I’ll never forget Jake (name changed to protect his identity).
He was almost 16 when he showed up to youth group the first time. He had come with a few of our regular guys. They all lived close to each other, went to the same high school and played football together.
Jake came from a broken home and lived with an abusive, drunken father. Jake’s dad would beat him with a dog chain leaving large whelps and scars on his back. It wasn’t until he finally told his mom that he was able to leave and live with her.
Jake struggled in life. He had a low self-esteem that caused him to act out in crazy ways. He was over the top in his behavior. If there was a group of people he would try to out whatever everyone. If there was alcohol at a party, he would drink the most. If he could get a reaction, he would do it.
But the one thing people didn’t see was the crippling depression he was dealing with. His formative years were spent with someone that did not value him as a human being and because of this he didn’t value himself either.
That began to change with an invitation to youth group.
It’s not that our youth ministry was the greatest thing since Jesus. It’s just that Jake was welcomed and loved. For the first time in his life Jake felt a sense of belonging. That didn’t mean he no longer struggled or his behavior changed. It just meant that we loved him even when he was being dumb and he knew that.
Of course it was a challenge. He was always trying to push some limit. But we never left. We never made fun of him. We never ridiculed him. We loved him and gave him a place to be.
On one particular day, Jake was really struggling with life. He was in his basement room staring at himself in the mirror. He had a bottle full of sleeping pills in one hand and thoughts of never waking up in his head.
He came incredibly close to putting a handful of those pills in his mouth. The only thing that stopped him was the sound of feet stomping down his stairs. At just that moment our guys headed over to Jake’s house to see if he wanted to go hang out. They, unknowingly, had helped stop a suicide attempt.
Jake was different from that point forward. He still struggled in life but never reached that point again. It was through those boys that God was finally able to break through to Jake and let him know that he was loved and valued.
It was then that I really began to see the importance of student ministry within the local church. I also firmly believe that a real student ministry may be more vital today than at any other time in our history.
Being a teen today is difficult. Take all the normal social pressures, sprinkle in social media and then add a heaping pile of school shootings and you can just start to get a glimpse of what our teens deal with every day.
I can’t imagine.
This is why we are launching Second Shift Student Ministry on Sept. 9th. We’ll meet in Westwood middle school (where we hold Sunday worship) every Sunday evening at 6 pm. We’re doing this to partner with you in creating a bigger influence in your student’s life. We want them to know that they are created to be in relationship with Jesus, that they can trust him to transform them into who they need to be and that they exist to show Christ’s love to those around them.
We will do this through our weekly gatherings (Second Shift), through service opportunities (we will be working at and with St. Francis house helping with grounds upkeep. We want our student to help make Gainesville a better place to live.) and hang out times.
It’s important that you and your student(s) make this a priority in your family’s rhythm. Here’s just a few reason why:
Teens Need Community
Teenagers need a safe place to belong. They need a place where they can ask any question. They need place to be whomever they are and be loved. They need a place to belong before they believe.
We want Second Shift to be a student ministry for the rest of us. We will give any teen, from any background a place to be loved and needed. We will mirror Jesus to our students.
Teens Need Mission
One of the things I love about millennials and Gen Z is their sense of mission. They want to make a difference and they’ll sacrifice to do it! I adore that. And we will help them see that God intends for them to do just that…change things.
Jesus prayed that God’s kingdom come and that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). We will be part of the answer to Christ’s prayer. Our students will have to opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Teens Need Mentors
As the parent of a teen I’ve come to the understand that a large chunk of what I say, no matter how awesome it is, will go in one ear and out the other! My teenager has learned to tune out a lot of what I say. But, she will hear what other adults say to her. So I want to make sure that the adults she’s listening to are adults that share our faith and values.
Second Shift leaders will give that to our families. Your son or daughter will be poured into and loved in a way that supports you and what you’re doing at home. We could never replace you. Instead we want to come along side you, that parents, and reinforce the lessons being taught at home.
We will surround our teens with adult leaders that love Jesus and love your family. We are your biggest fans!
Teens Need Jesus
Second Shift will continually fight for those that aren’t here yet. We are a student ministry for the rest of us! Gen Z is the first post-Christian generation in our country. Most teens were raised without any Christian influence. So they either know nothing or just what they’ve seen and heard in the culture.
We will fight tooth and nail; we will leave the ninety-nine to search for the one (Matthew 18:12-13). Second Shift will probably look different than other student groups. We won’t be the one giving away junk to teens that already have too much junk. We won’t have smoke and mirrors. What will have is a divine sense of urgency. We will use everything at our disposal to reach teens including games, social media, serving, etc. Everything we do will be to grow our student in maturity and to reach the rest of us!
We Need You
Parents, we need you. This doesn’t happen if you don’t own this. We need your prayers, encouragement, and help. Encourage your student to come and invite their friends. Go pick them up if your child doesn’t drive yet. Sign up to bring snacks (a sign up genius is going to be emailed out soon). Make it a priority. Don’t sacrifice what’s best for your student for what’s good.
We are so excited to see how God is going to work in and through our teens to reach this city and bless your family! So don’t forget…Sept. 9th at 6 pm in Westwood Middle school. Write it down, put in your Google calendar, tattoo if you have to! Just don’t miss out on our very first Second Shift!