Making Their Voices Heard
by Cathy Ketcher11/13/2023 9:00:00 AM
A bell rings, announcing the end of class. Almost immediately the halls are filled with chattering teens. The sound reverberates off the walls as students struggle to make their voices heard above the noise.
But in high schools across Georgia, a growing number of students are tuning out the noise and focusing on the needs around them. With help and encouragement from Youth Alive®, a window of U.S. Missions, they are seeing themselves as missionaries to their school campuses.
“Campus missionaries are students who share Jesus with their friends,” says Jessica Riner, U.S. missionary serving with Youth Alive®. “The main focus of Georgia Youth Alive® is to train these students to effectively impact whatever school they attend — public school, private school, cyber school, homeschool, or even duel-enrolled in college.”
HEARING GOD’S VOICE
Jessica knows firsthand the importance of reaching teens since she herself came to Christ at age 15. Two years later she sensed a call to missions and enrolled at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Her preparation for missions included several years as a youth pastor in Soperton, Georgia, and working with a ministry in the area of church development. But about eight years ago, Jessica knew a change was in store for her. She and her husband, Ken, prayed and fasted for 30 days as they sought God for what their next season of ministry would look like.
Through a God-ordained conversation with the Georgia District Youth Director, the way became clear.
“I did not seek a position with Youth Alive®, but when the opportunity was offered to me, I knew immediately that God was leading the way for Ken and me. He had faithfully led and prepared us for this specific point in our journey.”
Jessica’s ministry experiences over the years give her a unique understanding of today’s youth and the needs they face.
“Many students walking the halls of our middle schools and high schools are filled with anxiety and stress,” she says. “Some are lost and hurting. We encourage campus missionaries to look for ways to show kindness and the love of Jesus with their friends. Everywhere in the school there are opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life.”
FINDING A VOICE
To help equip young people in this effort, Youth Alive® has developed a variety of outreaches and materials. They include:
- Youth Alive® Club that meets on the school campus, providing a venue where students can invite their friends and create opportunities to share the gospel.
- Youth Alive® Huddle (small group outreach) that meets on or off campus.
- Prayer group that meets regularly for scheduled times of prayer for their campus and invites their friends to come for specific prayer.
- School assemblies that deal with real-life issues and character building for students in the seven most influential years of their lives — the time between grades 6 through 12.
- Grow and Go conferences (one-day events) that train students and church youth leaders while offering them resources to reach their schools with the love of Christ and with the goal that, ultimately, students will be equipped to share their faith with people in their areas of influence.
Youth Alive®’s influence is helping students across Georgia find their voice to boldly share the gospel with their friends. Samuel, Maya and Isaac have attended a few Youth Alive® trainings, and their youth pastor has repeatedly encouraged them to lead their friends to Christ. This school year they have already led nine or 10 of their friends to Jesus. Another student, Emily, started two Youth Alive® Clubs in her school. As she prepared to launch a Youth Alive® Club for her middle school, she felt the Lord’s prompting to also lead a Bible study for special needs students in the school. Samuel, Maya, Isaac, Emily, and others like them are stepping up to make a difference in their schools.
A CHORUS OF VOICES
Jessica knows that changed lives lead to changed schools. Changed schools are an important step in changing the culture for today’s youth.
“Momentum is growing among students and youth leaders in Georgia to see their schools as mission fields,” Jessica says. “At a Grow and Go conference in September, eight students were filled with the Holy Spirit. Several others are now working to begin Youth Alive® movements on their campuses. That’s what Youth Alive® is all about. It’s students sharing Jesus with their friends.”
One student, Rogelio, attended a Grow and Go conference, and the following week he led a friend to Christ. The week after that he invited all the students at his school to a See You at the Pole event. When 100 of his classmates showed up for prayer, he was in awe. He preached a short message, gave an altar call, and watched as 20 classmates stepped forward to pray and accept Christ. With a growing burden for the lost, he has since gained permission to start a Youth Alive® Club on his campus.
Jessica’s goal is that Rogelio is just one of many teens across Georgia who embrace the ministry of Youth Alive® and see themselves as campus missionaries in their schools. She and seven key youth leaders have formed a committee to strategize ways to widen their reach in more schools across the state. Their goal is to assist students and youth leaders in making their voices heard as they communicate their faith.
“My focus in ministry is seeing students step out of their comfort zones to share the love of Jesus with others,” says Jessica. “There is no greater joy for an individual than to lead a friend to Christ.”