By Steven Tighe and Adam Drake
Megan has been attending our youth group for a while. Let’s be honest, she comes because her parents make her, but for some reason, she decided to come on our summer mission trip. (Why? Maybe time away from mom and dad? Who knows.) Our mission trips are always life-changing, but this summer we decided to go with the “Summer of Service and Training”(SST), hosted by Youth With a Mission in Tyler, Texas. SST is a two-week program that introduces teenagers to the Lord in ways that they haven’t seen before and then sends them out into ministry. It was a great opportunity for Megan and the rest of our group to explore their views of God, grow in their faith, and walk out that faith in practical ministry in an urban environment.
The first week was “Jesus University.” It was a week of powerful Bible teaching about things that are crucial to walking and growing with the Lord: intercession, hearing the voice of God, recognizing idols in our lives, daily time with God, team building and conflict resolution. The powerful times of worship in liturgy and music, and the thoughtful discussions in small groups led Megan to question the state of her faith and wonder if there was more. Could it be that her parents were right?
In the second week, all that teaching was put into practice: a week of ministry in inner city Houston. We did several different types of ministry, from park evangelism to Bible studies to Vacation Bible School.
The opportunity to work with several churches that ministered to homeless people was challenging. Talking to homeless people as our group passed out water and food was stretching for everyone. But some of the conversations led to intense times of prayer with new acquaintances. The Lord led us to people who were in trouble, and who were ready for a God who loved them and showed Himself by acting miraculously through the prayers. It was such a blessing for Megan and the rest of our group to see that there is far more to church than just coming on Sundays.
We led a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at an apartment complex that a local Christian couple had purchased as a ministry. In the year before they bought it, there were six shootings on the property. They had committed themselves to the people in the complex and worked hard to improve the lives of the families living there. Our VBS was the result of one of their projects: to recruit teams to come in and do summer programs for the myriad of small children in the complex. Megan loved it, and the children loved her.
But the Lord wasn’t only working through us, He was working in us. One night, when Megan and the rest of the team were being prayed for to receive the Holy Spirit, Megan was overwhelmed. She understood, for the first time, God’s love and care for her; that He wanted good for her and wanted to work through her to help others. She cried for what seemed like hours. She told me afterwards that she understood now that He forgave her. She’d heard the words all her life, but somehow when she heard God say them, she finally understood. It was good crying.
A few weeks after we returned, one of our leaders got a text from Megan’s mom. She wanted to know what had happened to her daughter on the trip because ever since she got home Megan was different.
Megan’s experience isn’t unique. Anglican youth groups from all over the country went on mission trips this summer, and Megan wasn’t the only teenager who started a relationship with Jesus. It turns out that most of us, those of us that attend church today (about 80-90% of us, according to the studies), started our personal relationship with God when we were about Megan’s age — before our 21st birthday. Psychologists and sociologists who study this stuff say that is because people are more open to the Gospel before they reach full adulthood than they will be at any other point in their lives. The teenage years are a crucial time in the lives of Christians, and we thank God for all the youth leaders, volunteers, and clergy that are taking the time to introduce our teenagers to a life in Jesus while they’re still open to understanding!
There are great ways to reach and involve teenagers. We can show you how! For help or more information, contact Young Anglicans Project at younganglicansproject.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steven Tighe is the interim youth director at the Church of St. Clements in El Paso, Texas. He also runs a school for youth ministry as the director of La Frontera YME and serves as the Anglican Church in North America’s Canon for Youth Ministry. Adam Drake is a youth ministry student working with the youth group of the Church of St. Clement, and is majoring in vocal performance at the University of Texas at El Paso.