From Isolation to a Thriving Youth Ministry

Johnny_Cabrera-LAI am most thankful for the community of fellow ministers, provided to me by UYWI’s 90 Degrees Certification program.  This program helped me out of the isolation that often sets in for those in ministry, and allowed me to hear from others who are in the same work.  The others in the class; their questions, their insights, their experiences, their successes made all the quality teaching we received much richer, and their failures were all valuable to my own learning.

The first and main thing I have implemented is the creation of a strong vision and mission for my youth ministry.  Soon after the 90 Degrees program ended, I led my own youth leadership team in a vision and mission meeting, where together we crafted the core statements of the ministry, as well as defined our core values and conducted a SWOT analysis.  I have seen a tremendous improvement in clarity and focus, when it comes to what we are about, and it has made a difference in the lives of the students we serve.

We have also taken steps to improve the quality of our programs, particularly our Friday night program.  The planning and execution have become tighter, and communication has become better.  We are even planning on revamping our Youth Room to fit more people and allow for growth.

I am so blessed to say that our youth ministry has experienced growth, both numerically and spiritually.  We have a solid core group of students now, whereas before attendance was very inconsistent and enthusiasm seemed to be low.  I think one of the best signs I have seen of late is that more and more students want to invite their friends to join us, and some of them even come back.

I have also been impressed with the spiritual growth of the students, even in very difficult situations.  Even in a youth group of modest size like ours, we encounter various situations: single-parent homes, kids dealing with homosexuality, violence and fighting, forbidden romance, and youth battling between faith and atheism.  However, I can see the difference it’s making to have a few adults invest in the lives of these students.  There is a solidarity and harmony that has not been present before, and kids are more and more open to giving their lives to God.

Youth Impact

God is a Perfect Father

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Dennis lives with his grandmother, because his dad is in jail, his mother is living on the streets, and his step dad was becoming abusive.  When he came to our youth group last year, he met Blake and they instantly hit it off.  Blake lives with his mom, and has never really known his dad, except that he used to have Blake deliver drugs for him and even tried to sell Blake once to feed his habit.  This past summer, they both joined us for our mission trip, and they encountered their Heavenly Father there.  On the last night of the trip, they both cried together as they were hit with the truth that God is a perfect Father, and that He will always be with them.  This was especially meaningful to me, because I had taken both of these young men under my wing, discipled them, and convinced them to go on the mission trip.

Mentoring Youth Struggling with Sexual Identity

 3At a young age Phil was exposed to gay pornography, and since then he has been confused about his sexuality.  Now in 8th grade, he’s not sure what to think, and he now labels himself a bisexual.  He came out to another 8th grader, and instead of berating him or embarrassing him, this other 8th grader came to me and asked if I could help.  He suggested to Phil that he talk to me about his struggles, and Phil bravely decided he would.  He said he wants to do what is right, and he wants to follow God, but he doesn’t know how to handle his feelings.  He also asked if I would go with him to tell his parents how he feels.  Because of the maturity of this young man who is seeking his identity in Christ, and because of the maturity of a friend who directed him in a positive way, I can now walk with this family through this critical and formative time in their lives. 

Johnny Cabrera, Associate Pastor of Youth and Outreach
Trinity Church of the Nazarene, Monterey Park , CA
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