Spreading the Seeds of the Gospel

by The Rev. Sutton Lowe

I heard the gospel message for the first time in the youth group of my home church. I am certain that I was told the gospel dozens of times before, but I did not hear the message until that day. My parents and church family sowed seeds of the gospel for years. One day all the conditions were right, and the gospel took root in my life. I did not have a dramatic darkness-to-light conversion experience, but my whole perspective changed. I saw myself as loved and redeemed by God.

The youth minister at my home church was a vibrant, fun-loving man, and through his ministry, I learned about the grace of God. My time in the youth group was one of the happiest seasons of my life. I made friends, met mentors, and grew in my relationship with God. I learned to read my Bible and I was given ample opportunity to serve missionally with our church.

It was with my youth minister that I first discerned a call to vocational ministry. After a decade of following that call, I find myself weeks away from ordination and beginning my time as Director of Youth Ministry at St. John the Divine.

Youth ministry is near to my heart. Engaging middle and high school students is one of the greatest challenges of the church today. We seek to hand on the faith that we have received, but we must be intentional and creative in this ministry. The question I am constantly asking myself is: how do we contextualize the gospel message to touch the hearts of our students? Faith is not something we can package up in an assembly line and deliver. The Christian faith is more like a garden. It is something we cultivate, and it grows as a gift from God. Our vision for the SJD Youth Ministry is a microcosm of the broader church vision: Gather in Christ. Grow as Disciples. Go on Mission.

Everyone is searching for a place to belong, and this is acutely felt by teenagers today. When we come together on Wednesdays and Sundays, we are creating a place of belonging. Youth gatherings will be spaces filled with God’s love. We want the Youth Group to be a community of support and a refuge from pervasive stress. We want to embody a culture of hospitality, kindness, and grace. How are we going to do it? Through messy games, worship songs, pool parties, funny videos, Bible studies, grog, eating tacos, and shooting the breeze. We gather in Christ and have fun doing it.

Our primary goal for the Youth Group is to facilitate encounters with the living God. God is present to all of creation in a manner that exceeds our comprehension, but the noise our of lives can create blinders that hide God from our hearts. Two areas of focus will be equipping our students to read their Bibles and to pray. We want our students to experience God’s love and hear God’s saving message. It is the message of grace that bears fruit in our lives, and all our teaching and preaching will lead toward Jesus. In that teaching, we equip our students to live in a relationship with God. By instructing our students in biblical literacy and prayer, we will equip them to continue to grow in their faith beyond Youth Group.

An essential part of forming our students into disciples is serving our community. As we grow to love Jesus more, our hearts are opened to the service of the “least of these.” For some people though it is in serving that they first experience the love of God. This summer, SJD Youth is serving with seven local ministry partners and going on two missions. We hope to foster relationships with these partners and join the areas of service in which SJD is already engaged. SJD Youth will seek to be a light in the city, and there we will find that we are brought deeper into the heart of God.

The Rev. Libby Garfield has faithfully served as our Interim Director of Youth, and she has continually reminded me that so much of youth ministry is spreading the seeds of the gospel. We may never see the fruit of our labor, but God is faithful, and his word will not return to him empty but will accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 55:11). Join me in praying for this new season of ministry with SJD Youth.

SJD Campus

2450 River Oaks Boulevard, Houston, TX 77019 Map

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