My wife, daughter, and I have just returned from Atlanta where we, along with 60,000 young adults, attended the 2013 Passion Conference. We have been volunteering at Passion since 2005 and it is so exciting to see so many young men and women passionately worshipping God with a desire to serve Him on their campus and in their churches.
This year Passion had a special emphasis on modern day slavery. Today there are 27 million slaves in the world, more than at any other time in history. Slaves produce much of the rice, coffee, and chocolate which we all consume. Slaves are forced to work in gold, diamond and other precious metal mines so that we can have our cell phones and other electronic gadgets. The sex trade is mostly made up of women, girls, and boys that are forced into slavery and kept in it by violence, fear, and intimidation. This is not just in the third world, but right in North America. There are slaves all over the US and Canada, not just in the major cities. At Passion this year, students gave over $3 million to fund 21 different causes to help end slavery.
Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission (IJM) told the conference that the best action one can take against slavery is to become informed about it and to inform others. The vast majority of North America has no clue that slavery still exists today. For more information about this go to the website www.enditmovement.com. Check it out, inform your youth, talk to your church and your community about it.
Experiencing all of this at Passion, I long for my youth back home to also have this kind of passion for Christ. We all know, most youth are passionate about something. Some of my youth here in Canada are passionate about hockey, and they are elated because the NHL finally is beginning to play hockey this year. Some of my farm boys are passionate about farming, posting pictures of the biggest and best new farm equipment on their Facebook pages. Others are passionate about video games, music, horseback riding, and I could go on and on. The frustrating thing as a youth leader is that we see all of this passion for earthly things, but not so much for Christ and his kingdom.
So how do we turn our youth into passionate followers of Christ? First, we have to recognize that it is not something we can do, only the Holy Spirit can do that. As leaders, we have to spend time with, and love on our youth. Meeting weekly with a small group of youth and getting involved in their lives is a good start and can produce amazing results. I did just that a few years ago with a group of guys that wanted a more in-depth study than our youth group had to offer. So we met every Wed night at 5 pm for supper and then Bible study. At 7:30 we then went to our youth group gathering. We came up with a great name “Guys at 5,” (I know, real original) but it worked. That group lasted for two years until they went away to college. These guys had developed a passion to learn more about Jesus and how to live for Him. It was not any great thing I did, but I did give them my time and love, the Holy Spirit did the rest.
I have found in my years of youth work, that youth will get involved and develop a passion for God’s kingdom work if we give them the opportunity. It helps to get them to events like retreats, youth conventions, Christian music festivals, and other events like these where they can get informed and inspired about what God is doing in this world and how they can get connected and get involved. It also helps if you as a leader are passionate about God and have a passionate love for your youth.