I just came from an incredible week with nearly 7,000 high school students at an event called Nazarene Youth Conference. It cycles around every four years. Each event is held in a different city and each event has it’s own feel with a new generation of high schoolers filling the place.
For me, being on stage, speaking, and interacting with the students was extra exciting because sixteen years ago I sat where they sat. I felt what they felt. I experienced life altering moments with God that shaped my future and helped relieve my fixation on the past. How freeing it was! How messy it was! How defining it was to hear the voice of God telling me why my heart beats the way it does….wow.
So–it’s been a trip this week (to say the least). Grateful. Thankful. Excited about integrating youth into the body of Christ.
I feel like there may be some teenagers who walked away with an amazing experience but who are also very new to the Church and to the Christian faith. It doesn’t take denomination membership for Christ to work and move in your life but the body of Christ is such an important piece of us that we may need to talk about it more–to help you, to help us. It might be good for you to know what your church believes now that you want to be a part of it. I’ll use what we who are involved in nazarene youth international believe as framework–but if you’re a part of another denomination, keep reading and use these things in your context.
1. The church values young people.
The church believes that young people are significant in the kingdom of God. And it’s not just lip service.
There are eight nazarene colleges and universities in USA/Canada seeking to connect education with a lifestyle of service. this week they gave $40,000 scholarships to students. So if you live near California, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio,, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, or Canada. Check one of these out, or a school like them, to see how God might stretch your imagination and learning opportunities through Christian higher education.
2. We value the Bible.
Crazy isn’t it? But it’s TRUE. The church values the Bible as God’s unchanging truth for our lives. Word.
3. We value prayer.
He promised that his presence would never leave us. We believe that and know that when we gather together in prayer–Christ really is there! Prayer is a vital interactive communication with the Creator of us all.
4. We value the people called “the church”.
I don’t want to be a part of any organization that thinks that teenagers should live in faith a part from the body of Christ. No one was meant to live in faith alone. The church is a global community of faith–set apart–diverse in culture but one in Christ.
5. We value worship.
There should be life changing encounters with an intimate God wherever we find ourselves praising Him. Not every church is where they want to be on this–but worship at it’s core is a posture–and attitude of the heart and that attitude is the most valuable key to surrender, to being shapeable, to listening.
6. We value discipleship.
I struggle with this word. It’s tough because it’s hard to measure as the world measures. Discipleship–is not only a hard word to spell but a hard word to talk about. If we are teaching a lifestyle of becoming like Christ then our main effort should be in practicing it together. I’ve seen many youth groups across the country and around the world embrace this teachable spirit of becoming like Christ TOGETHER and it is working!
7. We value community.
There’s no doubt that there is a desire to build relationships that help bind us together and to God. I think of a cord of three strands, I think about the nature of love, I think about how the body works to edify and encourage…community is a big part of this.
8. We value ministry.
We challenged students to be a blessing. We are called to be a blessing! This is what ministry is, extending God’s grace to our world-in every way that we encounter it.
9. We value witness.
Who is sharing God’s love in word and in their actions? Teenagers can do this–together with all of us–we can share the hope that we have found in outward ways.
10. We value holiness.
Holiness is so much more than long hair and long skirts. It’s a work of grace where God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, gives us the ability to live a life free of sin–the thing we don’t want to do but do sometimes because we’ve been broken–this work enables us to live as representatives of Jesus Christ. This is good news!
I love seeing the church develop and mentor young leaders. I love seeing the church embrace unity and diversity in Christ. I love seeing the church connect in it’s gifts to enhance the development and the deployment of young people to serving God. Where this is happening, this is where you’ll find me.
I hope this helps some students who may not know what it means to be a part of a church. Regardless of denomination, this is where we should be camping out–often.