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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Long Term Church Expansion Strategy

Last weekend (Feb 15-17, 2008) I ran a youth conference in St. Joseph Missouri. We run 3 ONEBLAZE events each year. Our vision is to raise up
a new generation of church pioneers.

Normally we have around 200 teenagers between grades 7 & 12. When I say I ran it, I mean a very committed team of volunteers from Living Hope Church administered the weekend, and I simply set the vision, arranged the messages and gave input on a few things.

So why do we do it? Seriously, it's a lot of work for one weekend; travel, extreme weather (6 inches of snow Saturday night), late nights, community service projects, bands, preaching, making videos, flu epidemic, bad attitudes etc... Why? All youth work NEEDS a generational strategy otherwise it's just serving the immediate group of people -- which is a greedy vision. Sometimes it can be hard to see the long term benefits but here they are:
  1. Leadership Training: Youth ministry is the BEST place to start raising up leaders. Teenagers are passionate and too young to realize the limitations that adults place on things. If I preach about the resurrection of Jesus they are trying to raise the dead the next day! During ONEBLAZE I have young people leading worship, preaching, judging spiritual gifts, leading service project teams and overseeing meetings. We try and give feedback on all these things to encourage leadership growth.

  2. New Churches: Question: what is the best thing to do with leaders? Answer: send them out to help pioneer churches! This nation needs more churches (check stats on the right). Starting new churches is the best long term kingdom strategy out there, parachurch wont do it alone. Our ONEBLAZE youth events are hosted by local churches to train young people in church based serving, outreach and community impact. It's a lot more hard work than just using a Christian camp at the Lake of the Ozarks, but the long term impact is more valuable. Youth ministry is a perfect place to build vision for church planting.

  3. Existing Churches: With all this talk about new churches, don't feel like existing churches aren't in the plan. ONEBLAZE ministry is all about serving and prospering existing churches. If you lead a church wouldn't you love 200 passionate for Jesus teenagers who will pay money to represent and serve your church for a weekend or an entire week? ONEBLAZE makes a huge impact in the life of a church, it injects an existing church family with raw youth passion -- what a great encouragement and opportunity for spiritual refreshment.

  4. Community Impact: This is by far one of the most amazing and exciting parts of ONEBLAZE. This last weekend we went to dozens of venues to serve the community in St. Joe. I ended up at Special Olympics and cheered for the Eagles, a basketball team of adult men and women which included many athletes with greater abilities than myself! The Eagles are playing in State Basketball Championships in Wentzville, MO in March. I talked with the coaches, the players and other volunteers and explained that Living Hope Church was there to serve the community today. People were incredibly grateful and the name of Jesus is now more famous than before. The other benefit to church based youth ministry is that the local church can continue the work, so it's not the hit and run tactic of many Christian outreach strategies.

  5. Personal Development: ONEBLAZE has been an amazing opportunity for me to grow in my leadership skills. Setting vision, preparing and delivering messages, working within a team, learn from church leaders, increasing my capacity, growing in faith, connecting with the community and the list goes on. But not just me, this is true for all those involved in leading ONEBLAZE. If we limited our roles by only discipling a couple of people, or ushering on Sunday mornings, or going to bible studies (not that these things are wrong) it would take years for us to develop to where we are at now. Church based youth camp is an accelerated development strategy. It creates opportunities that enables growth.
See &

For info on our upcoming ONEBLAZE event this summer see this promo video:

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