Christian high school students were challenged this week by The Friends of Israel to consider giving their lives to vocational ministry – a big push in church culture these days.
The Friends of Israel, an organization that focuses on ministry in Israel, held its annual Youth Ministry Fest at Gull Lake Ministries in Hickory Corners, Mich. The event ended Thursday.
In light of a recent Barna group study which found that “three out of every five young Christians (59 percent) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15,” the youth fest was especially important for Friends of Israel Church Ministries Representative Tim Munger.
He helped run the 5th annual three-day event this year and told The Christian Post that the key to keeping young people in church is growing their relationship with Christ and giving them ways for God to use them. He said many young people reject their parents’ faith, or the faith they grew up with, because they haven’t seen it demonstrated.
But, Munger said, YMF brings an element of accountability to students. It is also “built around the Bible,” he said. Instead of having the typical elements of a youth retreat – with teaching being built around the fun and entertainment aspects – Munger said the first thing they focus on with the students at YMF is their “walk with the Lord and how they can start considering ministry as a vocational choice.”
Some of the practical ways they do this is by inviting foreign, medical and regional missionaries to the event to tell students about their work and calling. During the event, five small group sessions allowed students to speak directly with the missionaries and ask them questions.
They also encouraged students to pray about what God would have them do in the future.
Munger said that from the very first session he tells students to start asking God to answer whatever specific need they have in their life – whether it be about their vocation or just about serving God in their everyday lives.
One of the attendees told Munger that “God used YMF to confirm for him that God was calling him to be a pastor.” Another young woman attended YMF during its first session five years ago and came back again this year. She said that because she attended she began thinking about going into ministry and next month she is leaving for a short-term mission trip to China.
The Methodist Church, like Friends of Israel, is also taking steps to reach its youth. They recently held a conference to help young people start thinking about vocation and ministry within the church. Nearly 700 people attended Exploration 2011 last month.
CP reported earlier that within the past 10 years, the Methodist Church has focused on encouraging young people to join the ministry because of declining numbers within the denomination.
A 2011 report from The Lewis Center for Church Leadership found “elders between ages 55 and 72 [comprised] 52 percent of all active elders, the highest percentage in history.” The number of young people joining the clergy has grown slightly in the last 10 years, but church leaders would like to see more youth involved.
Friends of Israel is also looking to challenge more youths. The group has a second YMF planned for Feb. 24-26, 2012, in Arizona. The event will again encourage high-schoolers to consider vocational ministry.
Friends of Israel was founded in 1938 to help Jewish people escape from the Nazi Holocaust. Their mission today is “to stand against every form of anti-Semitism and support the right of the Jewish people to live in their ancient homeland, Israel.”