John Scott is Youth Director at St. James Presbyterian Church, Truro, Nova Scotia. John has been married for 7 years to his wife, Ruth, and together they have two daughters, Victoria (5) and Ashleigh (3).
Great things can happen when creative minds get together. But a group of Truro, Nova Scotia Youth Pastors found that there is much more than creativity. Each month, the youth workers would get together for breakfast and talk. Occasionally we planned a joint youth rally at one of the churches. We had great fun together but were discouraged when perhaps 70% of the crowd were youth from the host church. Beyond this, we did little to bring in unbelievers to the events.
At the same time, some of us were searching for a group where we could find encouragement and accountability — support in our roles as husbands, dads, church leaders, and Christians. We needed a group with people of like mind, of like interests and passions, a place where any question was open for discussion. We began to meet weekly, without the breakfast. We worshiped together, shared our hurts, joys, frustrations and things that God had taught us in the preceding week. And most importantly, we prayed — for each other, our families, our youth, our congregations, our senior pastors and for the youth of our town. We prayed that God would make a difference through our ministries.
During prayer, we looked to God to do something big. We were uncomfortable in just carrying on doing as we were doing. It wasn't (and isn't) enough to reach the reached. Rick Warren in A Purpose Driven Church, asked "Is it good stewardship to continue badgering someone who has rejected Christ a dozen times when there is a whole community of receptive people waiting to hear the gospel for the first time?" In Truro there are hundreds of teens, who are waiting to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ clearly presented to them. As youth workers, we wanted to be good stewards. Teens of Truro were searching. These teens were not asking that the message of the gospel be changed or diluted… they only want it to be relevant. They needed to hear the truth of salvation. We recognized that we are competing with everything else that is going on in town on a Friday night. We needed to offer something that couldn't be found anywhere else. The teens needed it held in a place that was neutral and presented in a way that is comfortable.
In the spring of 1996, it was decided to do something that would make a difference… not just be different. We planned an event, "High Rock," that would be the best of our collective experiences. Throughout the summer, we prepared it to be held on Labour Day Weekend. Intentionally we pulled it out of the Presbyterian, Baptist, Wesleyan and Catholic churches and held it in an unleased warehouse. The program was filled with anything and everything — worship songs, youth group games, a live Christian band, drama, giveaways (donated by more than twenty local businesses) and instruction in a key principle from the Scriptures.
The first High Rock event worked. There were 150 students from 16 different churches in town, and many who were unchurched. During the remainder of the school year, seven more events were held. Each one was different in many ways, yet alike in the desire to unite youth and present Jesus as the solution to the issues of life.
The more we laboured together, the more we learned. In our experimentation we discovered what worked. We found that there are many athletic uses for Jello. During the talent variety show, we were blown away with the local youth talent. At the Christmas food drive, students had a great time going door to door collecting a couple of tons of food for the food bank. In each event we learned an important truth in various ways… through the arts of drama, story, or video or even in basic discussions and youth pastor talks.
The final High Rock event for the school year was an all night lock-out. It began with a variety night where participants learned a variety of things. We saw that some bagpipers wear pretty boxers under their kilts. We heard our local Liberal candidate tell us she would be willing to arm-wrestle for her seat in Parliament. We discovered that in a Coke/Pepsi/Big 8 taste test, two out of three chose Big 8 soda. And we heard testimonies of youth who have learned tremendous things from God during this past school year. The remainder of the night was filled with watching a movie in the theatre, swimming, bowling and eating pizza. By seven the next morning, some were ready to find a bed anywhere. As a youth leader, an important part of the event was to walk through the streets of Truro and talk with students… listen to the things that are on their mind… the things that are important to them.
Every believer is a minister of the Gospel. We must have a commitment to Evangelism where we reach out to young people with the gospel and bring them to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; in Worship where we guide students to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind and praise God for the awesome things he has done in their lives; in Discipleship teaching believing youth to obey all that Christ has commanded us to do by training and modelling for them what it means to walk in obedience to God; in Ministry where youth are shown how and given opportunities to serve their peers. Through these things God changes lives.
Looking back over the past nine months of this ministry, I can see that there are important things that can happen when churches get together for a common purpose. For High Rock, the purpose has been to clearly present the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who likely may not hear it any other way. Our methods may be unique and will change with every cultural fad. But the message is eternal.