background item #1: three years ago, ys partnered with world vision to create a program called one life revolution. we did this because we’d come accross a study that had shown evangelical christians as the least-likely segment of the american population that would be willing to “give $2 to help an AIDS orphan.” we were disgusted and embarrassed. but we knew teenagers would not stand by, like their parents were, if they knew what was going on. over the last three years, OLR has mobilized 7000 north american youth groups to raise around $2 million for AIDS orphans and widows in Zambia.
background item #2: six years ago, my wife and i started attending a church in san diego (after moving here to work at ys), after searching for almost a year. there are times when we love our church, and times when that’s difficult (mostly over theological issues). but we have felt compelled to stay.
background item #3: young teens (junior highers / middle schoolers) are my life calling. yes, i do lots of other stuff now. but i absolutely love working with young teens, and expect i always will. so, now that my employment is not in a church, as a junior high pastor, my wife and i are both volunteers in the middle school ministry of our church.
the story: this year, our middle school ministry has really caught a vision for one life revolution. and, i really had almost nothing to do with it, which is cool. a few leaders got pumped at the ys convention last fall, and their excitement was contageous with the kids. so, we set this goal to raise $3200 to build one house for a family of AIDS orphans. normally an optimist, i thought it was a large goal for our fledgling middle school ministry. then, the idea was surfaced to do a variety show (acts put on by the middle schoolers) for the whole church, holding it in the main worship center, as a fundraiser. again i was not so sure this would “work”.
long story short: the church got behind this effort more strongly than i’ve ever seen them get behind anything in the youth ministry. we got prime exposure in “big church”, and it was clear that several of the pastors who have nothing to do with youth ministry were jazzed and planning on attending and talking about it to their circles. the students had been giving for about two months, and had already raised over $1000 dollars (their loaves and fishes!). they went into the variety show saturday night really believing that something amazing was going to happen.
result: the variety show was fantastic. over 500 people attended (enough to make the worship center not feel empty at all). there was a palpable level of energy. the acts were — to be honest — quite a bit better than i would have expected! i talked to the crowd early in the show, and mentioned that we were already past our goal, and were at $5400. we knew we could adjust and shoot for $6400 to build two houses instead of one, but we thought it might be cool to hope for $10,000, so we could donate a clean-water well to a community that only had contaminated water (the students were really “pumped” about this idea). we ended the night with $20,350. the church asked us to set up a table in the lobby one more time sunday morning, so they could talk about the variety show and give people one more chance to give. after sunday morning, we ended with $24,000.
we’re blown away. god took the middle schoolers’ (and a few leaders’) little loaves and fish (about $1000 and participation in the variety show), and turned it into 24-grand. now, we don’t know whether to give two wells and a house, or 1/2 of a school, or…