From Carolyn after visiting the Urban Hope Training Center
“The night we returned from our trip, a shuttle driver came to pick us up from the airport. She was very friendly and talkative and she brought up how her mom says to pray hard. Using that as an opening, I asked her where her mom went to church and if she attends too. She said, no, that it wasn’t for her. So after we got out of the shuttle, I told her, you know God is the way, and she exclaimed, “First my mom, now my customer…God must be telling me something!” So I said, “That’s right, and you know it.” “Yeaaaaaaah,” was her response.
“Last week I went to a new doctor and it turns out I know his mother. Since I know she goes to church, I asked if he also attends church, and he said no. So I asked him why not, that he should go, and he said he hears it every Sunday. So I told him that it’s not necessarily about going to church, but it’s about Jesus. And I said that Jesus changed my life and that’s why I like to tell people. I see him again in 2-3 weeks so we’ll see what the Holy Spirit leads me to say.
“I started a conversation with a young lady around 25-years old while we waited for our lunch order. Our food took long so we were talking a while, then I asked her if she went to church and she said her family was Buddhist but did not attend church, only went to the temple once a year. So I said, we used to do that too, but now we’re followers of Jesus so we don’t do that anymore. Then her order was called and that ended our conversation, so I’m glad I said the name, Jesus!
“The other day a co-worker who works in another building and normally emails me about work matters, emailed me asking if I ever get nauseated because there is so much work to do. I told her that I don’t get nauseated, but I do feel overwhelmed and sometimes anxious. Then I was able to share with her what helps me is to know that God is sovereign, that He put me in this job and knows all the work that I have to do, and He has me exactly where He wants me to be. She wrote back saying she liked that, so I hope she was encouraged.”
From Dan Cosentino:
A statement that is one of my favorites and that is true is; “the church that does not produce a pastor does not deserve a pastor.” If a church does not have godly individuals who are investing and training younger individuals into full-time Christian ministry then they are not doing what God is commanding them through the Great Commission and are simply just ‘existing.’ Those types of churches do not deserve a Godly missional pastor and I think in many cases God will not give them one.
When I began youth pastoring I decided from the outset that I would meet weekly with students who knew the Lord, who were malleable, and who had raw skills to produce a set of future student leaders who would become full-time Christian workers in God’s harvest. I have decided to ‘take at least one male’ per high school class in which I would groom and invest large amounts of time, prayer, and training upon. I ask the student up front if he is willing to commit to my weekly meetings, standards, and requirements. Each week I meet with the guys, as possible, and we focus our meeting to one hour and talk about three things: Bible knowledge, Ministry training, and Accountability. Each week each student is given some type of ‘homework’ assignment such as deeper Bible reading, ministry, etc. The longer I meet with the student the more responsibilities I give him throughout our youth program. For instance, this past year I was able to leave for two full months to lead on Operation Barnabas while the young men who I had invested and trained were able to run and lead our youth program!
Here is a list of the difficulties I have found in discipling and grooming teenage men:
A. It takes a commitment to meet regularly on your part and his part. This is difficult to do over a long period of time 2-3 years.
B. There will be ‘setbacks’ in his spiritual and ministry training. The better you know the student the more you can prepare him to ‘fail’ and then build him up properly afterwards.
C. Requires you to get ‘dirty’ in his or her life. You will learn many things about him and him about you!
D. The goal of this process is for the student to eventually leave you! A well trained disciple will leave his discipler to carry on the Lord’s work.
Here is a list of some of the rewards I have seen:
A. Discipling young people exponentially expands your ministry! Instead of you trying to leave everyone you have a small army of helpers and volunteers who want to lead with you.
B. They become miniature you’s because they learn to love the things that are precious to your heart. (For me, my students learn to love evangelism and discipleship.)
C. God’s kingdom will grow through your hard work and effort as you send laborers into His harvest. God is made known and receives all the glory!
Even though many of my young men are leaving or have left for college and I am discipling others to take their place I still see myself as a key cheerleader and motivator to those who have left. I have decided to write each man who I have discipled and who is off to college a letter stating my unconditional love for them and setting goals for them to accomplish each year. I hope to do this with these men way into their ministry careers.
Currently, I have been here for four years and will be sending my fourth young man off to study Youth Ministry. If God would just raise up one individual per year for the next thirty years through our youth ministry think about how rewarding that will be! Discipling is hard but the rewards are great!
I feel the value of mentoring is so important, to meet with younger girls/ladies to walk through life where I have already walked and to show God’s faithfulness is a biblical charge for all women to be doing. Taken from Titus 1 about older women teaching the younger what is good and right. To be an example of someone that God has brought through good times and bad to waiting for answers from God…and sometimes they are not the answers we want, and to show them how through it all, God is good, faithful, and He keeps His promises.
The ladies that I had in my life that mentored me were women that were respected among others and really poured into my life. They listened to my worries, complaints, stresses, joy, gladness, and my hearts desires and were there to point me in the right direction, to take me back to Scripture and showed me how to live a life for Christ! It was practical living out their faith that made me know that my relationship with the Lord was real and I had not bought into some crazy fad, but how God is Truth and His truth stands the test of time and lives that are forever changed!!!
I was an insurance salesman by day, and a volunteer youth worker by night.
Trevor was a student that stood out to me for some reason. We were nothing alike, so I’m not sure why God laid him on my heart. He wasn’t a kid that seemed too eager about his spiritual walk…I’m glad I didn’t give up on him that easily. Trevor agreed to meet with me once a week, after youth group during his Junior year of high school. We spent a year in a discipleship relationship where we walked through Purpose Driven Life together. I thought it was a great book for solidifying faith foundations. Throughout the year, our relationship grew, and I gained the freedom to ask Trevor some tough questions. It was evident that God really began to tug on Trevor’s heart, and Trevor was ready to listen. He began to really understand who God was, and who he was in Christ, and to gain an awareness of his need to serve Jesus with his life.
After his senior year, Trevor felt God was asking him to go on Operation Barnabas. Trevor didn’t fit the mold of a typical OB kid, but he was willing to be obedient. By the time he went to college, he was committed to continuing to live for Christ on his secular campus. He quickly joined a Christian group on campus and got plugged into godly communities. Trevor pursued a degree in landscape architecture – something he was passionate about and gifted in. As he considered how he might use that for God’s glory, he heard about a deforestation problem in the country of Haiti.
Trevor has been to Haiti several times since then…Rest of story HERE – https://www.montrouistreeproject.org/
Cory was always a pretty good kid. He was also popular, a state ranked wrestler, and had lots of opportunities to get sucked into the world’s mold.
But he resisted. We spent a year together in a discipleship relationship where we met weekly for prayer, accountability and development. I challenged him to take his ministry and leadership skills to the next level by spending a summer on Operation Barnabas. I also had the privilege of being his Sr. Leader. Cory became convinced that God was calling him into full-time Christian service.
After high school, he began attending Moody Bible Institute to study Urban Ministries. While he was there, he continued to pursue his passion for people and wrestling by joining wrestling clubs in Chicago. He is currently in the fund-raising process for a ministry venture he is planning to begin after graduation. He will be starting a fitness center ministry in a poor town outside of Pittsburgh. Through the relationships he builds, he will be able to evangelize, disciple and encourage the people of this poverty-stricken neighborhood.
The benefits are accountability and having someone to help you through times that they have gone through already. It has really helped me grow in my relationship with the Lord to have someone challenging me. -Kari
We have lots of students who are in relationships like this with one on one adult leaders (some the leaders of their small groups, some not)
I have had the privilege of meeting with some of our major guys as they got back from OB or as they interned…..
1. I met Tabitha about 3 years ago in the county jail. She was very angry, going through meth withdrawal, and sat sobbing during my Bible study in the women’s block. As I taught on “Forgiveness,” she began to seek God’s help and later that day accepted Christ as her Savior and Lord. The change was remarkable! I encouraged her and mentored her during her stay in jail and then kept up with her after her release about two years ago. She is the leader of “Celebrate Recovery,” (A Bible-based, 10-step program to help addicts) that started up about a month ago in a local church. During her first meeting, she led two women to the Lord. She is mentoring those two and having a spiritual impact on many others. (That sort of makes me a “spiritual grandmother” of two…) We are praying for Tabitha’s sister, that she will give her life completely to Jesus.
2. I have been mentoring another younger woman for a few weeks. We have been reading through Proverbs throughout the week and then studying the book and praying together. Through our accountability times, she became convicted of stealing $800 a few years ago, and knew that she needed to make this right, with the risk of losing her job. She was willing to go to the person she had stolen from and pay as much as she could at this time and then offer to make payments to pay it all back. She has made restitution in some other areas, also. We are praying for a close friend of hers who is going through a painful situation at this time, that she will accept Christ. It is so exciting to be a part of God’s Kingdom in this way!
Stories from Wooster Grace, Wooster, Ohio
A senior in our ministry named Taylor experienced personal life change during our mission trip to San Francisco last year. He made radical changes to be obedient to Jesus. What resulted was a desire within him to spread the fame of Jesus Christ within hearts of others. Taylor earlier this year took us up on a challenge to disciple a new believing student that came to Christ. They met every Sunday to talk about this student’s identity in Jesus. He is an example of a reliable young man who is qualified to teach others (2 Tim 2:22). He also is continually pursuing opportunities to strike up spiritual conversations and challenge a handful of his friends with the gospel. His younger sister, who is also active in our ministry, has indicated to us how much the life change in her brother has impacted her to be like Jesus.
Another student named Kyle was also impacted on last year’s mission trip to San Francisco. There was permanent change within his heart. We are still seeing a different person within him than we ever did before San Francisco. He particularly has grown a heart for students that come to our worship services and sit by themselves. He targets one student every Sunday by sitting with them and befriending them. His life has gotten to be others-focused, and he wants to see change in others by loving them with Christ’s love.
One of our senior girls, Dakota, has been discipled regularly over the past four years and has made hard but good decisions to stay committed to Jesus Christ. Her friendship with another girl named Torrey has brought Torrey into our student ministry. Through Dakota’s friendship and our student ministry, God has brought Torrey into a deep love relationship with Himself. Now, Torrey has brought her friend Liz into our student ministry and over the course of a few months, Liz has indicated that she wants to know God in a personal, life-altering way. Torrey, with the help of one of our staff members, has been discipling Liz and discussing her identity in Christ. In this case, one student reached another one student who reached another one student.
Pastor Dave Lawson from our church has had a significant impact in a handful of high school young men through our student ministry’s small group program. Weekly, they have met and discussed a bible study and kept each other accountable. Pastor Dave has not only taught them how to have strong character but has demonstrated it as well. His guys have matured into men who have served with our children’s ministry, compassion ministry, and much more. They own their faith and are on the right track to become major leaders in the church at large.
We have husband and wife duo who serves in our small group ministry, Jess and Danny Artrip. They have been leading each of their small groups of students since their teens were in seventh grade. Now Jess’s girls are in 10th grade and Danny’s guys are in 9th grade. The profound impact of their consistent presence has enabled their students to step forward in obedience and pursue Christ. Many of their students have participated in our mission trips and struggled through the process of sanctification. Their maturity in Christ is a direct result of Jess and Danny’s presence and mentorship in their lives.
1. Jess and Danny are also involved in another ministry within our church called “Sowing Hope.” Sowing Hope is a compassion ministry toward under-resourced families in the downtown apartment district of Wooster. Jess has been investing time weekly in a homework club. Both of them have a love for families in this part of town and continue to contribute time to be in the lives of people.
A gentleman in our church named Jim has chosen to invest in a boy within Sowing Hope ministries called Rocco. He has mentored and taught him biblical principles as well as the value of hard work. Jim is teaching Rocco the importance of saving and has offered him work in his clinic to learn how to handle money. Rocco is now in 10th grade and has gone on a mission trip with us to Urban Hope in Philadelphia, PA last year. Rocco has developed a deep love for children’s ministry and a passion to reach his mom and siblings for Jesus. He’s had several conversations with his mom about spiritual topics.
Our student ministry has developed a follow-up plan for students who come to Christ in our ministry. The follow-up plan is called “Fresh Start” and connects an adult leader with the new believing student for 4-5 one-on-one meetings. During these meetings, the adult and student meet and discuss their identity in Christ. Spiritual disciplines are introduced as well as a challenge to be baptized and to join a small group directly following the 4-5 weeks (thus continuing the discipleship process). The Fresh Start curriculum has also been picked up by students like Taylor and Torrey (see stories above) who have led their peers/friends through it. The Fresh Start curriculum is also accompanied by a 31 day devotional book that the new-believing student completes daily to learn different topics that are basic for Christian living.
Our Small Group programming is shaped and created to allow our adult leaders to have a mentoring/discipling presence in 5-7 student lives. Every week students and their leader meet together to discuss the bible and particular topics chosen by our student ministry staff. Before these groups meet, the adult leaders meet together for a pre-small group meeting. In this meeting one of our staff members relays tips and training in how to lead students through the topic of the night (though it is an expectation that leaders study and prepare before this time, too). Adult leaders normally spend time outside of these small group nights, though, going to their students’ sports games, music performances, etc. They also stay in contact through texting, phone calls, and facebook letting there students know they are praying for them. We have seen so many students embrace Christ-like living because of the ministry of our adult leaders.
We’re finding in Student Ministry that many students are experiencing hurt in their lives and so we have a one-on-one curriculum called “Life Hurts; God Heals.” The curriculum comes out of Saddleback Church in California. The curriculum allows an adult to lead a student through admitting they need help and finding healing in Jesus Christ. The results of this discipleship tool has been astounding in many student’s lives.
Rachel Snyder, our High School Ministry Assistant who works for Pastor Nick Cleveland, has had a meaningful presence in high school girls’ lives. She mentored one girl who had gone through “Life Hurts; God Heals.” She provided stability and a model for this one girl to know how to be a woman of God. Rachel has had a natural connection with girls in our ministry who are involved in sports. As a basketball athlete in high school, Rachel loves supporting girl basketball players and helping them see how to use their talent and ability on the court for Jesus. She also has helped young girls establish perspective on winning and loosing in sports.
Another one of our small group leaders, Pam, has committed herself meet with her girls one on one regularly outside of small group night. She has divided the Word in her times with them and connected Biblical principles to practical living.
Another small group leader of ours named Judy started with our ministry last year. She had a troubled past and has since found victory in Christ. Now she seeks to be a small group leader to help out girls who are just like the girl she used to be. Judy recently helped one girl from her small group through a shop lifting saga and was used by God to help re-write the story of this girl’s life. She continues to be an asset in our Middle School Ministry as she teaches God’s Word.
Another one of our small group leaders named Nate has been mentoring his guys in his group for many years now. They are all seniors and are approaching graduation and college very soon. The cool thing about this small group is that Nate is currently investing in one of his senior’s lives named Drew. Drew’s dad was instrumental in investing in Nate’s Christian-walk earlier in Nate’s life before he even knew Drew.
Pastor Randy Moomaw also leads a small group and has discipled his guys and taught the meaning of service. One of his guys, Josh, has really gotten involved in Sowing Hope, our ministry downtown to under-resourced families. Another one of Pastor Randy’s guys, Wade, went on our mission trip to San Francisco and challenged himself to share the gospel with everyone he saw on the street when the team went out together to serve the homeless. He became, as an incoming 10th grader, and inspiration for some of our senior guys to be bold in sharing their faith.
Another one of our small group leaders named Carol Mills has been sharing Jesus with one girl who attends her group named Erika. Erika has struggled to submit to Christ, but this past year at our KALAHARI weekend, Erika came to know Jesus. Now Carol, after spending a couple years preparing Erika to make this decision, is discipling her through our new believer follow up curriculum called “Fresh Start.”
Another one of our small group leaders named Vicki Andrea is leading one of her girls through “Fresh Start.” This girl, named Jesse, came on our Kalahari Retreat this year and received Jesus. Vicki and Jesse met at an additional time outside of small groups to go through “Fresh Start.” They met every Sunday morning in our church café.
Even more of our small group leaders have sought to mentor their students. Some have encountered students who have rejected their offers or even have accepted by never shown on the day of their meeting. It’s a testament to our small group leaders’ devotion to Christ, because they keep trying to reach and disciple student even when it’s not easy.
I have had the privilege of mentoring a young man in our high school ministry. He struggled with his identity among his peers and doubted his ability to connect with other guys. By focusing on who he was in Christ, he and I made progress in getting him to establish friendships. He now is at home among other guys and confident in his small group. It took him taking steps to connect with his peers and going on mission trips like San Francisco and Urban Hope in Philadelphia.
I mentored another young man named Thomas from our group. Thomas indicated that he really wanted to reach his friend David for Jesus but he didn’t know how. I walked through peer-to-peer evangelism techniques with him and taught him how to present the gospel. It took him a handful of weeks to polish and perfect in his mind. Meanwhile, Thomas took steps to build a deeper connection with his friend and invite him to our events. After he could present the gospel, I challenged Thomas to give the gospel to his peers in our student ministry on Sunday morning. Before 150 students, Thomas demonstrated the gospel of Jesus and challenged others to respond. Thomas is planning on attending our San Francisco mission trip this summer for the first time!
One of our students, Dave, who’s a junior in high school had a hand in inviting a freshman student to our Sunday student worship service this past winter. This freshman soon came to Christ and Dave took it upon himself to follow up with him and ask how he could help this student grow in his relationship with God. David has had some great moments in this student’s beginning journey with Christ.
Another one of our small group leaders named Dave Rhoad has an incredible ministry with the guys in his group. His group started out at a modest size and has grown far beyond capacity. The reason for this is that his guys trust Dave and love spending time with each other learning from God’s word. Dave opens up his house repeatedly for the guys to come over and hang out. His guys normally play xbox and like to pull pranks on each other, but they benefit mostly because of the safe environment that Dave provides and continual prayer support Dave gives them. Dave’s only one guy, but he’s changing many lives.
Two years ago, our student ministry conducted a mission trip to South Bend, IN to help Grace Community Church put on a soccer camp for children of under-resourced families. One of our upcoming senior girls, Sydney, went on the trip and experienced God in a radical way. After presenting the gospel to children in her soccer team that week and seeing them respond, she got hooked on sharing the love of Jesus. Upon returning home, she set up coffee dates with all of her non-Christian friends and told them one-on-one about Jesus. She was sharing the gospel weekly! She continued in this spirit of the gospel until graduation and is now a student at Liberty University wanting to continue to spread the love of Jesus to those around her.
Another girl from our ministry that has since graduated had a lot of shepherding while in student ministries. Through small groups, student leadership opportunities, and mission trips, she developed into a fully-devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Recently, she has contacted both Pastor Nick and me to tell us that she senses God calling her to the mission field in Africa. She is going on a short term mission trip this summer and is evaluating the call through that experience.
One of our staff members in our student ministry department named Michelle also leads a small group. One of the girls that started attending her group wanted nothing to do with God. She was a self-proclaimed non-Christian. Michelle kept communicating the love of God to her and earned this girls trust. One week, the girl confided in Michelle that she feared that she was pregnant. Michelle loved this girl enough to take her to the store to buy a pregnancy test and supported her as the girl took the test. Through this experience, the girl realized Michelle loved her in a way that was different than anything she had experienced. Through Michelle’s words and actions displayed over the course of many months, this girl ended up praying to receive Jesus and is now being discipled through “Fresh Start” by Michelle.
Another one of our small group leaders named Steve has had a profound impact over the years in students’ lives. Steve recently finished leading a group of guys in his small group up through the time of their high school graduation. The group started with just a few guys, but by mentoring and speaking into the life of one of his students named Carlin, he saw increased attendance as a result of Carlin’s desire to bring his friends to church. The small group reached capacity very soon and Steve got to speak into the lives of guys who normally wouldn’t come to church, but did because they knew Carlin. Today, even though Carlin has graduated from high school, Steve and him still meet one-on-one and talk about Christian living.
Last year, our student ministry went to Urban Hope in Philadelphia, PA with several of our students. One of our adult leaders named Mike has been trained in Evangelism Explosion. On one night when our team went to Logan Square to feed the homeless, Mike accompanied a group of high school students as they sought to love the homeless. While serving, Mike’s team got to befriend a man and share Christ with him. As our team debriefed after that night about what they experienced at Logan Square, some students who were with Mike made the comment that they had never seen a person come to Jesus before. They were processing how it all happened. Mike led the small group of students who were with him to experience life-change by including them in reaching this man for Christ. Since that trip, one of those students who was with Mike is now aiming to share Christ with a friend at his school by the end of the school year. I doubt this would be as strong of a resolution for this high school student if he hadn’t first seeing evangelism demonstrated through Mike’s mentorship.
Our experience in Philadelphia at Urban Hope also yielded more Christ-like living in students. Two girls from our team, Alexis and Lexie, returned to Wooster with a passion for evangelism. For the following months of the summer, they would go to Wal-mart to witness to people. They struck up spiritual conversation with people in the aisles and talked to them about Jesus. After being inspired by the presence and shepherding of the Urban Hope interns and our adult leaders, these two girls responded radically to the gospel call and gave it their all.
Assistant Director of High School Ministries
Facilitating a Ladies ABF at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church has been a joy in my life for the last 17+/- years. We have studied things from end times to being careful of our conversations, to character studies, and now we are studying the Names of God. Through this opportunity I have had the privilege of meeting women from all walks of life and from age groups spanning from college students to senior saints. They have taught me more than I could have possibly taught them. Growing in Christ alongside these ladies is such a wonderful experience.
Over the years that I have been in Winona Lake I have also worked with a group of girls—now grown women, many married and with children. It began on a regular basis when they were in 9th grade through the local youth ministry at the church and continued on that regular basis through their senior year of high school. Now those that are still in the area get together for dinner once in a while and I ask them the hard questions I used to ask—how are you doing spiritually? What are your involvements in church? Are you regularly in the Word and praying? I don’t think they always like being asked but they are honest and sometimes the answers are not what I want to hear—“no, I’m not being consistent,” “it’s hard with a little one,” etc.
As I look back over the years I see many people who have come into my life for a season and I have had the opportunity to come along side and disciple them through Bible studies, ministry together, and just sharing a friendship. Some of those ladies have had rough situations to work through, some have had to come to terms with the fact that God is bigger than anything around them and He can do the incredible. It has been a joy for me to see these ladies walking with the Lord and now being the ones to share with others who are hurting in the same ways they were hurt, being the one to say, “Yes, God is bigger than your situation, Yes, He can do the impossible.”
Recently, I was developing a relationship with a gal who knows the Lord but desired to grow in her relationship with Him. I was anxious to develop that and become a mentor in her life. However, her schedule was very full and it didn’t work out for this time. We will try another time. I am now in the process of praying about another person in whose life God can use me to be a positive influence so that she in turn can equip another gal.