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Central Pacific Ministry Network Launches Teen Internship Program to Close Generational Gap in Ministry

Launched in 2013, over 100 teens have been connected to theological training and practical ministry opportunities through the Central Pacific Ministry Network's Teen-Ship program.
Raul Sanchez is a man with double vision. As superintendent of the Central Pacific Ministry Network and visionary for closing the generational gap in ministry, he sees the need to supply the ministerial pipeline with both Latino youth and young adults who are called to serve. He also sees a need to help youth connect with a local church so they’re not absorbed into a godless culture.

Sanchez created a solution for his condition: Teen-Ship for youth and BIT4YA, shorthand for Biblical Intensives in Theology for Young Adults and College Students. Thanks to God’s blessing on these ministry programs, teens and young adults are following God’s call on their lives, both inside and outside the church.

Begun in 2013, Teen-Ship is a summer internship for youth, ages 13-19. In Sanchez’s words, it helps them “gain a better biblical understanding, have a solid theological grasp, and be able to do practical ministry.”

Over 100 teens have gone through Teen-Ship since it started, with an average of 14 participating each summer. The program runs three weeks in early July for two consecutive summers.

BIT4YA is just getting traction. Started in 2023, it is an intensive program for young adults and college students (ages 19-26). It is held over four holiday weekends (Spring Break, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, etc.) to accommodate their work and activity schedules, and it runs two years. By the end of their time with BIT4YA, students will have completed the 22 courses needed for ministerial credentials in the AG.

Last year, approximately ten enrolled in BIT4YA. Based on the interest of young adults for Bible study and ministry opportunities, Sanchez anticipates more enrollments in coming years.

The desire to help youth has been in Sanchez’s heart for a long time. In 2013, he was serving as a church revitalization missionary for U.S. Missions, as assistant superintendent for the district, and as a pastor. That summer he took six teens on a missions trip to El Salvador.

After that missions trip, two of the ten teens enrolled in Teen-Ship, which had already been scheduled for the summer. Simply put, the teens didn’t want to stop. Thanks to their passion for ministry and Sanchez’s strong biblical and educational background, Teen-Ship was launched the same year.

Sanchez’s insight into this age group guided his formation of the program. He used ten classes from Fast-Track, an educational program he created in 2012 under the Center for Theological Studies. By completing such classes as Old Testament, New Testament, and Introduction to Theology, students can meet educational requirements for credentials, and, if they continue further biblical studies, could meet requirements for ordination if they choose that path. Learning is balanced with practical ministry on weekends at food banks, community events, and local churches.

Sanchez, 59, sees great benefits to this approach. “If we can help these kids while they're going through junior high and high school, we'll give them a stronger biblical understanding. We form their theological thinking and even a ministry opportunity if they have a call from God. And as they go through junior high and high school, they will be stronger to stand in their faith.”

Some teens may choose not to pursue professional ministry. Sanchez believes that a person doesn’t have to work at a church to have an impact on their community. He explains, “We're preparing them to live out their faith in whatever contextual call God has for them.”

Emmanuel De La Torre, one of the six teens in the original Teen-Ship, did have a call to professional ministry. He serves as lead pastor at Strong Tower Community Church in San Jose, California. When Sanchez was elected district superintendent in 2022, De La Torre took over as director of Center for Theological Studies, which oversees Teen-Ship, while continuing to pastor.

Now 29, De La Torre was 18 when he went through the program. “I wanted to join Teen-Ship because I received a calling at a young age,” he recalls. “I was hungry to learn more about the Word of God and to get opportunities to serve the network, and also be able to complete the classes required for ministerial credentials.”

In Teen-Ship, De La Torre thrived on being with other believers his own age who shared his passion for ministry. One of them was Sanchez’s son, Nathan, now an associate pastor in Tacoma, Washington. The two have been friends since their Teen-Ship days, and they plan to plant a church together, connected to Strong Tower, by the end of this year.

Despite the good that God is doing through Teen-Ship, Sanchez says it faces financial challenges. The income of Latino families is not as high as that in other communities, so donations and scholarships are critical to cover the costs of teachers, food, housing, and transportation.

But the financial investment in youth is well worth it, and it comes at a critical time. Sanchez says that culture’s educational system is bombarding teens with anti-biblical values, and they must have the tools to survive.

He explains, “If they don't have a solid biblical understanding of theology and God and their identity, and have at least a basic hermeneutical understanding of how to interpret the Scriptures, they are swayed and swept away into activities and lifestyles that are not godly. If we can help our teens, I think our churches will be blessed.”

Sherri Langton

Sherri Langton, associate editor of Bible Advocate magazine and Now What? e-zine, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Focus on the Family, Decision, Upper Room, Today’s Christian Woman, and other publications. Langton, who lives in Denver, also has contributed to book compilations.