Hope provides foundation for youth ministry
By: Brad Rowland
“The bridge that gets you from your current destination to your intended reality is hope.” Lt. Colonel William Mockabee’s Thursday morning message included the above passage at the 2018 EQUIP Youth Workers Conference and his words echoed throughout the week.
Delegates from around the Southern Territory descended on Orlando, Florida, for a four-day intensive gathering centered on youth ministry that included breakout sessions and program focuses, all with an eye toward the word of God and breathing it into the lives of young people.
From the early moments on Monday’s opening day, the tone was set, as Boys & Girls Club employees and members of the Blood & Fire Initiative, among others, took part in pre-conference activities. Captain Sarah Nelson, associate territorial youth secretary, then welcomed delegates to the opening general session in the evening with a message of inspiration, focusing on the youth being served across the territory and reminding those in attendance to view each activity through that prism.
The opening evening festivities included a performance from comedy duo “Dave and Brian,” entertaining the assembled crowd with an uplifting message. The pairing reflected on their past ministry, as this visit was part of a farewell tour of sorts, and shed light on their desire to connect with audiences via entertainment, pointing to the myriad of ways to reach out to youth.
On Tuesday morning, Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, spoke to the conference, using a metaphor centered around Play-Doh and the opportunity to mold the lives of young people before their hearts harden. “You may not be able to see it,” Commissioner Howell said. “But you’ve left an impression on the youth you work with. Do not underestimate the value of the impression you leave. Be careful about the impression you leave.”
Later in the session, special guest speaker Bob Johansen led a discussion on hope for the future and encouraged those in attendance to remember that “this is a time for listening.” Just 24 hours later, another guest, Dethra Giles of ExecuPrep, shared an additional uplifting message.
“God has a plan and it is so much better than yours,” Giles said. Throughout her message, she encouraged a mindset of simply letting go and asking God to “bless me,” with an eye toward his plan being perfect.
“It feels hopeless because his plan looks nothing like what you wanted it to look like,” Giles said. And, later, “You cannot do all things. You can only do all things through Christ that strengthens you.”
Throughout the week, breakout sessions were available, in addition to lengthier intensive labs during each full day of the conference. Workshops ranged from a session on anticipatory leadership led by Jeff Wallace, to seminars on classroom management, craftsmanship, operation of sound equipment, the Army’s Safe From Harm program and the ability to share the gospel in a variety of ways.
In addition, a group gathered during the conference, including members of the Territorial Creative Arts Ensemble and instructors Katie Luse and Erin Morgan, to put together a performance of Jesus Theater. The group presented a 30-minute devotional tool set to modern-day music that serves as a window into what is scheduled to roll out at camps across the territory during the summer of 2018.
Luse, who developed the ministry tool in the Eastern Territory, indicated that more than 28,000 children have been documented in accepting Jesus into their lives through the vehicle of Jesus Theater over the last six years. She placed an emphasis on making the gospel come alive as an active experience and, following the performance, it became clear the power and effect that the production can have.
In closing, Lt. Colonel Mockabee’s message to the conference was a fitting end to the overall theme. He asserted that God is in control despite the chaos in the world and provided encouragement.
“Don’t quit,” Lt. Colonel Mockabee told the youth workers. “Don’t break this bridge. Hope is the currency that gets kids from their reality to their intended destination. It depends on you and it depends on me to bring Jesus to these great people.”