I have just finished speaking at a mission conference for five days in rural Tennessee. I spoke in six churches and one prison ministry about our mission work in Vermont. I enjoyed the entire trip, but was especially blessed by one church which used every teen present in the service in some way. Some of them led music, some did other things, but none sat and did nothing. That touched me because so many churches prefer their teens to remain quiet and in the background. To see a church using them in significant ways on a regular basis was a true encouragement to my spirit.
I also enjoyed the time in the prison. We were in a worship service planned and led by a praise team made up of prisoners. The lead guitarist is doing life in prison for killing an entire family. Among the men present was the first person to do a “school killing” a few years ago when we had that stream of high school shootings. Both of those men have come to know Christ in prison. I shared with them for a few minutes about our youth ministry in Vermont and said I hoped that none of my teens joined them in their prison. They cheered and clapped at that, for none of those men want anyone else to walk the same dark path they have walked. I asked them to pray for my wife and I as we try to share the Gospel with young people who have not heard it before. They agreed to do so.
I end my time in Tennessee by rejoicing that a rural church is reaching teens by letting them be involved in the worship service and that a group of hardened criminals are praying for all the teens in our ministry to walk the narrow path to Christ instead of the world. Seems to me that is a good way to end such a trip!