When Youth Get Fired Up
By Carl Stagner
Laura Numeroff’s popular children’s book suggests that “if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.” In the church, if you give youth a reason to get fired up, they’re going to ask for an opportunity to change the world. Young believers at First Church of God in Welch, West Virginia, are driven to make a difference, and the congregation and the community are feeling the impact.
When Ed Todd accepted the pastorate at First Church, he recognized the incredible heritage of the congregation, characterized by years of committed teaching, service, and giving. He describes the original call of the church as one that brings people to Christ and meets the needs of the community. The youth of First Church have embraced this call. For the church and the community, the spiritual fervor of the youth is nothing short of contagious.
Small churches sometimes come to believe that their limited resources preclude them from reaching out. Pastor Todd insists that leaders in small churches can make strides toward community visibility. “I find ways to get involved,” he explains. “I’m connected with different groups, even with the mayor. You want everybody to know that we have a church that cares for you. I try to do whatever I can to be in the community.” But the youth group is proving to be the greatest resource of all.
The youth group at First Church is one of the greatest motivators for ministry at First Church. “The youth group is literally growing by word of mouth. Kids are telling other kids. I’m sensitive to the fact that parents want to know what their kids are doing, so we make sure to invite the parents. Now a good number of kids are inviting their parents to the youth group meetings.” As a result of the youth’s passion for ministry, more and more adults are coming through the doors of the church and hearing the gospel.
When Pastor Todd arrived a few years ago, his son was nine. A certain grandmother and grandfather in the church were bringing their grandchildren to youth, and these grandchildren became friends with Pastor Todd’s son. Friends of friends became friends. The growing youth group needed leadership, and that’s when the grandmother stepped up.
“The kids love her, and the youth ministry has exploded!” Todd explains. “It looks exciting for the future. We saw growth, and we’re still growing.”
Todd shares the story of a youth service project that demonstrated the heart for ministry these students possess. “The youth raised money to go to a grocery store. Each of the kids was given a certain amount of money to go on a shopping trip to pick out groceries. They had to be careful with what they bought in order to fill the up their baskets for meals for the needy. Four hundred dollars’ worth of groceries went to help people living in poverty in our community.”
First Church of God recently celebrated one hundred years of ministry. Because of the Spirit’s work among the youth, the congregation’s next one hundred years looks brighter than ever. And that’s what happens when youth get fired up.