This week I had the awesome privilege of being the evangelist for the Young Teen Campers at Somerset Beach. I cannot adequately describe what the Holy Spirit did at camp this week. Far beyond anything I asked or imagined, God was on the move, and lives (especially mine) were changed. More than any other year of camp-speaking, I connected with this group of young teenagers and young adults (the counselors and worship team).
Even though I didn’t have the chance to meet with every single person, it was the work of the Spirit binding us together in corporate worship and Scripture memory and the life-altering work that only God can do. Not only did I have a blast hanging out with them – dancing and singing, splashing in the water, waiting in line for meals – but I was completely blown away by their tender hearts, their receptivity to the Gospel of Jesus. And these kids are sharp. Like, WOAH. Their insightful questions truly impressed me. (I’m fairly certain our culture significantly underestimates the intelligence and the comprehension and the capabilities of 11-13 year olds. These students could easily rival college coeds or grown-ups in theological discussions.)
The overarching message of the week was The Image of God. We began Sunday night by a fun competition where cabins wrote down lists of adjectives that would describes someone’s image – the way they perceive themselves or believe others see them. Words such as weird, silly, jock, bully, perfectionist, athletic, skinny, fat, dumb, smart covered the pages.
By way of introducing myself I shared these very honest bullet-pointed insights into my own image:
- I have been following Jesus as a Christian since I was 5 years old.
- I am a pastor.
- I am mom to 7 month old Kirsten.
- I have been married to my husband Kevin for 8 years.
- I am a runner & yoga instructor.
- I am a worship leader & grad school student.
- I love baking cookies & coffee dates & reading & taking walks.
- I am good student & a responsible leader.
- I am a trustworthy friend & I give honest advice.
- I am a people person and feel other people’s emotions very deeply.
- I struggle with perfectionism and negative body image.
- I struggle to not overeat or overexercise.
- I care too much about what people think and try too hard to make everyone happy with me.
- I am indecisive and a roller coaster of emotions.
- I have a quick temper and a bad attitude far too often.
I preached on the words from Genesis 1:27, looking many of them dead in the eye as I said,
You were made in the very image of GOD. Your life has incredible worth and you have a purpose.
Throughout the next seven gatherings of morning worship and evening vespers, we broke down unhealthy images and reconstructed our mindsets based on the Image of God.
- Mean Girls & Bullies –>
- God’s Chosen People (Colossians 2:14-15)
- Self Harm, Eating Disorders & Substance Abuse –>
- Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
- Perfectionists & Cheaters –>
- Obedience to God (Genesis 4:2-11 and I John 3:11-24)
On our final night together, I was prepared with responses to their really tough questions. My plan was then to move into a lesson and lead into an opportunity for salvation. The Lord had a much more beautiful plan than mine, however, for as soon as I was “done” with answering questions, hands began to raise left and right. I spent the next 20 minutes fielding deep, theological issues these young teens tossed my way.
- Who wrote the Bible?
- Did every story in the Bible really happen?
- Are tattoos bad?
- Can a Christian believe in evolution?
- What happens if a baby is baptized and then dies – will they go to heaven or hell?
- What happens to someone who commits suicide?
- Is heaven and hell real?
And my favorite question of all:
- How can I be saved?
Throughout the week the lessons had progressed. We are made in God’s image. We become God’s chosen people by believing on the Lord Jesus. When we commit to following God we become Temples of the Holy Spirit and should live in Obedience to God’s commands. On this last night, I was thrilled to answer that question, the question that starts a life of pursuing God, of living in the very center of our chosen-ness, becoming fully who He created us to be.
Salvation is simple: Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:9-10
This is the first step and absolutely essential. This is a life-changing moment. But it doesn’t stop here. Every day it’s surrender, believing God has the best plan in store for you. It’s living in obedience to him and out of love for others.
After having an opportunity to pray, we worshiped and closed the session. Many students flocked to the counselors and Wellspring members and to me to talk more. These kids had further questions on the tough topics we’d discussed. And then there was one boy left, the quiet one who’d subtly passed me his piece of paper with the words, “How to be saved?” He came up to me with hardly an expression on his face but with the most tender heart and asked me to pray with him. I led him to Jesus right then and there and we hugged. I told him how thrilled I was for him and how exciting this moment one. I asked him if he had a church to go to and implored him to share this decision with his pastor and to get connected with someone who’s a step or two ahead of him in following Jesus.
This morning at our closing session, the kids were shouting out things they loved about camp. This meek young man said with the most enthusiasm I’d seen from him all week,
I accepted Christ!
The crowd cheered for him! Rejoice!
These students have memorized Scripture with joy and self-motivation. They have asked tough questions and processed tough answers. They have shown me that God’s spirit is alive and working in the lives of middle schoolers and the future leaders of the Church are being shaped and discipled right now. I have glorious hope for the next generation of Christ followers.