I was born on the front pew of a church during a Sunday night worship service. Before I could say momma, I said Jesus. Enough exaggerating. I wasn’t born on a pew, but I was born a preacher’s daughter. Going to church was more important than anything else in our world. Church was first. I missed out on school dances, birthday parties, and routine mall outings. Skipping church was not an option. God was first. I was a church kid.
At birth, my spiritual path had basically been laid out for me. Unlike the common tale of the preacher kid rebellion, I didn’t hate church or despise God. Church culture was all I knew and the familiarity of it made me very comfortable. By the 10th grade, I’d been to church at least three times a week for pretty much my entire life. That’s about 2,500 church services. On average, each service was three hours long. That would be the equivalent of going to church every day for almost an entire year. That’s a lot of church.
I’d heard powerful sermons, I’d been prayed for, healed, and delivered till I was blue in the face. But my experience of church and knowledge of God wasn’t completely mine; it was my family’s. I knew so much about God and the Bible, but I didn’t know or have a deep love for God until I had my own encounter with him at the age of 16.
How did I fall in love with a God I’d been arranged to believe in from birth?
I was at the Open Bible Summer Camp in Spokane, Washington. Night after night the camp speaker delivered a very clear message. God wanted to have a relationship with me. He loved me, simply because I was his. Everything he lived and died for was all to love and be connected with me. It seemed like a race to the altar every night. Everyone was in the race except for me. I sat completely still and emotionless. I’d heard it all so many times before. I’d seen all of it – crying, submitting, and going all-in. I had a conversation with myself in my head, “Could this moment be any different than the hundreds of altar calls during the thousands of services I’d been to?”
I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to, but I left the meeting room and headed for the open field in the middle of the campground. I was so tired of being instructed on how to receive God, how to love God, and others speaking on his behalf. I just wanted to get away from it all. Couldn’t God speak for himself?
There I stood in the middle of that huge field covered in the night stillness. It was quiet and I was alone. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t pray anything, but I felt a shift. During that shift I knew I really wasn’t alone. The presence of God in that moment was evident. God knew I wanted to be close to him. I wanted to feel his love firsthand. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but through the splendor of the star-filled sky, and in the beauty of that silence, I deeply encountered God’s presence. My eyes swelled with tears and without speaking a word I committed to God, “I am here, and I will follow you. You are my God.” That night, the God of heaven and earth became my God. I accepted the gift of his love and presence in my life because the brightness of the stars, the fullness of the moon reflecting off the mountains and trees, declared his majesty! Yes, God can speak for himself.
Maybe you have teens in your youth ministry who were born into Christianity. How will these teens fall in love with a God they’ve been arranged to love from their birth? Will it be our mentoring, our teaching, the cool games or retreats that pull them into his arms?
Church kids are familiar with the Bible, they know how to live out Christianity, they’re good at serving, and they’ve been to thousands of church services. So maybe the most powerful way to serve church kids is to facilitate moments that allow God to speak for himself.
How have you facilitated these kinds of moments for the students in your ministry? Share with us in the comments.