I remember exactly where I was sitting at the back of that crowded gymnasium. Surrounded by hundreds of other teenagers, I awaited the final session of a week-long church summer camp. As a 14 year old who grew up in church, I knew how these things worked. The final session would be filled with moving worship, a passionate altar call and many tears. I was at an interesting point in my life. Most of my Christian experience up to that point could be summed up in three words: “going through motions.” I knew a lot about Jesus, but I didn’t have much of a relationship with Jesus. So there I sat. Waiting for another session to begin and end so I could go home.
But that night, my life was changed forever. For the first time, I understood the gospel of Jesus Christ. I surrendered my life to Jesus and felt a forgiveness that I had never felt before. I knew my life would never be the same from that moment on. I began to read my Bible on my own for the first time. I got involved in genuine community with some Christian friends. I have never been the same since.
Something about summer
There is something about moments with God in the summer that have a way of shaping us. It may be the unbearable heat, the dehydration, or lack of sleep. Or, it may be the Holy Spirit breaking down hard hearts like mine. Whatever it is, God seems to do some of his best work in the lives of young people in the summer. I serve in ministry today in large part due to what God did that night.
Whenever I reflect on that moment in my life, I can’t help but think about all the teenagers in South Florida. I grew up in this community and my heart breaks for all the young people living just like I did: Lost, insecure, going through the motions. What if every single one of them experienced the life changing message of Jesus Christ? What if the young people in our community sparked a revival that spread to every generation? What if God used teenagers to do something incredible?
Reaching a generation
Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. As Jesus began his ministry, He chose twelve men to follow His every move. These men would cast out demons, heal the sick, and launch a global, gospel movement called the church. And oh yeah, most of them were teenagers.
But let’s be honest, the world is much different now than it was back then. Many would say that the next generation seems distracted, lost, and disconnected from faith. Studies show that young people are leaving their faith in Jesus by the millions every year. These stats are heartbreaking.
Most studies refer to this generation of teenagers as “Generation Z.” They don’t know a world without the iPhone, Uber, or Instagram. If you asked a teenager right now what they wanted to be when they grow up, they would likely answer: “A YouTuber.” They are passionate and innovative. Young and energetic. Excited and scared. Looking for clarity in a world of confusion. There is hope for this generation, and that hope is being demonstrated as more and more churches begin to come together, connecting and collaborating to reach this next generation – to call, equip and deploy them out to see faith, hope and love spread throughout their schools and places of influence. The redemption of the next generation in South Florida is just getting started!
Youth Encounter South Florida
Because no single church or youth group can reach this next generation alone, we have come together as a Church United and link arms for the sake of this mission. On July 25 – 27, over 1,000 teenagers will gather from churches across our community for Youth Encounter South Florida. This three-day summer experience gives 6th-12th grade students the opportunity to experience the life changing hope of Jesus Christ. The event includes powerful worship, engaging teachings, breakout sessions, endless fun activities, and more!
So, what can you do? First, please be praying for the Holy Spirit to move and for lives to be changed. I know for a fact that people were praying for me in the summer of 2008, and their prayers led to life transformation. But also, you can invite a teenager to attend the event! Maybe you’re raising a teenager and would love to send them. Maybe you know a teenager in your neighborhood that needs the hope of the gospel. Whatever the case, Youth Encounter South Florida is great opportunity for a young person to come to faith in Jesus Christ!
For more information or to register a student, visit YESF.info. I promise you will not regret it! South Florida community, let’s unite together, collaborate on this mission, pray and rise up and reach the next generation for Jesus!
Javan Shashaty serves in the youth ministry at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. He and his wife Melissa have been married for four years and they have a two year old son named Elijah. They are awaiting the birth their daughter in September. Javan loves spending time with his family, following South Florida sports teams, and playing golf.