge made of wood or metal. If there are missing sections (say the junior high piece is in good repair but the high school bridge section is weak), it is much more difficult to get our youth successfully to Christian adulthood. If they reach college years unprepared and unsupported, the situation can be dire in terms of them becoming mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
It was enjoyable to address a roomful of teens who were all new to Kairos. I talked with them about great expectations—what the Lord wants for their lives. I spoke to the whole group and then to the guys alone while the girls had their own session. Mainly, what I wanted to communicate to the teens was the “power of intention.” I told them that when they see an action, they can usually figure out the intention. “Intention” means to stretch for something—using tension and tendon!
I wanted them to understand that the Lord has a full life for them (John 10:10-11: “That you may have life, and life to the full.”) Often, the issue for us (and for our youth) is that we are too easily pleased. We may hear from youth, “Heaven sounds great, but I really just want to be rich.” I read them a quote from C.S. Lewis: “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”
After this, we did the exercise to the left. The students were paired, and each grasped the hand of the person across from them. They then told that person, “this is what I hope for you and your life.” Most of these kids knew each other very well, so it was fruitful for them to hear from each other in this positive way: “I hope you go to a good college” or “I hope you have a happy life” or “I hope you have a good family.” Then we prayed over each other. It turned out very well.
Of course, this was all before the COVID-19 virus caused us to cancel our events. Our challenge right now as a youth ministry is how not to lose touch with all the students in our outreaches. We had to cancel our annual YES! Retreat, after we already had over 200 youth registered. So, we are going to try a new approach called YES! Live where we will live-stream about four hours of talks, testimonies, and songs. We will let you know how this goes.
Please pray for us as we continue our outreach to youth in this current reality; none of this catches the Lord by surprise. Please know that even though we are all working from home, we are still working together to minister Jesus Christ to young people. We very much appreciate our partners in mission; thank you for your spiritual and financial support!
Your brother in Christ,