Serving | Simply Insider
Tony Myles

Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, conference speaker, author, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

Teenagers generally don’t voluntarily get up early on Saturday mornings.


The group at Big Day last year in Akron!

As a Community Director for The Big Day of Serving, I’ve watched hundreds of students defy that trend. One year I even watched as the early birds created a red carpet experience for their peers who arrived later, cheering and high-fiving them as they came in.

That may sound like a commercial, but I’d like to ask you a question, tell you a story, and then leave you hanging. It begins with the Cross itself, for if you stare at it long enough you’ll eventually realize it has a vertical and a horizontal component.

Here’s the question: How are you doing at making sure the symbolism of this is represented in your youth ministry?

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  • Vertical: Maybe you’re the kind of youth group where the upward component of Christianity is top-notch. Your worship services inspire hot tears of brokenness, and the way you get students into the Bible gets the Bible into students. Jesus Christ is lifted up, and the Holy Spirit is embraced.
  • Horizontal: Perhaps you’re all about relationships, social justice, and changing culture. You’re up on the latest trends and have plenty of on-ramps for teenagers of all spiritual backgrounds to jump in and get loved on. When unchurched people hear of you, even they are inspired by the great work they know you’re doing locally and globally.

One of the reasons I got plugged into The Big Day of Serving a few years ago is that it’s the perfect mash-up of these values. On one hand, it involves serving residents, transforming a community, and coming alongside of city projects that couldn’t get done without a volunteer workforce. On the other hand, it’s more than just a day of good deeds, because it’s anchored in the Christian faith.

And yeah… teenagers lead the charge. Who doesn’t want to help them make a difference?

That brings me to the story:

Our church recently took part in a city event as a food vendor. At one point, I watched as an older woman spoke some intentional words into our students who were taking food orders. They were both noticeably moved by whatever she said.

I eventually learned she was a resident we’d served during a Big Day of Serving event. Even months later, her memory of the students’ faces was so thick that she could pick them out of a crowded event and thank them.

I’d wager that’s something those teenagers won’t soon forget, either.

I could tell you plenty of other stories, too. One year a blind teenager came with his youth group to work on the porch of an old man who couldn’t walk around without his oxygen tank. Can you imagine the humbling vibe at that work-site?

Even my own son experienced his first Big Day of Serving last year. A tradesman taught him and his peers how to assemble wooden park benches. They beamed with healthy pride after making a dozen of them that day.

Now imagine that you and your students are a part of it all.

I told you I’d leave you hanging at the end of this, and I mean it. We’re doing something from the ground up here that is anchored to the vertical and horizontal beauty of the Cross. I won’t sell you on it. It’s compelling on its own.

So let me leave you hanging… Figure out how God wants you making the most of those dual components in your ministry. If it means serving in some other way, I’m a fan. If God wants you at the next Big Day, I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with you at the Akron, Ohio, worksite on the first Saturday in October (If you can’t make it, check out the other great spots all over the country this fall and next spring).

Whatever you do, do it all in the name of Jesus Christ. God loves accomplishing something in teenagers’ souls as they accomplish something with their hands.

Thank you for loving students!

– Tony

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