I Stand Alone on the Word of God
“I Stand Alone on the Word of God”
Foundation for Youth Ministry
When the Lodge was being built in 2004, then youth pastor Ken Leggett gathered a group of students for a mission. Before the concrete was poured into the footers, the students buried a Bible in the ground at the Lodge. That may sound at first like a crazy youth prank pulled under the cover of night, but the heart behind it represented a serious passion at the heart of Southwood’s youth ministry.
Ken explained to the students then and to many students in the years to come that the importance of that moment was to serve as a reminder that the Word of God is in the foundation of everything we do. It is the solid rock we stand upon and our strong, secure cornerstone. Thanks to that intentional mission over a decade ago, whenever a student, leader, visitor, or pastor opens the Word of God in the Lodge, he is both literally and figuratively standing upon the Word of God.
This foundational commitment to the ministry of the Word of God has always remained a core value at Southwood in general and in our youth ministry in particular. When there is a covenant (infant) baptism at Southwood, the parents are asked three questions, and then one question is put to the congregation: “Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting these parents in the Christian nurture of this child?”
This congregational vow is one the youth ministry takes with great seriousness as a top priority. There are many ways to assist the parents at Southwood and the parents of Huntsville in the Christian nurture of their children. High-Life (Southwood’s youth ministry) focuses on doing so through six core values of partnership, prayer, servanthood and good works, presence, kingdom environments, and the Word.
As one of those six core values, then, teaching, training, living out and equipping the students in the knowledge of God’s Word is a continual driving force of the youth ministry. It is the light unto the dark path that the follower of Christ lives upon and that which we hold to firmly as it endures forever. It is the endeavor of our youth ministry to expose students to the grace of God and encourage them to hear and know God’s Word that they might know his character and faithfulness, know where to rest and unburden, and know how to share God’s story with other broken people like themselves.
Pastor/theologian Eugene Peterson summarizes our heart beautifully: “God has given us his very words, the Bible, so that we may know Him ... The gospel message that’s been entrusted to the saints is the means by which the Spirit gives new life and sustains life. We therefore seek to expose our students to the preached word and teach them how to rightfully study it for themselves.”
Southwood was founded by families who unequivocally saw the value of middle and high school students. In the history of the church, her members have never wavered in supporting the youth ministry and the clear drive and vision to have the students of Southwood and Huntsville experience and express the grace of God. In particular, it has long been a priority at Southwood to have men with a passion for communicating God’s Word and particular training in doing so to lead the youth ministry.
As the opening and teaching of God’s Word teaches, corrects, and draws both believers and non-believers to the heart of God, it is through his very faithfulness that Southwood’s youth ministry is able once again to have a seminary-trained youth director on staff. Peter Render and his family have recently arrived in Huntsville from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, and he will be leading the High-Life ministries.
It is because of the high value Southwood places on the Scripture-based education of the youth of this city that a seminary-trained candidate was prayed for and selected. In the teaching of the Word to the youth, it is vitally important to have one who has himself gone through years of training in God’s Word. In fact, in our culture there may be no age-group demographic in the entire body where deepening one’s rootedness in the truth and grace of God’s Word is more immediately vital.
It’s equally important to recognize, however, that the ministry of the Word remains the heartbeat of High-Life even when Peter is not standing in front of a large group of students and “preaching” the Word. The ministry of the Word also bleeds through each Sunday School lesson, small group meeting, casual conversation, retreat agenda, and prayer for students.
One does not have to be an ordained pastor to be a vessel for the communication of God’s Word to others. In fact, it is a response to the gospel in an adult’s life that the parents, volunteer leaders, and staff would continually point and direct a student to the source of our understanding of God through the reading and study of his Holy Scriptures.
So, another important part of Southwood’s support of youth ministry in Huntsville has been valuing the importance of having youth staff. The deep importance of youth volunteer leaders cannot be overstated. And youth staff long to be an encouragement and helper to the volunteers. Likewise, of course, the deep importance of the parents’ involvement in their students lives cannot be overstated. And youth staff long to be an encouragement and helper to the parents as well.
Together, parents, staff, and volunteers strive to maintain the priority of God’s Word in our own lives as well as in the lives of our students at every opportunity so that the Bible remains foundational well beyond our school years. From infant to elders, may the study of God’s Word be the heartbeat of a believer’s life through which they are sustained and strengthened as well as the means through which they share life with others.