On July 30 through August 3, at the Southeast Regional Pastors’ Conference in Asheville, NC at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, something incredible happened. Seventy-one teenagers, mostly pastors’ kids, banded together to pray, seek and create 12 outreaches that will change lives.
These 12 outreaches, completely conceived, created and written by these teens, have been published into a booklet and sent out to various Vineyard Churches in regions across the United States. Some churches have already used some of the 12 outreaches that the teens created and other churches have plans to use the outreaches and expand on the existing booklet. Immediate feedback from many youth pastors is extremely enthusiastic for the booklet concept as a creative, viable way to get the teens directly involved in having ownership of serving others and bringing others to Christ.
You can download the outreach booklet here! Below we will outline how many of the outreaches came to be!
The concept of “Kingdom Dinners”, or going into neighborhoods with lunch or dinner, groceries, toiletries, games, music, water games, reminds some of the “Matthews Parties” that we’d do in the Vineyard Churches in the 1980s and 1990s. I know that we did this outreach at Toledo Vineyard Church in Ohio and we continue to do variations on this outreach now at Vineyard Church of Augusta in Georgia. Ramon Bermudez, Youth Pastor at Miami Vineyard Church and a National Youth Task Force member stated, “Our ‘Men to Boys’ group at the Miami Vineyard Church has already done the “Dine In” outreach with amazing results. One particular lady was so impressed that these guys were doing this she wanted to know where they were from.”
Jose Crespo, a teen from the Miami Vineyard, had this to say concerning the “Dine In” outreach, “We put one of the outreaches into effect a week after we got back from Asheville, it was awesome to see people’s reaction at McDonald’s and Wendy’s when we paid for their lunch and then prayed for them. People were blown away to see teenagers praying for other people at a McDonalds, one lady was crying tears of joy.” The hope is that the Vineyard Churches in the United States would take this booklet and expand upon it and the very concept of getting teens more directly involved in creating and implementing outreaches to support others and bring them to Jesus. This will create more ownership among the teens of the outreaches created and the need for reaching the struggling and the lost.
Ramon Bermudez went on to comment, “I was so excited to see our southeast region come together and really put on such a great effort for the youth track. Special thanks to Joel Brickner, Shane Davis, Charles Minton, Maikel Alendy, The Miami Vineyard’s “RED” Youth Band and that great group of teens that took ownership of the outreach booklet idea and made it their own. This is what youth ministry is really all about, the youth taking ownership and making things happen for the Kingdom.” John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Church movement, in his book Kingdom Living, quotes C. Peter Wagner, “A mature disciple is able and willing to do Christ’s work on earth.” (p.10) The work in completing this outreach booklet is a manifestation of the real fruit in the lives of these 71 teens in that they realize the need to “do the stuff” of the Kingdom.
Uniting the teens in one purpose was also an invaluable result of the outreach booklet project during the regional pastors’ conference. A more sound understanding of the vital importance of doing outreaches and new friendships combined to make the project powerful and memorable. Tiffany Donates, another teen at the Miami Vineyard, said, “It was really cool to see that other kids from different areas were able to come together and come up with great ways to reach out and serve others. We were put in groups where we really didn’t know each other, but by the time we were finished with our outreach projects, we had built lasting friendships.”
The outreach booklet project underscored the need for all Vineyard churches to come together for training, equipping and experiences that actually shape the ministry that we do for Jesus. It is a reminder that we are never alone as we serve. Joshua Archibald, a teen leader at the Miami Vineyard, agrees: “I love getting together with other Vineyard churches. I had fun coming up with ideas and realized how much we are all alike when we’re serving God together.” Tim Davidson, Pastor of the St. John Vineyard Church in New Brunswick, Canada, says this in regard to how being a servant of Jesus and doing outreach can unite us in the community of Christ, “We all need to give personally. God affects your heart when you get close to people rather than simply writing a check.” (Passport, p. 144)
The teens present at the pastors’ southeast regional conference were also spurred forward by a visit from the new National Director of the Vineyard Churches USA, Phil Strout. Phil encouraged the youth to keep moving and serve the Lord. The “I Clean” outreach came about as a result of one of the teens in one of the outreach creating groups observing their school custodian struggling. This teen developed a heart of empathy for this person. Jesus’ words in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of man did not come to be served by to serve and to give His Life as a ransom for many.”, became real to this teen and the others in their outreach creating group.
Robby Dawkins, Pastor of the Vineyard Church in Aurora, Illinois, Contributor to the movies “Furious Love”, “Finger Of God” and now, “Father Of Lights” and a nationally respected speaker, teacher and writer, challenged the teens at this conference to not discount anyone as a potential person to receive the salvation and love of Jesus Christ. It is important to note that nearly all of the 71 teens in attendance at this Southeast Regional Pastors’ Conference have experienced national, regional and local outreaches and have been a part of international outreaches and missions trips to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, India, Mexico and other locations. Many of the teens expressed in the large group and in their small outreach creating groups that these experiences were amazing and changed their lives!
The difference from these outreach and missions experiences and this experience of praying, receiving, conceiving, writing and creating these 12 outreaches is that these 71 teens were open to being the very initial conduit to manifest the immediate and powerful fruit of their willingness to serve Jesus! God blesses obedience every time! Enthusiasm, excitement at being asked for meaningful input that would be put into action was palpable. Ownership happened!
At the conference, while showing the teens and youth track team the energetic, fun video from the “Vineyard Youth Southeast Outreach Retreat 2012” Shane Davis, Youth Pastor at the Vineyard Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the retreat was held July 9-13, challenged the youth to not consider this outreach retreat or even this outreach creating project the end but simply beginnings of many more years of many more outreach opportunities in the Kingdom now to people who are seeking and yearning for the Lord Jesus. Later, Shane Davis added, “It is so exciting and motivating to see teens embrace their Kingdom position, their potential and become empowered as they take action building the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Act” is an incredible, flexible outreach that was created to bring joy and love to children and their families during difficult times and circumstances through generosity. Hospitals, children’s’ wards, social service programs, family programs, single parent programs and other types of programs through which the needs of children are communicated and met would be the primary recipients of the fruit of generous hearts.
Allison Johnson, a teen leader for VYouth at Vineyard Church of Augusta, GA and a part of the outreach creating group that conceived “Act” made this comment, “It was great being a part of a group and building team work. It’s completely rewarding to serve children.” The “Act” outreach creating group used Psalm 33:22 as their guiding principle, “May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put out hope in you.” Luis Bush, in the book The 4/14 Window, writes this concerning the powerful effect that children can have on each other and the world, “The ministry challenge is about encouraging and equipping the children and youth of the 4/14 Window to use their gifts and potential as agents in transforming the world.” (p. 46) There was a real, powerful sense in that conference room at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Asheville, NC on July 30th through August 3rd that these 71 teens were acting in obedience and what they were doing in obedience to Jesus was going to change the world.
Bottles of Life
“Bottles Of Life” and the outreach creating group that presented it have as its premise John 4:14, “But whomever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” This group took a proven, common sense approach in obeying Jesus’ simple, powerful dictum to give a cup to water to those in need. In this case bottles are the chosen container for the water. Not just any bottle but the Jerrycan bottle which purifies water and preserves it as drinkable for a longer period of time. This outreach creating group has the vision to use Jerrycan bottles to literally give water to any child or family in need.
As we went to the neighborhood recreation center and park in St. Petersburg, Florida this past July some of our outreach team’s teen members took water to some of the young men playing basketball on the court in the park. One of the young men asked our guys why they were giving them free water and taking the time to play basketball with them. One of our teens from Miami replied simply that they were doing it because they really wanted to show Jesus’ love to them. At least one of those young men made a commitment to come to the Vineyard Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. Obedience to God brings blessing.
Bill Hybels, Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois and a well-known speaker, says this about being obedient to God’s call, “What passion might God be awakening in you? Don’t ignore what’s going on in your heart right now. Let God speak to you. Listen. Then act. Take a step. Get into action!” (The Volunteer Revolution, p. 104)
Letters From God
“Letters From God” is an outreach created by six teens in this outreach creating group with a basic but vital goal, to turn off the TV and the computer and write letters to people who are lonely. These letters will encourage people. These letters will be specific to the person’s struggles and prayer needs and personal. Keeping a list of letter recipients allows for follow up and more prayer later. Paul took the time to keep in touch with thousands of people who were new Christians, seeking or lost by writing letters. These letters are preserved today as a record of how to love others and live for Jesus. A simple connection through letters communicating God’s love could literally save someone’s life.
Simple Love is Priceless
Giving someone food is an important step toward they realizing that God is concerned about every aspect of their life. This meaningful act of love communicates to a person that their needs are important. Through that connection trust is developed. This is the goal of the outreach “Simple Love Is Priceless”. The outreach creating group at the conference developed a system by which people could receive vouchers for food, clothing and other necessary items. The definition of love, written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, can be used as inspiration for this level of generosity. One who is busy giving away does not have the time to envy or boast.
Recreation brings connection. The outreach creating group that came up with “Direct Change” holds a powerful vision that if they can make connections with families in need in neighborhoods in need through new events and create relationships, they can also create monthly, even weekly, recreation programs to keep those relationships growing. Jesus loved children. We believe He loved being around children. It’s not farfetched at all to imagine Jesus running around playing tag or hide and go seek with groups of children. Just by having fun and playing through recreation direct change can happen in lives. Change that can alter their lives for good forever. Mark 10:13-16 is clear about the place in which Jesus put children, “Let the children come to me…for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Backpacks for the World
“Backpacks for the World” began with the idea that every child deserves to be educated and to have the proper supplies for being educated. So, donating lightly used school backpacks or purchasing new backpacks and filling them with new school supplies, clothing and non-perishable necessary items seemed like the logical next step. The teens in this outreach creating group are excited that this outreach can be implemented almost anywhere. Local neighborhoods, towns and cities are a great fit. National agencies or international missions typically are thrilled to receive school supplies for the children. Gary Best, a pastor and National Team Leader of Vineyard Churches in Canada, wrote this concerning our best attempts to imitate Jesus in love, “The only model we are given by Jesus is one of simply learning to listen to the Father and obey Him.” (Naturally Supernatural, p. 69)
“Hotdogs for Haiti”, “The Father’s Orphanage” and “Stand” are also outreaches that God gave these teens during this historical week in the amazing surroundings of Asheville, NC in a gorgeous summer. Hotdogs, a very simple, pre-cooked, easy to ship food that can feed thousands and millions of hungry children and families quickly and cheaply. Why not? Supporting poor families by providing them with prayer, water, food, life supplies, mentoring, referrals, housing and family programs. Sure! Implementing music, drama, art, song, dance to minister into the lives of young people and families with little reason to rejoice. Perfect!
In Mark 6:30-44 Jesus was tired and so were His disciples. Sensing this, Jesus got away from the pressing crowds and arranged a boat to go across the water to the other side and supposed peace and quiet. What Jesus found was another large crowd in great need. He took compassion on them and taught and ministered to them the entire afternoon and into the evening.
Listen, all these 71 teens knew is that there are people in the world in need. They sat down in groups of six or seven of their peers and stopped, prayed and heard God and put what He said to do on paper so that you could go “do the stuff”. Lexi Cahall, a teen leader in the youth group at the Vineyard Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, had this to say about the experience of putting an outreach booklet together that churches all over the country are using, “It was amazing planning an outreach with five other girls when we all had one goal in mind: to bless people and show them the love of Jesus.”
These 71 teens have one desire: to share Jesus’ love and the great joy, encouragement and refreshment that it brings! (Philemon 1:7)
Now, they share that one desire with you…