What is the purpose of Youth Ministries? To improve character? To involve students? To provide a positive influence on young lives? Heath Adamson, senior director of Assemblies of God Youth Ministries, believes the answer is found within equipping the Church until all students know Jesus, which they believe will produce three outcomes in Youth Ministry: students who are Gospel-Centered, Spirit-Empowered, and Personally-Responsible.
Adamson has been collaborating with youth leaders and influencers to develop new vision for AG Youth Ministries.
“What we’ve learned is that millennials and homelanders (12 and under), including many students who identify as Christians — even students in AG youth groups — may know the phrase, ‘God is love,’ and do ‘good things,’” Adamson says, “but they haven’t fully embraced God’s Word in a way that provides a spiritual depth to their personal relationship with Christ. Many are what might be referred to as ‘shallow’ Christians, with no spiritual depth. Others have become a part of a growing Judges 2:10 generation.”
The passage in Judges 2:7-10 tells of a generation of Israelites who grew up and did not know the Lord or what He had done for Israel.
Not unlike that generation, Adamson says that in today’s culture it is no longer safe to assume a student has any Bible knowledge — including those in Bible college. “I was in a college Bible class and I asked how many students were merely familiar with the story of David and Goliath — only about half the class raised their hands.”
David Hertweck, who’s 38 and has been the New York Ministry Network youth director for the past 6 ½ years, has a similar observation. “Surveys and studies have been done that show the Northeast as one of the most biblically illiterate regions in the country. Not only is there a biblical literacy crisis, there is a lack of gospel fluency in our youth. Many teenagers see the Bible as good advice and not good news of the gospel.”
District youth directors, youth pastors, and other leaders across the country see this discrepancy both on the district level and local level.
Johnnie Wilson, 47, has served as youth pastor at Faith Assembly in Orlando, Florida, for more than 20 years and ministers to about 1,700 students each week. Wilson is aware of the challenges leaders and students face.
“If kids don’t have more than just a teaching of who God is and what the Bible says, it’s not going to be enough,” Wilson says. “This generation needs a personal Spirit experience with the power of God.” He adds Spirit-empowerment must be more than a concept or something only embraced at church — it has to become a part of students’ everyday lives.
“AG Youth Ministries exists to equip the Church until all students know Jesus,” Adamson says. “It’s about each student being Gospel-Centered, Spirit-Empowered, and Personally-Responsible for the mission of God — in other words, they’ve taken ownership of the Word of God and in personally developing their relationship with God as they live life in the power of the Spirit.”
Too often students are led to believe that reading their Bible, raising money for missions, and “behaving” encompasses Christianity. But with the new core values focused on being rather than doing, a movement has begun to bring generations into a knowledgeable and experiential relationship with Christ.
The goal of helping students become Gospel-Centered, Spirit-Empowered, and Personally-Responsible has impacted every area of AG Youth Ministries, including Speed the Light, Ambassadors in Mission (AIM), Teen Bible Quiz, Youth Alive, and Fine Arts.
“We’re giving youth pastors those three targets for creating disciples,” Hertweck says. “They’re not only the starting point, they are the pathway to transforming a generation for Christ.”
Adamson often speaks the truth that “Jesus isn’t the preferred way, the most relevant way, or even the best way — He’s the only way.” He adds that students need to understand that the Bible isn’t just about salvation and making it to heaven, but salvation is a door, and once someone walks through that door they discover there’s more value that following Christ adds to their life.
“Students need to understand that the Holy Spirit is not a luxury; He’s a necessity in their lives,” Adamson says. “The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t just for preaching, you also receive power for everyday life — helping you love people, achieve good grades, write songs, or even one day sit on the Supreme Court.”
Jade Crook, 24, editor and resource coordinator for AG Youth Ministries says, “Our millennial generation really values authenticity. Rather than just doing what they think a Christian should do, we want students to experience a life transformation after an encounter with Jesus so they can truly demonstrate what the gospel looks like. This new vision identifies what is important and what is distinguishing about our Movement in a way that is biblical, practical, and compelling.”
AG Youth Ministries foresees this vision laying the foundation for the next season of growth. Adamson hopes youth leaders and parents will come alongside AG Youth Ministries and stay focused on what Jesus called them to, so all students will become Gospel-Centered, Spirit-Empowered, and Personally-Responsible for the mission of God — until all know.