By Curtis Bradbury, Program Director of Youth Ministry at House of Prayer in Houston
Youth ministry can play a pivotal role in a young individual’s life. It is a place where youth get to dive into their faith alongside their peers and mentors. It also gives youth a place to feel a sense of belonging and comfort. The church is not just the bricks and stones, but the people who gather inside. In my opinion youth ministry is a major part of this diverse church.
I remember the days of walking through the doors at Mt. Cross Ministries in Santa Cruz, California for the first time as a youth. Having discussions and worshipping together at an outdoor ministry site really opened up my eyes to the ministry as a whole. Getting the opportunity to work at Lutherhill Ministries in La Grange for the past three years, I have had the blessing to see youth grow during this impressionable time in their lives.
Outdoor youth ministry is a great way to welcome youth from a variety of ages into Christianity and show them that worshipping Christ can be both meaningful and fun. It gets kids excited to live out Christ’s love to others regardless of ethnicity, race, gender identity, or background. Youth can get a glimpse of everything God has created simply through outdoor games and activities. In addition, leaders get a chance to facilitate such activities and adventures.
One of my favorite memories from my time in youth ministry was when we took a group to overnight camp at Enchanted Rock, a group of 3 counselors and 12 high-school youth on a three-day adventure program. Away from technology, schoolwork, and societal pressures, the youth formed this tight knit group laughing and growing together. One day, following a hike, we dove right into our bible study, which lasted over an hour, just wonderful in itself. The beautiful thing was that the counselors had actually only asked two questions throughout this time. It was the youth who has taken it upon themselves to ask each other more challenging and thought provoking questions about their faith lives. At the conclusion of the camp, a youth left me with words I will never forget: “We would never have opened up to discussions like this out in the real world. We would have been judged.”
It is crucial to create a place for youth to be free. I know it had tremendous influence on my faith journey, seeing people my age worshipping and sharing about God so openly. It provides a place to not be judged, but rather feel loved, where disciples are made and grow.
Youth ministry is important. Youth ministry is meaningful. Youth ministry has made me the person I am today.