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As the world continues to vie for the attention of the younger generation, the Assemblies of God is one of the few U.S. denominations where young people are flocking. Statistics indicate approximately 40 percent of the Fellowship's more than 3 million adherents are 25 and younger.

"The Assemblies of God has historically done a good job of keeping the focus on the next generation," says Scott Berkey, children's pastor at Victory Worship Center (AG) in Tucson, Arizoma, and former national director of the Children's Ministries Agency. "When that comes from the top, it trickles down in different ways and in different capacities all the way to the local church level."

Now more than ever, Berkey says parents are doing their homework before they walk into a church with their families and choosing ones that place special emphasis on children. If the church is doing its job by helping children feel connected, then it's the children who will bring their parents back to the church, says Berkey.

"Today's parents predominantly go where their kids want them to go," Berkey says. "The buying power kids have today is unlike any generation before them, and the same holds true as to where they go to church."

Mark Entzminger, senior director for AG Children's Ministries, says this need for connection is of vital importance to children.

"Kids today want to belong and have a place where they fit in and are welcomed, loved, and accepted for who they are," Entzminger says. 

In addition to a nurturing environment, Entzminger says the AG is reaching a hands-on generation, and teaching methods should reflect this whenever possible.

One of the Fellowship's most successful evangelistic outreaches for children, MEGA Sports Camp, gives evidence of this trend. MEGA Sports Camp allows the worlds of sports and faith to collide with positive results. Entzminger says this Vacation Bible School-style outreach typically attracts children who aren't Christians or who come from an unchurched background. The result is often a number of families getting plugged into a local congregation.

When reaching those outside the church, Berkey says it's important to be strategic and create an environment where people want to come and experience why a church is different from other community children's events.

"What separates us from those events is the love of Jesus Christ," Berkey says. "The people in our churches are interacting and sharing the love of Christ with children."

After establishing a foundation built on the love of Christ, children then graduate into local youth ministries. Heath Adamson, senior director for AG Youth Ministries, says the Spirit-empowered gospel is what speaks to their hearts.

"We're firm believers that the most relevant thing today truly is the presence and the drawing of the Holy Spirit," Adamson says. "He always communicates in a language everybody understands, and it is His presence that becomes the impetus that crosses those invisible borders that separate generations."

Adamson says this movement of the Spirit was never intended to remain within the four walls of the church. Through the campus ministry of Youth Alive, students are intentionally being equipped to be salt and light in their schools and to identify key moments they can live out their faith, whether it's in science class or walking down the hall at school.

The goal, Adamson says, is for Youth Alive campus missionaries to not necessarily tell everybody about what they believe, but to have the courage to listen to somebody's story and, through the interaction of the Holy Spirit, allow God to open a door for them to share God's story.

The hope of the ministry is that the participating students will make an impact on the lives of those around them regardless of where their paths take them. Students not only make a difference; they become the difference.

Jay Mooney, executive director of COMPACT Family Services in Hot Springs, Arkansas, (AG) knows all too well the importance of being the difference in the lives of children and youth, particularly those in crisis.

Mooney says a child or youth who comes through the door of COMPACT immediately is shown the love of Christ. Mentors model consistent discipline and love.

Love was what greeted a 19-year-old woman from South Carolina who described herself as a scared, broken child when she stood on the doorstep of COMPACT's Highlands Maternity Home.

Molested as a young girl, she suffered from a sexual addiction that left her unmarried and pregnant; however, she says it was the love of God that changed her life.

From day one, Mooney says caregivers work with troubled children and youth from every angle to influence their lives and heal their wounds by ministering to their whole person — body, soul and spirit.

Such was the case with this young woman, who has ultimately come to experience God's grace and forgiveness.

"It's crazy how God ordered my steps," she says. "Highlands is where God began to turn my life around, and now God is walking me down the road so I can be who He's called me to be."

She is currently enrolled in school and has plans to pursue her credentials to become an AG missionary.

"It was just amazing the love that they had for me," she says. "They loved me past my attitude, and they loved me past my sin. They showed me how Christ sees me."

With this simple, yet timeless message, AG children's and youth ministries are successfully reaching out to and impacting a generation marked by constant change and advancement. 

"At the end of the day, love works," Adamson says. "Walking with Christ works."

Author: Shannon M. Nass, Pentecostal Evangel

 

 


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Celebration Service wraps up Louisville 2012

Mon, 13 Aug 2012 - 4:20 PM CST

Celebration Service 2012
Steve Pulis, student outreach director, and Chet Caudill, student missions director, announce presentations during the Celebration Service held Friday in Louisville.

Approximately 13,000 students attended the National Youth Convention and the 50th National Fine Arts Festival in Louisville from August 6-10. Friday evening, after three and a half days of presentations, evaluations and callbacks, the week culminated with the Celebration Service.

"We saw some incredible student talent as they exalted Jesus through their gifts Friday night," says Rod Whitlock, student discipleship director.

Winners of the Assemblies of God National Award of Merit, Award of Excellence and Honorable Mention trophies in 96 Fine Arts and Kappa Tau categories were announced and many of the students were able to deliver their presentations on the KFC Yum! Center stage Friday night.

Excitement and anticipation naturally filled the air as students learned if they had placed in the top three or even won the category — and would be performing center stage. Yet, despite the months of hard work and drive for excellence, those chosen as Award of Merit winners Friday evening, presented with humbleness and grace.

Rhea Williams from Valley Christian Center in Dublin, California, received Award of Merit in Piano Solo and was the first to perform on stage.

When asked how students can develop their ministry gifts, Williams says, "Honestly, this is not really a performance for anybody. I always think of this as only worship. We're only worshiping our God. In everything you do, whether it's playing an instrument, whether it's singing, whether it's speaking, whether it's dancing, always do it in excellence because our God is such an amazing God. He will be so pleased if you do it in excellence."

Fifteen-year-old Yanelly Terrazas, the Vocal Solo, Spanish Female Award of Merit recipient from Living Water Christian Center in El Paso, Texas, says "[Fine Arts] means a lot to me. God has blessed me with so many blessings because when I was little the doctor told me, ‘this girl is not going to be able to sing because she cannot reach notes.' I had asthma and with asthma you cannot do that. When I sang to him he was like, ‘Wow, wow, this girl can sing.' I started praying. I went through some stuff and God really blessed me. I don't have asthma anymore. It has been seven years since God cured me. I'm able to sing up here and present Fine Arts to the church and people of God."

Student presentations worshipped God and their words spoke to their peers. After delivering his award-winning sermon, Austin Beshuk from First Assembly of God in Jefferson City, Missouri, told the audience why he loves Fine Arts.

"I first did Fine Arts when I saw two people from my youth group do Fine Arts and come back on fire for God, it was amazing and I wanted that," he says. "So I came to Fine Arts and I learned to love God and it was awesome way to serve Him and worship Him." Beshuk is the 2012 Award of Merit recipient for Short Sermon Senior.

Two students received special honors in addition to winning a National Award of Merit in their categories. Lucas Menzies from Eden Prairie (Minnesota) Assembly of God won the National Award of Merit in Songwriting. He also received a  scholarship to sarahkellymusicschool.com and a fully produced demo. Alex Pylypiv from Bethel Temple in Parma, Ohio, won the National Award of Merit in Guitar Solo as well as a custom-made guitar from Noel Rosa and New Sound Acoustics.

For a full list of the National Fine Arts Festival results including the Top 10 in each category, click here.

Authors: Jennifer Taylor

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