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Talking God to School



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Have you ever wished that school could be more than going to class and studying? Well it is—it’s your life. When you think about it, most of your opportunities to get involved in activities such as sports, drama, school publications, and music performances are all centered around school. And where did you meet most of your friends? Probably at school!

That’s why I, as a youth pastor, like to spend a lot of time at the schools the teens in my youth group attend. During a typical week I spend most of my time at Lodi Adventist Academy in Lodi, California, teaching art, coaching the praise band, and preparing student speakers for chapel talks, etc., because that’s where most of the kids from my church go to school.
 
It’s also really important to me to visit young people I know on public school campuses too. I’ve been visiting students at Tokay High for years, which is right across the street from my church. I just kind of hang out for lunch.
 
Last year God opened the doors for us to take over Tokay High’s Christian Club, and it was an amazing year! Two years ago, the Christian Club sponsor quit because students would be excited about the club at the beginning of the year and maybe 30 students would attend the lunch-time Bible study each week, but a few months into the school year attendance would dwindle down to only a handful, as interest waned and students’ lives got busier.
 
After a year without a Christian Club on Tokay’s campus, I found a faculty sponsor and officially took over the club. Even though  the students I knew from my church comprised most of the Christian Club, we invited any Christian from any denomination to join us. We advertised in the school bulletin and by word-of-mouth. We started the year with nine students involved, and we ended the year with more than 50! I think what made the difference was turning the club’s focus from purely study to fellowship and creating community.
 
I found that most kids don’t want more homework during their lunch break. So we start our meetings each week by “checking in,” going around the circle, giving everyone a chance to talk about what is going on in their lives and to share prayer requests. It’s how we got to know each other and support each other on a personal level.
 
The second way we built community is by reaching out to the campus at large with our Web ministry, www.peace4youth.org. Check it out! Our club members witness by going around campus handing out colorful silicon wristbands that have our Web site address on them. They tell their friends and classmates they can go to this Web site to “find peace in a mad world.” It offers pages on basic spirituality, devotional stories, poetry written by youth, mission trip reports, videos, and a link to our online social network at myspace.com/peace4youth.
 
After a student receives a wristband,  they can go to www.peace4youth.org to find information regarding club meeting times and other off-campus social and spiritual events.
 
In addition to our weekly meetings and the Web site ministry, we also have a monthly Pizza and Prayer Evangelism Event. I bring 10 pizzas for each of the school’s two lunch periods. Then students go out in teams of two—one with pizza, and the other with pen and paper. They go around the campus, offering to give slices of pizza for prayer requests. Each Pizza and Prayer Evangelism Event generates dozens of requests for prayer on serious topics that range from drug addiction to cancer.
 
The Tokay High Christian Club’s objective to focus on reaching out and building community has made a huge impact on students. Here’s what Josh Tenborg has to say about our club.
 
Josh’s journey
 
“After a long hour in PE, I change into my regular clothes and walk outside. It’s almost time for lunch, and it’s Tuesday. Instead of hanging out with all my friends from football and class, I go to the bleachers near the tennis courts. Pastor Scott Ward is sitting there with his hood on as he types away on his computer. Soon more people come and sit with Pastor Scott and me. We all laugh together and talk about our past week. This is our Christian Club meeting at Tokay High School.
 
“This Christian Club isn’t in-your-face Christianity, and I think it is one of the many reasons why so many people come to hang out during lunch on Tuesdays. It’s not just freshmen or sophomores who attend, either—it’s all students. The diversity of students offers awesome ideas on how to reach out in our community and our school.
 
“When my dad died in December of 2006, I got quite angry with life, and I searched for something to relieve my anger. I played sports, and that helped a lot. I had a supportive coach who really respected my desire to keep the Sabbath holy by not competing on that day. Then Pastor Scott refounded the Christian Club, and I became a club officer. It’s the place to be, and we are like family!
 
“We pray for each other, and we help each other. It’s good to know that we have respect for each other, and we can be in tune with God but have a good time too. I think it is so awesome that we can have this club in a public school and reach out to the world.”
 
My journey to find God
 
I love school campus ministry so much because of the way it impacts students like Josh. I just wish someone had done this for me when I was a student.
 
My parents took me to Sabbath school and church every week of my life, and they sent me to Christian schools for most of my education. They did everything that the Seventh-day Adventist Church recom-mended. My pastors were good pastors, my teachers were good teachers, and my church family was close-knit.
 
Yet after three years of Christian college, I left the church—not in a grand rebellion, I just drifted away from the church and into the world along with many of my Christian friends. I drifted further and further into the public university lifestyle so common in the world. I went from one party to the next, and from one form of entertainment to another.
 
When my friends asked me if I was religious, I answered, “I grew up a Seventh-day Adventist, but I’m not practicing what my church believes right now.”
 
Then they’d ask what my church believes, and I’d say, “They don’t drink,  smoke, go to movies, play cards, or eat pork, shrimp, or lobster. And they go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday, just like the Bible says. By the way, when you die, you don’t go straight to heaven or hell. You just go to sleep until Jesus comes.”
 
That’s what my church meant to me at that time. I had no concept of a personal relationship with Jesus, and I’d never read my Bible outside of church and Bible class. My religion was a list of rules and beliefs that were unattached to any deeper meaning. It was merely a lifestyle.
 
The partying seemed great at first. But after a few years “in the world,” I couldn’t handle the guilt of it anymore. I determined to pursue God until I found Him.
 
Today I praise God that He saved me from myself and my poor choices. He and I have  an awesome relationship now. I just wish I could’ve avoided going down that wrong path I took. It seems so sad to me that during my two years at a public high school and my two years at an Adventist academy that there weren’t any spiritual activities that I could really connect with—and no outreach activities, either. For some reason God and school seemed like two separate, unrelated things.
 
I believe this is why God has given me so much opportunity to start campus-based youth ministries. I have now started peace4youth campus clubs at both public high schools in the town where I live, and I  meet with the students I know at all three Christian high schools, too.
 
Other youth pastor friends of mine are starting clubs at public high schools in other cities nearby. I think it’s the wave of the future, because I believe God should be a part of the thing that your whole life revolves around—your school.
 
Why not take God to your school? It’s easier than you think and more rewarding than you can imagine. Check out www.peace4youth.org. If you want to start a club at your school, I’ll be glad to help you, and so will God!
 
Pastor Scott Ward has been working in youth ministry for a total of 17 years. His  prayer is, “That God will make public high school ministries spring up across the entire United States!” His hobbies are his family, construction projects, and mission trips.
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Comments


Shawnella
This story is very touching. When I read it, my heart was like, "Wow". Like, it's really deep of how Christians work together these days. We unite as one!
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Jack
one of the MAIN reasons that i have a blog, is to rceord things, that i would never put down on a piece of paper (because, i'm just stupid like that, sometimes). i love the ability to come to my computer, no matter where i am, and i can put down a funny joke, or a story about jr., or a silly comment in time, and i hope to have it forever. in some form, or another.:computer:
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