“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
2 Timothy 1:5
A couple of months ago, I got together with one of my former youth members (he’s in his 50s now). Over lunch, he said his 17-year-old son was questioning a lot. I thought, “Okay… Here we go!” thinking of all the potential questions this teen might be asking. Then my former youth member said, “He’s asking a lot of questions about baptism.”
Well, that caught me by surprise. We talked more and I said I would love to sit down and talk to his son about baptism. We got together a few weeks later. At FPCSA we have four units in the New Member Class: 1) What does it mean to be a Christian? 2) What does it mean to be baptized? 3) What does it mean to be a Presbyterian? and, 4) What does it mean to be a church member of FPCSA?
So, I brought the worksheet on baptism from our New Members Class. But before we discussed baptism, I asked the young man if he knew what it meant to be a Christian. After his answer, I said, “It’s probably smart for us to go over the first unit on what it means to be a Christian. Without that foundation, baptism is an empty ritual.” After discussing what it means to be a Christin, I asked if he had ever accepted Jesus into his heart. He said no. So, I asked if he would you like to so. And he said, “Yes.” So, we prayed together and he invited Jesus into his heart.
With all the angels in heaven, we rejoice! Few things are more profound for a pastor than when someone commits themselves to Jesus Christ.
Then we went into the baptism unit. It’s really quite a fascinating discussion on the various purposes and symbols of baptism. At the end of the unit, I said, “Now that you’ve committed yourself to Jesus, it’s up to you to seek out baptism. According to the polity of the PCUSA, for me to baptize you, you would need to join our church. So, take some time to pray and discern your next steps and we’ll go from there.”
The family attended the Pentecost Sunday worship service and saw the new members joining the church. After the service, they approached me to say they wanted to join the church, as well. At the time of writing, they are finishing out the New Member units and will go before the Board of Elders as soon as possible. Once confirmed we will celebrate the sacrament of baptism, and we’ll welcome them into the church family in a worship service. God is up to some Holy Mischief!
According to the Barna Research Group, American children between the ages of 5 and 13 have a 32% probability of accepting Christ; youth between the ages of 14 and 18 have a 14% probability; and adults age 19 and up have just a 6% probability of accepting Christ. This shows the importance of instilling faith at an early age. Once a person turns 19, the probability of them dedicating themselves to Jesus is dramatically lower. For this reason, I emphasize the importance of children’s and youth ministry.
My friend, Steve, was a youth pastor for many years. He always joked about the seasons in the church. When summer came, many ministries slowed or shut down. Weekly Adult Bible Studies took a hiatus, fellowship groups and committees went “dark,” choirs took a break, and many staff members went on vacation. He said, “As everyone else is slowing down, we’re ramping up.”
Many students have more free time during the summer. So, youth and children’s ministries schedule weekly activities and special events. Summer camps and mission trips take place. Midweek programs go later into the night because no one has to get up for school the next morning. Unplanned Friday night events have a mind of their own. Beach bonfires seem like a great idea. There’s so much going on!
Summers are a great time for youth and children. And many decisions are made for Jesus Christ during these times. Decisions that last a lifetime and more. Many of us probably remember a summer camp or a Vacation Bible School where we made a decision for Christ. We want to facilitate these opportunities here at FPCSA. Donnette and Sandra are working together to provide some great programs for our children and youth where they can grow closer to Jesus Christ and to one another.
Sandra and CCM artist, Junko, are working together to partner FPCSA with PlayGround Arts to provide arts instruction to children and youth in our congregation and community. Areas of instruction include music, juggling, arts, improv, and more. And it’s fun! Check the church website for details: www.fpcsa.org
Sandra is also planning Vacation Bible School – Passport to Peace – for the week of July 18th to the 22nd in the late afternoon/evening. We’re looking for help with volunteers and with dinners. If you feel called to do assist in any way, please contact Sandra!
Donnette has several Presbytery-wide shared youth events, including the Youth conference to Montreat, North Carolina in the beginning of August. The last time we did something this extensive with our young people was when Pastor Danny & I took our youth to Mexico to help with a local VBS in Ensenada.
Furthermore, July 3rd is Youth Sunday. On this day, the youth will be in charge of worship. As is the tradition at FPCSA (one that is unique to this particular congregation, by the way), we will hear from our recently graduated seniors. And after worship we’ll all join together in playing games and having fun at Portola Park in Santa Ana. Bring your own chairs, blankets, games, and picnic lunches.
The former youth member that contacted me several months ago remembers well the activities of the youth ministry when he was growing up. In particular, he remembers the youth choir tours that I led. These events drew him closer to God and to other believers. He remembers fun activities and exploring new areas, but most importantly he remembers the deep conversations and life-changing decisions that were made on these trips.
I encourage you to encourage our children and youth this summer (and always!). They are at pivotal moments in their lives. And God can work through us to bless them and draw them closer to Him. Let’s pray for them and for our leaders: Sandra Escoto and Donnette Alexander-Jeffers. May God do a new thing here at FPCSA and continue to build His kingdom here.
I remain yours in Christ’s Love and Service,