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The Impact of Encouragement

The Impact of Encouragement

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Evangelism, missions, students. “Those three words have been the fulfilling of God’s calling on my life over the last 20 years,” says Bradly Keller. Originally imprinted on his heart as a college student, God reminded Keller of those words after becoming a U.S. missionary with Youth Alive.

“Today, evangelism is at the forefront of everything I do. I have the joy and honor of challenging students to step out and trust God, and I get to encourage them to be on mission on their school campus as they share Jesus with their friends,” he says.

THE JOURNEY

“Growing up, my church had a huge youth ministry of one — me” Keller laughs. Even without others his age at church, the small congregation in Taylor, Nebraska, was full of mentors that greatly encouraged him in his walk with the Lord. This encouragement continued when Keller felt called into ministry at age 12 during a summer youth camp.

“From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be in youth ministry for my entire life,” he says.

Keller notes that many of the major moments in his walk with Christ happened at youth camp, from his ministerial calling to the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

After attending Central Bible College, he and his wife, Kari, were living in New Jersey when they were approached about moving back to Springfield, Missouri, to become youth pastors at Evangel Temple.

“Originally, I said no. But I was asked to pray about it, so I did — we ended up moving to Springfield,” he laughs. “I really didn’t think I would spend my entire ministry in Missouri, but here we are!”

Seven years later, Keller prayed for guidance yet again after he was asked to become a Youth Alive missionary. He decided that God was calling him to pursue Youth Alive and became a fully appointed missionary in 2005 following encouragement from the district youth director and six months of prayerful consideration.

EVANGELISM — STUDENTS

Early in Keller’s time with Youth Alive, he led 18 school assemblies within the span of seven days, one of which had over 3,000 students in attendance and 300 salvations.

Yet, the size of the crowds is not what’s most important to Keller.

“The greatest moments are when you get to see the lightbulb come on for a student or youth minister; when they understand that evangelism can still happen on school campuses,” he explains.

Keller considers encouraging and equipping students to evangelize their local schools one of the main facets of his ministry.

He explains, “It isn’t about Bradly Keller. God can use anyone to share the gospel. It’s ultimately the Word of God that impacts.”

Jeremy Wyatt, with Missouri Youth Alive, states, “Brad’s heart is leading students to reach their public schools.” He remembers how Keller has driven hours to support students and be at their Youth Alive campus club’s opening meeting. “He will do anything to help students take the next steps.”

Michael and Anna Machmeyer have worked with Keller for the past 11 years, helping to create curricula, plan events such as Engage the Campus, and work to improve the technical aspects of Youth Alive.

“The school has always been a huge mission field, so when Bradly asked us to join Youth Alive it was a no-brainer,” says Anna, who is a former teacher.

When reflecting on their favorite part of Youth Alive, Michael had one answer: “Brad. I have never met someone so passionate about seeing students and leaders reached.”

Anna agreed, “We knew him when we were students, and he is still the man he was back then. Even more so!”

EVANGELISM — YOUTH MINISTERS


Keller explains that, as a missionary, he is one step removed from the student. “Everything that I do is about empowering the leaders of the local church and helping them encourage students.”

“As a youth pastor, Youth Alive really helped me,” says Wyatt. He says that Youth Alive provides leaders with the resources they need to help students empower other students to reach their schools. “Having someone come alongside and lead me as I lead students is so special.”

Mentoring, supporting and leading youth pastors is a role that Keller had not originally thought he would take on 20 years ago; however, he explains that he has found a great passion in this area of his ministry over time.

“I am here to instigate and help leaders understand that they can do this,” he says. “It is so cool to see people who were students when I started, become leaders and be able to help them in their new role.”

MISSIONS

One of the challenges Keller faces when encouraging students to be missions minded in their schools is helping them overcome fear. To help fight the fear of rejection or looking foolish that many students feel, Keller encourages them to remember that we have a powerful partner in the Holy Spirit, a partner that gives us boldness and empowers us.

“I want to see students encouraged, equipped, and empowered to reach other students,” he says. “If they don’t open the door, then Jesus doesn’t have the opportunity to step in.”

It is also important for students to remember that evangelizing does not have to mean standing in the hallways and preaching to anyone who will listen. It begins with building relationships and having conversations, then stepping back and allowing God to do the rest. “I cannot put the salvation of someone’s friend on their back. It is all about Jesus,” Keller explains.

Josh Fong, who was president over his Youth Alive club in high school and currently works with Keller for Missouri Youth Alive says, “Students are just as called to be on mission as their youth pastors, and Bradly is intentional about making them know that.”

Keller and his team recently ran a student rally at a public school in Norwood, Missouri.

“It all happened because a young student understood that she could impact her school,” he says. “She really made it happen.”

Out of the 200 students who currently attend the school, 175 went to the rally and eight stepped forward for salvation!

“The miraculous moments are when a follower of Christ steps into their call and makes a difference,” Keller says.

Beyond students, Keller wants to help youth pastors understand the great opportunity to encourage students and reach their school.

“I want to help get a fire started,” he says. "I want the church to realize that they CAN do something. Then, I resource that fire.”

STUDENTS

“It is not a challenge to understand that Gen Z is the most anxious, hopeless, needy, and hurt generation,” Keller states. Who is going to step up and minister to them?”

The need for people reaching students is great with 80% of people in the United States who come to know Jesus accepting salvation as a teenager.

“Young people are actively searching for more,” Keller says. “Let’s show them the supernatural they’re looking for and begin to take advantage of the power the Holy Spirit gives us.”

One out of six people in Missouri either attend or are employed by the school system, making public school campuses one of the best places to reach students for Christ.

Keller tells the story of Catherine who walked her high school’s hallways in her junior year and prayed for her peers and teachers; however, she knew she wanted to do more to impact her school. Her senior year she worked to lead three school rallies with live worship, food, and opportunities to share the gospel.

“Because of her, students came to know Jesus in Springfield, Missouri,” Keller enthuses. “I love it when students get it and change their communities.”

YOUTH CAMP

Influences like social media, negative home and school environments, and other pressures teenagers face daily, can wear on a student’s relationship with the Lord. Ministries like youth camp gives students a chance to fully focus on Christ.

“When Jesus went into the wilderness, He separated Himself and received an opportunity to hear from the Father,” Keller says. “Youth camp takes us out of the normal and places us into a place to hear from the Lord.”

Similar to Keller, Michael Machmeyer felt called into youth ministry during a youth camp service and has been involved in youth ministry since 2002. The Machmeyers also spend a few weeks during the summer working with Southern Missouri youth camps, the same camp he attended as a teenager.

“Camp is all about helping students have that ‘Aha!’ moment,” Michael says. “Seeing students experience the same God I experienced years ago at camp is so special.”


CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY

Over the past two decades, Keller has learned to appreciate the Ephesians 4 model of ministry, equipping and empowering other believers to do more for God through the gifts He supplies. He also knows that student ministry is essential, now more than ever.

“I believe that with great challenge comes great opportunity, which is a sentiment I think I stole from Spider-Man,” he smiles. “But it’s true! Youth ministry is experiencing very challenging times, but the opportunity has never been greater.”

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