Chicago Youth & Family Ministry: Vision for the Future

Written by  Dave Pocta -- Chicago, Illinois Tuesday, 07 April 2009 10:32

We enjoy many blessings as disciples of Jesus. In the Chicago Church of Christ, we also enjoy the sweet fellowship of nearly two thousand brothers and sisters. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of our church and we are now fully experiencing our second generation.

It is exciting to see Anthony and Ionela Testa leading the DeKalb Ministry Center and NIU campus ministry. Anthony grew up in the Chicago Church. His brother Eric married Megan Berndt, who also grew up in the Chicago church. Eric and Megan are on staff, leading the youth and family ministry in the Indianapolis church.

We have seen many of our children grow up and become disciples. God's intention has always been for a multi-generational church. The covenant that he cut with Abraham was to carry on in his descendants.

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Genesis 17:7

The new covenant carries the same promise. Jesus' blood was shed for the generations that would come after him.

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:38-39

As we consider our children, we are moved to invest in a strong and healthy future for them. It is critical that we build our youth and family ministry out of gold, silver, and costly stones. We are keenly aware that they will encounter our common enemy, Satan, and be tested. We know that they live in the world but deeply desire that they not live of the world. With these realities in mind, the Chicago Church of Christ Youth and Family Ministry has been addressing three important building blocks for our children's spiritual development: strong families, spiritual friends, and depth in the Word.

We are blessed to have six elders that serve in Chicago; Jeff Balsom, Phil Lasarsky, Jim Lefler, Randy Harris, Todd Fink, and Mike Rawls. These men have passed on the legacy of faith to their children and now serve to guide us, modeling family principles as taught in the scriptures. God has called us all, as parents, to teach our children how to love our heavenly father.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:5-7

We have also seen a direct correlation between spiritual relationships and the spiritual well being of our teens in the church. The kids that have strong spiritual connections to other kids do much better spiritually than the ones that do not. It is for this reason that we continue to find great value in congregational teen events such as prom, homecoming, WinterBlast, and teen camp. We have all felt the economic times tighten our budgets, but we must maintain a healthy investment in our children's ability to connect with each other at these events. Beth and I have had to save money monthly, starting in December, for our two girls to go to camp because we have seen the value of their relationships in the church. We need to sacrifice for our kids to receive this blessing of connection with their peers.

The third area that we have been developing in the Chicago Church of Christ Youth and Family Ministry is our curriculum to help the teens know the Bible better. Last year was the beginning of a four-year process. Our intention is to develop these lessons to repeat every four years, ensuring that every teen hears the entire curriculum in their four years of high school. The lessons were taught congregationally once a month for the first year and a half on Saturday afternoons. In order to reach more kids that were not able to attend this monthly event, we moved the lessons to the local Ministry Center. I meet with the Youth and Family ministers once a month and teach them the lesson. They turn around and teach it to the teens in their ministry centers. The four-year plan is as follows:

Year 1—Faith and Evidences (2008)

* Lesson 1 - "Why We Trust the Bible"
* Lesson 2 - "Why We Believe Jesus is the Son of God"
* Lesson 3 - "False World Religions"
* Lesson 4 - "False Christian Religion"

Year 2—The Old Testament (2009)

* Lesson 1 - "Understanding the Old Testament"
* Lesson 2 - "The Covenant"
* Lesson 3 - "Life in the Desert"
* Lesson 4 - "Conquering the Promised Land"
* Lesson 5 - "A Contrast of Hearts: King Saul vs. King David"
* Lesson 6 - "What Determines a Life: The Fall of King Solomon"
* Lesson 7 - "Rebuilding Jerusalem: Life after Exile"
* Lesson 8 - "The Time Between the Testaments"

Year 3—The New Testament (2010)

This year will focus on the different perspectives of the gospels, the development of the church, and the life in the Kingdom.

Year 4—Biblical Themes (2011)

We will address the major Biblical themes as revealed in scripture in year 4, such as Temple, Priesthood, Messiah, relationships, etc.

We are also thrilled to be hosting the International Conference of Youth and Family Ministry on April 16th - 18th. Two years ago, in Boston, we had our first conference. As our movement of churches enters its second generation, it has become exceedingly important for us to development this ministry. The Boston event was a smashing success. Youth ministers, elders, church leaders, and parents from around the world were encouraged and fed. There has been great anticipation for our second gathering here in Chicago. The Chicago conference is also including a full parenting component. We will be addressing needs from cradle to campus and have over 90 speakers teaching! It is an amazing honor and blessing to have this international fellowship in our own backyard.

Please continue to pray for our families in the Chicago church. God has truly blessed us and will continue to work powerfully through our children as we pass on our legacy of faith.

This article is courtesy of the Chicago Church of Christ, www.chicagochurch.org.

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