Admittedly, there are times of discouragement in ministry (and in life), and about 10 days ahead of our annual event "Worth It" was one of those times. With a blockbuster line-up of speakers and a fabulous venue booked at Bethany Church in Greenland, NH, we fully expected an overwhelming response to this potentially life-changing—and at least reinforcing to God-honoring-relationships—values conference.
Ten days out, we had 250 registrations and were discouraged. Adding to our disappointment were the "excuses" for not coming, ranging from "we're too busy" to "we're having a fund-raiser for our summer missions trip" to "I don't want to make my kids go and they don't want to."
Really? With the chaos surrounding relationships and the confusion regarding why choosing sexual and emotional purity escalating, it seems that very few things should outrank the importance of spending 1/365th of the year focused on such life-changing tipping points from God's perspective.
Fortunately, we marshaled the prayer forces and by the day of "Worth It" were thrilled to have 410 attendees. Though still short of our hoped-for number, we were really grateful for this great group of teens and parents who placed such a high priority on this important day.
Increasingly convinced that the relationship choices we make pre-maritally have a very big impact on eventual marriage choices, we are more and more passionate about speaking into this generation of teens who have been lied to their whole lives by a virtually godless culture. The messages come at us — fast, furiously, and authoritatively — that the only thing that matters is your personal happiness, however fleeting that may be, and whatever it takes to gain it. The average college-aged woman in our culture (and it goes without saying that men also live this belief) no longer believe that sex and love are connected, and sadly, the Christian community statistically isn't distinctly different in terms of unmarried sexual behavior. Most have resigned themselves to the "if you can't fight 'em, join 'em" mentally and have given up hope that sexual and emotional purity can be lived out.
That's why we do "Worth It."
Because God's Word hasn't changed. His heart for His children hasn't changed. His design hasn't changed.
So we try to build a very convincing case for purity in 2014. We want to give hope. We want to be prophetic. We want to challenge youth to trust the goodness of God's design and the power we have in Him to live it out.
|Barbara Steele and Kit Hendricks welcomed the over 400 attendees|
of the day at the registration table.
|Tim Carpenter, family pastor at Bethany Church in Greenland,|
welcomes everyone to the "Worth It" conference.
That's the message that was proclaimed throughout the day on April 5. Jess Bousa kicked off the day with a stirring and lively message on the good news of the gospel and the Word of God, saying that it is "not a prison sentence, but a permission slip." Jess speaks with such credibility as one who was far from God during his high school years when he became very familiar with cops and jails through multiple arrests connected with drug abuse and dealing. God got a hold of him in a big way while serving time at a court-ordered stay with Teen Challenge, and 14 years later, Jess is married, has two children, has his MDiv and then some, and has planted Restore Church in Havre de Grace, MD, which two years into existence has 650 attendees and 3 campuses. Great start to the day!
Kirsten Watson followed with a passionate talk on "You are Worth It." Starting with a very effective illustration, she offered a crisp $20 bill to anyone who wanted it. After she had folded it, crushed it, stomped on it, and thrown it to the ground, there were still the same number of hands raised of those who wanted it. Why? Because it was still worth $20 — even though it had been “through a lot." Her message was shaped by the intrinsic value of each human being, not based on what they had been through — or what they had been spared — but by the love of God Himself, who calls us by name and whose image we bear. It was very powerful . . . and convincing.
Two workshop sessions and lunch followed the opening plenary talks, and the line-up of topics and speakers was top shelf. Adam Rowe, youth pastor for Grace Chapel in Wilmington, MA, spoke on media and how to make God-honoring choices in this very dynamic, high-risk arena. Christopher and Dorothy Greco (Chris is the Theater Arts Director at Lexington Christian Academy and worship leader at Grace Baptist Church, Hudson, MA) spoke on LGBTQ issues facing the community of Christ. Their story was compelling and their teaching on how to love and give hope to those struggling with sexual identity was sensitively handled with compassion and truth. Kirsten Watson did a workshop on making the "second most important decision of your life: marriage!", and Kate Wylie spoke on the perils of popularity. Danny Woodhead and his mom, Annette, spoke together on how to parent in the midst of so many cultural pressures, especially those that accompany athletic prowess. Nate Parks spoke to parents on how to be in touch with their kids who are facing incredible pressures vastly different from those faced by parents when they were youth. And Lisa Friesen spoke on how to prepare for college in terms of values and beliefs you need to have in place before you step foot on a campus—so you can have a "blast" in college.
Danny and Annette Woodhead were a real hit as
a son/mother team speaking on parenting principles.
All of the workshops were relevant, practical, and well-received. We were SO thankful for such a quality team.
Two more plenary sessions in the afternoon rounded out the day. Kate Wylie spoke on why purity is worth it. With raw honesty and vulnerability, Kate shared how she had "bought the lie" that "technical virginity" was all God was really interested in and that with all her Christian boyfriends, the only line not crossed was sexual intercourse. She explained how betrayed she felt when each relationship ended as she struggled with feeling used and then abandoned. She also shared how that trajectory changed when she was finally taught the heart of God's design for purity. She and her fiancé embraced boundaries consistent with Biblical purity and it profoundly and positively impacted their relationship. She offered hope: to those "lacking experience,” to keep on holding the lines, and to those who had already crossed lines, the hope of forgiveness and the challenge to make adjustments.
Nate Parks, director of Berea, was our final plenary speaker and he offered the hope of forgiveness and the challenge that "what you plant will grow." Rather than viewing purity as a set of rules to follow, Nate was convincing that you must choose to plant seeds of love for God, His Word, and His ways, so your heart will produce a harvest of righteousness. Because what you plant will grow. He was engaging and energetic and his simple message was the perfect ending for the day.
Tucked in here and there was lunch, directed by Jim Martis and an amazing volunteer crew orchestrated by our event coordinator, Susan Martis, who helped with everything from packet preparation to lunch preparation and clean-up, as well as book sales, and all the myriad of details needed to facilitate such a day. A panel of all the speakers fielding a few questions and recommending a few books, and many, many side-bar conversations filled in some “non-structured” time. During the panel, the crowd was inspired by the testimony of Danny and Stacia Woodhead (former Patriot, now Charger and one of the best running backs in the NFL) who remained pure throughout their eight-year courtship. Quite a story of hope!! Another highlight was hearing from Lisa Friesen, the lone single voice of the day, who exudes contentment and purpose in life as she waits for the Lord to bring the "right" man into her life. She knocked it out of the park when she shared that her decisions for purity had already delivered some great dividends. "When I eventually met my college boyfriend’s wife, I was so thankful I could look her in the eyes and know that I had honored her and her husband had honored her long before she was on the scene, by how we had honored each other." Very, very powerful.
As the day ended, our previous discouragement which had dissipated days earlier had been replaced with overflowing gratitude.The team gathered to thank the Lord for the incredible ways He met us during the day, and we could only give Him all the praise.
He is worth it!!
Here are a few excerpts from the evaluations handed in at day's end:
Despite the resistance from the girls leading up to the conference (“This is my 5th, time – I GET it, Mom!”, “Saturday is my only day to sleep!”, “I have voice lessons, can’t go.”, “I have my last driving lesson, if I miss it – I won’t get my driving license for MONTHS!”), making the effort was definitely worth it! It was a wonderful day. Thank you and your dedicated team for all they do to pour into our lives the saving grace and love of God and Jesus. (Mom of three teenage daughters)
Down to earth, funny. (13-year-old son)
The stories, content, and presentation styles of each workshop were beneficial. (Mom of teenage son and daughter)
Being involved in something so deep with my daughter is opening up new doors for both of us. (Parent)
I was basically dragged here by my dad, and I came with low expectations. It blew me away how honest and real you guys were. I feel like I can directly relate what I learned to my life and am inspired to live a life of purity. (13-year-old gal)
We have been back 3 times because my kids wanted to come back. Thank you! (Parent)
This kind of conference that helps our families confront and talk about sexual issues is so needed. Thank you for your presentations. (Parent of 13- and 16-year-old teens)
We were so thankful to attend with our 3 daughters and have them hear that they are Worth It. (Husband and wife)
Great selection of books, and staff were very helpful in helping in selection of books.
It was way better than I expected and I will recommend this to my friends. (13-year-old gal)
Bethany was a great facility and staff were very helpful and friendly.
Being there with all four of my very athletic boys and hear them hear from other athletes was huge. (Parent of 4 teenage boys)
My biggest take-away is knowing that God needs to be the center of my life and relationships. (18-year-old guy)
Really liked the way lunch was so organized.
It was so beneficial to be able to have an open conversation with my teen about God’s plan for sex and have him be receptive. (Dad of teenage son)
Thank you so much, this was so helpful before I go off to college and begin a relationship. (Teen)
All praise is His.