In August 2011, I was in a bible study with some folks at New Life Ministry when Michael Walden (Youth Pastor at NLM) invited me to join a meeting to be held the following week on the 11th. He said it was a gathering of Youth Pastors from all over the community. The meeting, of course was held at El Pueblitos. I thought that a meeting with folks from different churches would turn out to be similar to a bar brawl. I couldn’t imagine they would get along. I thought “most folks within a church’s 4 walls can’t come into agreement on most issues. This is going to be interesting to say the least.” When I walked into the meeting I met with representatives of most of the more prominent churches in town. All of us were laity except for one full time youth minister. I quickly noticed that everyone was around my age (30’s to 40’s). Brian Miracle of LaFollette UMC excluded. He is much younger (sigh).

Joey St. John of LaFollette Church of God officiated this meeting of “gen X’ers.” After we prayed together Mr. St. John along with the others stated and agreed upon three main points:

1. Every church represented at this meeting has an elderly congregation on Sundays with
few young people. We need to ask God to help us reach the youth in our community.

2. Denominationalism is a distraction…there is no “Us and Them,” We are one in Christ.
We are one in Purpose, to spread the gospel of peace to the next Generation.

3. No-one seated at the meeting is getting any younger. We would like to see God do
something significant (through our obedience) with the youth in our community before we
are too old to be involved.

It was on point 2 that I could not resist telling the old joke about the difference between a
Methodist and a Baptist, but I digress.

One thing is for certain. There were no ego’s in this room. There were no reputations to protect. No men in Suits with chemical tans and slick hair (complete with seminary class ring) this was (in my opinion) a meeting of determined lay people who wanted to obey the Holy Spirit and go forth with a message of salvation and love for their children and their neighbors children. These were people who were tired of holding God’s free grace and love in like it was a secret no one else could know. They wanted to be bold in belief and purpose and teach the next generation to be likewise. The only way to accomplish it, hard work, oh…yeah, and by example. By the end of the meeting, we were excited to say the least. We knew that we were going to witness miracles. Over the next year…we did.

We met again the following Tuesday and accomplished more on that day than any number church committee meetings I have ever attended. Again there were several churches of different denominations determined to work together. That was one miracle.

We presented a vague plan to host a large event in the next spring with smaller events along the way. More specifically we decided to sponsor Brian Miracle’s proposal for an event called “Fields of Faith.” This is an event that is done nationwide on a particular Wednesday evening in many of our country’s High School football fields. Kids from all over in their “teens and tweens” come together to simply pray. We were able to use Jacksboro Middle School on October 12. Joey St. John offered up a dedicative scripture in Isaiah 43:19:
“Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it?
Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness. (NET). Indeed we would later realize that God would bless us through our dedication of this scripture.

Between that meeting and the night of Fields of Faith it was like witnessing a modernized version of the children’s book “Stone Soup” in real life. “Who has a good Sound System?” one person would say. “Our church has some speakers you can use.” another would say.
We quickly agreed on every line item of the project plan, prayerfully choosing the band, the speaker, the Audio Visual technicians…etc. Not one prideful or selfish statement was
uttered. It was wonderful. We were collectively determined to step out of the way of what
God was doing. We were right to do so.

Fields of Faith turned out to be a huge event. By my estimates over 600 parents and youth showed up. Calling Glory played music, the Birdsong family ran the sound, and Christian
Chapman was the speaker. By the end of the night when the altar call came, and two-thirds of the people in the stands answered the call to come, pray, and repent it was apparent to all that our youth were in hot pursuit of a relationship with Christ.

It was at this point that I had a moment of realization. Our youth are looking for something true, in a world that offers up lies. They are looking for hope, in a world that offers up hopelessness. They are looking to fill a hole that only God can fill.

We were witnesses to another miracle. It was apparent that our churches could no longer work independent of one another and in competition for small kernels of grain. We were certain that we must continue our alliance of obedience to God and together bring in a bumper crop harvest. Considering the word “alliance”, that’s what we named ourselves, the Campbell County Youth Leaders Alliance. We were “in it to win it”, not for the sake of pride or the prospect of personal gain, but to glorify the name of Jesus.

FOF was only one event hosted by CCYLA. In the past year we have hosted 2 5th quarters, 2 mobile meal distributions, and a Disciple now event in March. The meal distribution helped teach our youth how to serve by handing out meals to the elderly and needy in town.
Afterward we worshipped with great music and devotion. The D-Now event held over 250 youth from Churches all over the community and was (in my opinion) better than any of the expensive youth conferences I have ever attended. This includes F.U.G.E., Resurrection, and Winterfest. We were poised and ready to offer up an affordable discipleship-training weekend for the youth. We wanted to serve all of the youth, not just the ones that could afford to go on an expensive trip. We decided to dedicate the weekend out of respect for Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love.” This book speaks to why it is so important to think on the things of God. So we called the conference “CRAZY.” We made up T-shirts, red for the kids and black for the working adults (as if we couldn’t tell each other apart). It was also our intention to not only nurture them through word, but in deed as well. D-Now offered 3 sessions with a mission trip on Saturday between sessions 2 and 3. Kids of different churches traveled together to various places in the community to minister there. They ministered to the nursing homes, the assisted living home, and Rainbow Acres. There they learned how to minister to the elderly, ill, and the mentally challenged. Other kids rolled up their sleeves and grabbed shovels, and rake and did “outdoorsy” ministry projects at the area schools, Camp Galilee, Shepherds home, and the homes of “shut-ins” in our community. They were so happy to do it. They were happy to be able to not only take the love of Jesus in their hearts, but to share it with others.

My understanding is that some kids went to school and started attending bible studies in their free time, while others would strike up conversations about God to the unbelieving kids. It is August now and I still see youth wearing red “CRAZY” shirts around town. We witnessed yet another miracle, kids “on fire” for Jesus.

It has been almost a year since our original meeting at El Pueblitos. We are showing no sign of slowing down in our ministry. We are picking up more youth leaders from other
churches, who want to align with our purpose. Thanks be to God.

If you would like to have more information on the Campbell County Youth Leaders Alliance or if you would like for your church to join please call my church or “friend” me on Facebook and I will “like” it.

Bryan Gross

Youth Director

Jacksboro United Methodist Church

423-562-3896