Youth Ministry here at Grace Redeemer Church goes by the name “New Life,” and it is the best term to describe the season of life that youth ministry represents. In 2009, Barna Group found that 2/3 of all believers came to faith before 18, with most conversions occurring in middle and high school years. It is no wonder, then, why Jesus highlights in Matthew 18 the importance of welcoming children and emulating their child-like faith.
For our youth, it is a critical stage of navigating what it means to have saving faith and a new life in Christ. It is also a stage of shedding childhood as they enter adolescence and wrestle through who they are, where they belong, and who they are meant to be. New Life is deliberately designed to support students in this season of life and faith as they go from those seeking to understand who Jesus is to those who are walking with Christ in “New Life.” We recognize that it is hardly a straight path of growth, so each element of our programming hopefully ministers to where each student is on their faith journey.
This year, we desire to be more proactive in our ministry of extending belonging. We hope through all our programs like New Life Fridays and Sunday School, as well as Great Escape, our winter retreat in January, that youth would feel that they belong here. New Life Fridays allow students to wrestle through these tough questions alongside caring adult leaders (and have some fun along the way). Sunday school is meant to be a discussion-based lesson where teachers will encourage the students to read the passage ahead of time and contribute to the conversation. We are also redesigning the Youth Room to be a place where each student can feel like the larger story of the gospel is their story, too.
Another priority this year is a discipleship model for high school students that is similar to our adult life group model. (We call “discipleship groups.”) They are more than just a typical small group; we are deliberately creating opportunities for youth to be transparent and have gospel-rich discussions. They are exclusive for the purpose that each member would feel safe as they learn, share, and see themselves as a valued member of the group.
We highly encourage students who are raised into a new life with Christ, and see Grace Redeemer as their home church to seriously consider membership. We offer two classes for interested students: Communicant Class for 5th-8th graders and GRC Explored for 9th graders and up (including adults).
Lastly, none of this will have the level of impact a parent will have on their youth’s spiritual growth. We want to be a “family first” youth ministry where we partner with parents and have meaningful relationships between parents, youth leaders, and the youth. We have a group of parents who give insight and feedback into what happens in youth ministry, and we believe that we, as a youth team, have a responsibility to equip, resource, and support the parents as we all disciple the youth.
Looking back at Matthew 18, we can see God is serious about ministering to children and youth. Verses 5 and 14 say this:
“5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me…
“14 In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
Whether youth are entering for the first time, growing in their faith, or going wayward (verse 14 is in the context of the lost sheep,) we are called to pursue them and direct them towards our savior, Jesus, and a new life in Him. We ask that you pray for us as we strive to grow into this call and to truly emulate Christ in our ministry to His youth.
Drew Heftye serves as the Director of Family Discipleship at GRC.