“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, Just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3)
"Our youth ministry exists to help [young people] OWN their choices, HONOR God’s word, SUBMERGE themselves into Christ’s baptism, NEAR their lives to Christ, ACQUIRE more friends for Jesus, PASS love onto others, and POUR their hearts out to God” (Joey Karr, Youth Leader). The Youth Leader position at Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church is one centered on the dual paths of dedication and guidance. The position’s primary goal is to encourage our young people to pursue and maintain a personal relationship with God. To achieve this goal, one must portray a navigable path to Christ through leadership and exemplification. At a tumultuous time in life when the future is filled with opportunities and endless possibilities, the present may feel uncertain to our youth who are presented with emotions and influences that may ebb and flow. It is up to our Youth Leader to pray for God’s Authorship and Will to be written on his heart in order to help equip our young people with skill-sets in positive relationship-building with God, one another, and the world around.
Four years ago, Joey Karr and his wife Steph moved to Louisville, Kentucky for a job opportunity and, to Middletown’s advantage, they appeared to be destined to become members. The initial visit to Middletown was welcoming in their eyes and, as such, they continued attending. It seems God’s design left little doubt about the Karrs and their place here. Shortly after arriving at Middletown, officials in the church discovered that Joey had been the youth leader and head elder at his former Seventh-day Adventist church. In Joey’s words, “this news led to a very quick induction into an elder’s role and the preaching rotation. It was the right time for us to show up as the youth leadership role was coming up vacant and they were having trouble finding someone to fill the void.”
Four years later, Joey is still the active youth leader, a board member, and an elder with a spiritual leadership role. When asked what it means to be a youth leader, Joey reveals that the most rewarding aspect seems to mirror the meaning of the position, “[Youth leadership comes down to] watching folks get it. I mean the relationship with Jesus. For instance, last year I had the privilege of leading a young lady through Bible studies that ultimately led to her being baptized. What made this even more fulfilling is that she asked that I be the one to baptize her. Praise God!” Directing youth in the ministry of Jesus is not for the faint of heart. It takes a champion for Christ who is willing to stick around during the difficult moments in the lives of those who have already left the proverbial sandbox for good but who haven’t quite made it to the world of adulthood. Joey tackles this by connecting with our young adult group, by leading them and lionizing their God-given talents, and by good old-fashioned fun on trips and projects. It is a task he calls “humbling”. What may catch the attention of our church’s youth may be his kindness and direction while teaching Sabbath school class; it may be the yearly youth caving trip and the adventures, friendships, and faith cultivated thereon; or it may be his diligence in helping “develop and foster growth for these young folks as they transition into adulthood”.
Whatever does catch their attention is working. We have a solid number of youth who continue to invite friends to church, occasionally lead out in worship, and say they connect with God on several levels. Ultimately, if youth leadership were an exercise in experimentation, the results are overwhelmingly positive at Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church. To paraphrase Joey who sums it up best :
Growing up I never knew my father, so the famous verse in John 3:16 never made any sense. The value of a son to a father was nothing so for God to give that up didn’t amount to much in my mind. Until I held a baby. It was the baby my wife, Steph, and I have been raising who helped me first realize the precious gift that God had given me. My actions as a Christian are not to win favor or add to my salvation, for I can do none of those things. My actions are a response to God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice. I am trying in my own weak and human way to give love back to them. Our mission at Middletown, through the love of Christ and a friendship-minded ministry, is to focus on showing people the wonderful blessings found in a relationship with Christ.