Taking Ownership

There is constantly growth and development happening within the youth ministry and anyone who has been a part of it can attest to the blessing that it is. The desire for a maturing relationship with Christ is a common trait amongst these students.

Specifically, the upper classmen of this ministry have expressed a desire to lead and take ownership of the youth group. A lunch was hosted in The Creek for all juniors and seniors to share some of their wisdom as well as help vision cast for the future of the youth group. During this lunch it was apparent not only how much they love this group and each other, but how much ambition they have for this group to be the best it can be. A plethora of good ideas were suggested by these leaders. Leah Gray specifically expressed an interest in creating more opportunities for bonding and community building. Hannah Ray and Luke Tucker both agreed that they would like to have opportunities to lead in small group discussions with younger students. Addie Stone mentioned an interest in creating better communication for youth group events. Various other students suggested restructuring how Wednesday nights are conducted in The Creek.

It is inspiring to be a part of a ministry in which the students want to take ownership, lead, and provide the best experience for their fellow students to grow. It has been said that leadership (or lack there of) of the high schoolers is what can make or break a youth group. Based on the ambition displayed by these upper-classmen, its safe to assume CCYM won’t be breaking any time soon. 

Draw Others In

It’s powerful evidence that they are learning to BE the church and not just attend one.

On a Wednesday in early August, our seventh-grade girls small group invited the brand new sixth-grade girls to have a pre-church meal with them at Wendy’s. On the face of it, this may seem like a minor thing, but it’s actually a huge testament to the desire of the older girls to draw the new recruits into the community of the youth ministry. Every fall, CCYM gains a new group of fresh young students, and ahead of these students are seven years of exposure to all the things CCYM has to offer. Devotionals, retreats, small groups with mentors, mission trips, fellowship activities, and discipleship training are just a few of things we hope will help them journey towards becoming a committed adult disciple. However, as many of these 11 year olds have attested to over the years, entering the youth room for the first time, where everyone seems MUCH bigger and older, can be pretty intimidating and it often takes a little while for our newest class to feel fully at home amongst the older students.

That’s why what our seventh-grade girls did is so wonderful. This small group is led by Christy Beach and Courtney Reynolds, who were also these girls’ leaders last school year, and though each insists they were not responsible for this idea, they do deserve recognition for leading their girls in such a way that they felt empowered to minister to others. When we see examples of our youth taking ownership of their church community and actively working to draw others in, it’s powerful evidence that they are learning to BE the church and not just attend one. I imagine the sixth graders who attended this evening meal won’t soon forget the hospitality shown them, and perhaps, they’ll want to do the same for younger students in the future.

Ready to Lead

Humans long to be a part of something, we crave a community and we want to be poured into. A youth group is one of the best places for teenagers to experience community, and this is obviously why ministers and parents pour into them so much. CCYM is no exception to this. With United being our summer theme, we’ve been able to practice community as a group and  learn more about how to be a stronger community within the church. So many of these kids are growing up to be leaders and continue to find opportunities where they can lead in their own communities.

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Sophie Hadfield is a great example of someone who is ready to lead and form community. On multiple occasions she’s been asked to step up and lead a song or activity on the spot, and she does it with little hesitation. She has risen up to the task of leading for the middle schoolers and the youth group as a whole. This has been obvious throughout the events of this summer. Her energy is high and her spirit is ready to create opportunities for this group to see and experience Jesus. It is clear that Sophie uses her talents in a way that God can work through them so others can experience His joy and love. It is so special to see God’s spirit working through someone, and when interacting with Sophie you can see Him. That is what we strive to be, people who show others Jesus. She pours into others so well and is so excited to be around people. It is encouraging to watch her allow Christ to work in her life and set an example for the community she is a part of!

 

Step Up

Step up. Own it. Unite. For some of the best and brightest of CCYM, that has been the focus of the summer: creating unity. When it comes down to the importance of community, one of the most common and most effective ways of cultivating future Christian leaders is through a community that undoubtedly only synthesizes during summers in the youth group, with so much continuous time spent together. I have had the distinct pleasure of being a part of this growth experience for a few kids as a youth intern, an experience that has been filled with Jesus.

image2Enter Houston Hicks. At first glance, you might catch him hustling up and down the basketball court in the gym with fellow CCYMers, throwing a football with friends as an up and coming stud quarterback, or even just goofing off with the dynamic group of middle school guys. But make no mistake, he is one of the youngest in the bunch. As a rising seventh grader, his time in CCYM has merely just begun, yet he is extremely keen on connecting with peers not only within his own grade, but of all ages within the middle school. And isn’t that the focus of today’s age? To connect with people on a face to face basis amidst the rising distractions of technology and social media.

It is clear that Hicks has a heart for the people around him. It is a God-given gift to be able to connect with kids of different ages, especially at a young age. As Hicks continues to mature, the seeds that have been planted in him by parents, mentors, and ministers alike will continue to sprout and his impact will continue to be felt by those around him. This, my friends, is discipleship.

 

High School Servant

I had the honor and privilege to travel with twenty-two of our high school kids to Salida, Colorado to participate in Wilderness Expeditions Trek on Mt. Arkansas. Throughout the week, I got to watch God pour into, and out of, these students in so many different ways that if I tried to tell all of them I would need a whole lot more time.

One of Clear Creek Youth Ministry’s (CCYM) main motives is to be lights to the world and to exemplify Jesus in everything we do. As a group, we strive to be consistent in how weact, trying to make Jesus the focal point IMG_0133of our words, actions, and in turn, our lives. One person that truly exemplified everything that CCYM is all about over the week in Colorado was Luke Tucker.

There are different ways to reveal Jesus to others and bring people closer to God. I saw this in Luke through his acts of service to everyone around him as he put himself second to the group, and also by showing Jesus’ unconditional love to everyone. Throughout the entire trip, Luke looked for every opportunity to serve, help and love others. Whether it was giving up a seat, washing dishes, carrying extra weight for someone who was struggling, or just being a verbal encourager to others, Luke was consistently there for the group. Luke poured his love into the group with constant words of support and affirmation, no matter how good or bad he was feeling.

I truly believe that through Luke, others around him saw Jesus more clearly and God was fully glorified through his actions.

 

Man. Myth. Legend.

Bobby Golden: a widely loved and admired asset to Clear Creek Church of Christ.

IMG_6948This summer, he went along for the ride on our 4th teen mission trip to Haiti. During this week, the teenagers work together to host a summer camp for 200+ Haitian children. This is an opportunity for our students to step up and use their gifts to actively serve the Kingdom. Bobby G blew us away this week with his hard work ethic and desire to be involved with the group. From late nights playing games with the teens, to long hours in the hot sun rallying large groups of Haitian children… Bobby G was there for it all and did not hold back any part of himself for the sake of the mission. He was intentional about his interactions with the teenagers and positive about our many logistical setbacks. Our teens also loved the chance to spend time with him. Christ was evident in Bobby G’s interactions with the Haitian children, but also with the teens on the trip.

Growing up at this church as a little girl, I always looked up to Bobby G. Everyone does. But working closely in ministry with him this summer and in Haiti, I’ve been able to glimpse the wisdom and perspective that he has been awarded from his many years of faithful service to our God. His character mirrors Jesus in every way. He is committed to this youth group. He loves fully and embraced each new experience on our trip with excitement and flexibility. Bobby G’s quiet service to this youth group was seen on this trip to Haiti. It was a privilege to witness.

 

A New Wave of Leadership

Several months ago, we had the privilege of writing about the newly formed youth ministry praise team, which has allowed many students the opportunity to experience a particular form of student leadership. That effort, however, was only the beginning step towards promoting and encouraging a new wave of student leadership within the ministry. As we’ve learned from experience, it’s important to be developing the next group of leaders BEFORE the current ones graduate. With that in mind, we have made it a priority to give some of our younger students opportunities to practice significant leadership roles right now, so that as they age and mature, they will grow into their potential.

IMG_4282If we fail to engage students in leadership opportunities when they enter the youth group as Middle Schoolers, we have no one to blame but ourselves if they get to be upperclassmen and feel completely unprepared when we ask them to “step up and set the example.” There’s no reason at all for gap years when it comes to serving in the church. This training and equipping process can begin much earlier and I deeply appreciate the way the Children’s Ministry works to give elementary students opportunities to practice leadership skills.

Increasingly, we have been using younger students to take lead, not only during worship, but in other aspects of our meeting time, as well. We’ve recently seen ninth graders Patrick Russell and Hannah Window – following the example set by senior Briggs Braswell – lead our praise team on Wednesdays, and several of the Middle School singers rotate through song-leading duties on Sunday mornings when our group is split. We are increasingly using students to lead games during both combined and separated gatherings. High School students have led Bible studies with their peers, and of course, February’s Martin Boyd Service provided an opportunity for many of our young men to gain experience leading an entire worship service.

IMG_4849Perhaps most significant to me, though, is what was recently asked of two of our 8th graders, Matt Stone and Andrew Reynolds. On two recent Sundays, rather than ask one of our more-than-capable adult volunteers to conduct our Middle School class, we decided to have students lead all aspects of the large-group gathering: game, worship, and teaching. It can be an intimidating thing to present a spiritual lesson in front of one’s peers, but both Matt and Andrew rose to the occasion and did wonderful jobs presenting their messages. They were thoughtful, well-prepared, and intent on delivering a quality speech. All the adults in the room were so proud, and it was encouraging to witness the cheers from their friends when they completed their lessons.

While it can be tempting to assume young people aren’t ready to take on some of the more demanding leadership roles within our church, the fact is, our kids are more capable than we often give them credit for, and more than that, the only way to improve is by doing. May we all come to an understanding that every investment we make in the spiritual leadership capabilities of our young people serves to bless the church today and far beyond. Today we invest in maturity for tomorrow.

 

 

Seniors Choosing to Lead

Clear Creek’s High School spring retreat has evolved over the last three years greatly. It has transitioned from being planned and organized by the youth minister and adult volunteers, to the entirety of its success or failure resting solely on the shoulders of our seniors. They got together to plan, laugh, and dream up the theme, guest speaker, location, decor, menu, silly-stupidity, games, activities and even fancily renamed the weekend to match the castle they rented. [The 2019 High School Only Riverless Castle Retreat. haha]

 

They were hands on throughout the weekend as well, leading our student kitchen crews. Each high schooler cooked, served, and cleaned up after one meal – a task that many hesitated at first on and after they’d done it, traditionally asked for a second turn to continue the fun. Parents are skeptical, no doubt. After each worship and lesson, this group of seniors jumped in and led discussion groups of their younger peers.

They boldly challenged their groups to dream up a list of ways that we as a student group could serve our own community this year. To not wait on Aubrey or Mitchell or small group leaders to organize it for them. But to dream and DO.

CCYM now has a long list of local mission points for the immediate future; ways that they can get out of their comfort zones and serve together. The other gift that this group of seniors gave to CCYM was their presence. They are in the throes of finalizing college decisions, course work, jobs, and commitments. Yet they showed up and were fully present. This will hopefully continue to lead CCYM into deeper waters with a growing tradition of seniors staying engaged throughout their hardest semester. God was glorified through their willingness to lead, serve, love and follow.

“God was glorified through their willingness to
LEAD, SERVE, LOVE and FOLLOW”

 

Dinner Party for 10

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This past fall, the high school ministry launched a new event designed to get teens out of their normal social bubbles. Five guys and five girls are invited each month. We avoid inviting best friends, siblings, or couples and we make sure that at least three separate schools are represented.

This time has proven invaluable toward breaking down social walls, connecting, and forging new connections. We have also seen many high schoolers have their first conversations with other high schoolers, some of which have been in proximity to each other for years. Being nudged out of their comfort zones has been a really healthy step. During our first D

P410, one of our high schoolers looked at Nick, a guy she’s been at church with for years, and said, “I’ve known who you were for most of my life and I’ve never heard your voice until tonight.” THAT moment, and many more like it,  are why we are attempting this new venture. Expanding our communities and making new connections ensures that more teenagers feel welcomed into our group. We want to not only be a place that SEEMS fun and welcoming, but one where people realize we have substance and connection to something bigger.

Time Over Time

Every so often, there’s a moment in which I (Mitchell) see evidence of what we already know and claim as truth – that adult volunteers investing in students’ lives over time makes a lasting impact. Most recently, I was reminded of this fact through an interaction with long-time youth volunteer Victor Steen. Victor and I ran into each other while entering a funeral home to attend a visitation following the death of 9th grader Caleb Kelley’s grandfather. As we waited in line to greet the family, we chatted about his years of experience with the Kelley family, particularly through his involvement with youth-league basketball. Caleb, and several others from our youth group, have been coached by Victor for several seasons, and he has developed a special bond with the boys over the course of that time.

thumbnailBeing involved in the lives of students enables interactions with their families, so Victor has also formed relationships with many parents and even indirectly influenced grandparents. This was evident during the visitation by his interaction with Caleb’s grandmother, who had attended countless sporting events and knew the role Victor has played in Caleb’s life. On this day, Victor reminded me that when adults invest “time-over-time” with children and students, the impact they have will be significant.

Over the years Victor has been heavily involved in many sports, both as a coach and volunteer. His clear and profound love for young people manifests in many ways as he seeks out opportunities to provide healthy and positive environments for kids to learn the value of teamwork, self-control, perseverance, and grit.

But Victor doesn’t limit himself to the wide world of sports. He is dedicated to an even higher calling – the body of Christ. Victor has been a small group leader in the youth ministry for several years. When he began volunteering, he requested to work with our Middle School boys, many of whom he coached. For much of his time working with our MS, I witnessed the intentional way he ministered to the guys of his group. He was always concerned that they “get something out” of being part of a spiritual community. Back in August, as his group of boys was aging up into 9th grade, he requested to shift into the role of a High School volunteer and continue his work. Time-over-time.

One final note of appreciation has to be mentioned regarding his status as our most prolific inviter of guests. Using his existing network and influence through sports and his sons’ school, Victor is always looking for ways to reach out to young people who are not connected to a church home. He clearly considers his involvement in youth sports to be his mission field.

Victor will hate the fact that this article is written entirely about him, but we hold him up as an example of someone who is not looking for the spotlight, but simply wants to invest time-over-time with people to gain influence and further the work of making disciples.