Tonight was the SYI talent show! Many different talents were showcased! Comedy, singing, playing the flute, guitar, skits, poetry, and improv. There were many moments of smiles and laughs!
Being a teenager is hard. Being a Christian teenager is even harder.
In high school, I thought being a Christian was supposed to make my life easier, not harder. Thus, when challenges occurred I thought God did not love me or I had done something wrong.
I had wacky theology, and really needed an authentic and wise Christian to mentor me. Kids long to be loved and accepted. God can be the answer to this, but only if they know about his love.
In public schools, most students are not Christians. Without noticing it, the people, the media, and the world around you will begin to conform and influence you. They tell you how to act, how to look, and who to be.
In order to avoid this, one has to make Jesus, the church, and their faith, their own. If not, the seduction of the world will pull one in.
In high school, I did not make Jesus my own and was pulled into the world. I called myself a Christian, but I had yet to fully surrender my life to God. I did not fully understand why nothing in this world was satisfying me.
I followed my peers hoping to find satisfaction, but nothing made me feel complete. I journaled, “Will this ever end? The feeling of never being satisfied. Nothing is ever perfect, nothing is ever peaceful. Never, do I feel complete.”
I knew something was missing, and that was a personal relationship with Jesus.
Jesus was the solution to my emptiness. I want to encourage you to: Pursue Jesus. Read the Bible. Find other Christians, they do exist I promise. Surrender your life to Jesus, and you’ll find more satisfaction than anything else this world can offer you.
Sadly, today is the last day of SYI. We have been so busy this week! On Wednesday, the staff had the day off and walked around Pittsburgh. We visited the Downtown Strip Market and the Point Park Fountain. While we were touring Pittsburgh, the scholars had a busy day as well! They shadowed pastors at Pittsburgh East Liberty, Eastminster, and Hot Medal Bridge Church. After that they took a group walk to a coffee shop and the park. It was nice to know that the scholars had become such great friends that they no longer needed us! Then we had dinner, small group, worship, and a spoken word session with Becca Dix.
SYI 2014 is almost over. This thought is very sad for the scholars, RAs and staff. What a great two weeks it had been. The scholars have grown closer to God, closer to each other, and have learned more about who they are and who God has called them to be. Transitioning back home after SYI can sometime be challenging for the scholars.
To help with the transition, here are 5 things to know:
- The kids will be exhausted. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired.
- They will really miss their friendships. Two weeks may seem like a short amount of time, but lifelong friendships can be formed.
- Allow them to rest and relax when they get home. We know how badly you want to hear about their experiences, but give them time to rest and then they will want to tell you.
- Express interested in their stories. Tell them that you want to hear about everything, but that you understand they might be drained. Let them know that you are there to talk whenever they want. Be intentional, yet give them space.
- When they want to talk, ask them questions to help them process.
Here are some sample questions you can ask you son or daughter:
- How were the friendships that you made?
- What did you talk about in your classes?
- How was small group?
- What did you get to see in Pittsburgh?
- What fun things did you get to do?
- Did SYI help you figure out who God made you to be and what God called you to do?
In high school, I called myself a Christian, but this just meant I went to church every sunday. I believed in God and I knew Jesus died for me, but I did not know what that meant. I thought I was a good person. I thought doing good is what got me into heaven. I was a cultural Christian.
I gave a horrible rep to Jesus and other Christians. I was not living out Christ’s love. I was rude, I gossiped, and I would push the boundaries and try and get as far as I could.
I had everything wrong. I was a horrible example of Jesus’ love and life change, because I hadn’t experienced it yet.
I wanted to be normal and fit in. If I honestly was following Jesus, I would not have been normal or fit in. That is the life of a teenage authentic Christian. In a public school, surrounded by non-Christians and non-authentic-Christians, an authentic Christian will have many challenges.
It was not until college, that I surrendered my life to Jesus. I realized how hard it is to be an authentic Christian in this world. When you are following Jesus, you are going against everything the world, media and your peers say and do. To do this, you have to be so sure and set in your faith.
So, what is the solution? I’m not sure. I do believe it is so important to find other Christians to experience community, find a place to fit in, and be your Jesus loving self. Find a gospel centered church where you can grow in your faith, ask questions, and experience authentic Christianity.
The pull of the world is so strong, and if you do not make your faith your own now and experience the love and life change of Jesus, the world will pull you away from Jesus and your faith. You can make the decision now to follow Jesus for the rest of your life.
Last night we had the privilege of listening to Dr. Rev. Don McKim talk about our calling. We sat around the table, family dinner style, and listened to Don talk about how our primary calling is to glorify God in all we do.
Then this morning we got to hear Chris preach about how we can be reminded of God everywhere we are! We can see God in nature because of our faith!
“What do you want to do when you grow up?”
This is most common asked question to a teenager or young adult, and the most hated. In high school, kids are 14-18 years old. At such a young age, it is challenging to completely know the answer to this question.
During my 10th grade year of high school in Monroeville, I started to get the call that God wanted me to go into ministry. What ministry has meant to me has changed over the years, but I knew two things: that I wanted to help people and that God was pretty cool. Combining those two things seemed perfect.
When I was asked that question, I felt embarrassed to share with others my heart’s desire for my career, so I would always reply, “Orthodontist.”
This was the safest way to go. If I would say, “I don’t know.” Then, I would get additional questions, “Well, what is your favorite subject? Did you like math? How about teaching? Etc…”
These questions never helped me make any decision. Thus, I realized the safest thing to do was reply, “Orthodontist.” There were no follow up questions, just a nod of agreement and maybe an encouraging statement.
For a high schooler, it is extremely difficult to fully trust God with this subject. It is difficult to share with others when you are not 100% sure that this is what you will spend the rest of your life doing. Students also worry about what others will think of their choice. I worried people would not understand or they would try and talk me out of it.
SYI provided a safe place for students to discuss a call into ministry. There were many opportunities to ask questions, talk to peers, and begin to start trusting God with this decision.
When I was thinking about going into ministry, I believed the lie that one had to be perfect. I questioned, “How could I help people in their walks with God when I was not perfect?”
It is common to respond to God’s call for one’s life and say, “I’m not qualified.” My response now is, “Well what is qualified? Name one person in the Bible who was qualified.”
Abraham lied about Sarah. Moses stuttered. Jonah ran away from God. Peter denied Jesus. The disciples fell asleep while praying. And there are more examples found all through scripture!
As you go through the process of figuring out your call, remember that God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
During free time, the staff and scholars have been exploring Pittsburgh! Above is a photo at a local coffee shop.
Throughout the week we have been talking about different forms of worship. Above is some of our staff and scholars jamming to one of our new favorite Needtobreathe songs!
Derek has been preaching each morning about a different Christian symbol. Today we talked about the baptismal fount and the communion table.
In 2011, I was a scholar at SYI. Going into the program, I had no idea how much I would learn and grow. Understanding how powerful Jesus’s death on the cross was for our sins was my biggest takeaway.
One night in small group, we had a powerful activity that showed us this truth. Here is what happened:
We walked into a PTS classroom and our two small group leaders, Cassandra and Katie, were sitting on one side of the room. They had serious expressions and told us to sit on the other side of the room.
The mood was quiet and serious, unlike anything our group had experienced before. We usually always start off the group with laughter and funny stories from our day. This time was different.
Cassandra told us we were in a court room and she was the judge. We thought we were in trouble. Shen began to read the 10 commandments, and said to write down our sins that came to mind after each commandment was read.
At the end, she took each of our papers in exchange for a folded up paper. Slowly opening it, our punishment was revealed.
Nothing. Blank. Empty. White. Clean. Pure.
We looked around, unsure what was going on. Cassandra began to fill us in, “The paper represents what we look like to Jesus after he takes away our sins. He wiped us clean and gives us a blank sheet of paper.”
While we were in shock, our other leader Katie walked to each person and ripped up the paper that person had written her sins on. She said your sins have been forgiven and ripped it up. Our group had never been so silent.
Jesus forgave us and wiped us clean. I will never forget the imagery that this evening put in my mind. This night at SYI, I began to better understand the purpose of Jesus’s death and the way he wipes us clean of our sins.