As I sit here at our final Lead THE Cause of the summer I can't help but be thankful to God for all that he has done (and is still doing) through this intensive week of training and outreach. After four summers of doing Lead THE Cause (and our first year of partnering with our friends at Sonlife to pull it off) I'm convinced that youth leaders should consider bringing their entire youth group to Lead THE Cause instead of (or maybe in addition to) camp next summer.
While I'm a big believer in camp I believe that Lead THE Cause is a way better investment for your youth ministry dollar. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Your teenagers will be challenged to go all in for Christ in a deeper, more visceral way.
At Lead THE Cause teenagers don't just stand around a campfire at the end of the week they start fires all week! They do this by igniting the flames of Gospel conversations with people they encounter in the city. For two full afternoons teenagers are mobilized to engage (not enrage) others with the good news of Jesus.
Of course they do this after intensive training and equipping. They spend time memorizing, role playing and practicing. On the first day of outreach (the 3rd day of Lead THE Cause) they are challenged to use the Life in 6 Words app. The second day they are encouraged to go "app-less" and actually use a strategy we developed called "Ask, Admire, Admit." This is where they learn how to ask questions, admire where a person is coming from and admit the reason they're a Christian is that they are so messed up they needed Jesus to save them. This more-humble-approach to evangelism opens up doors for Gospel conversations in ways these teenagers (and many youth leaders) could never imagine.
If all this sounds like Lead THE Cause was designed for just spiritually "advanced" teenagers then consider the fact that we had some teenagers come to faith this summer at Lead THE Cause and actively begin to share their faith that same week! Lead THE Cause is a highly motivational as well as a deeper-level equipping event that can impact any teenager for a lifetime!
I used to promote it as a leadership level event...but no more. I believe that this week is for any Christian teenager, leadership level or not! If this week doesn't turn your teenagers into leaders I don't know what would. This week inspires and equips. It motivates and mobilizes. It trains and transforms.
2. Your teenagers will learn how to pray and spend significant time doing it.
We spend the first day and a half focused on intercessory prayer. We train teenagers to pray like Jesus taught his disciples to pray and then give them several opportunities to do it. One of my favorite parts of the Lead THE Cause events is when we spend an entire afternoon praying at different prayer stations in an outside setting. In Chicago it's in the city. In Denver it's at Columbine High School and in Portland it's at a stunning overlook called Rocky Butte. It's powerful to watch teenagers P-R-A-Y (Praise, Request, Admit and Yield), begging God for revival and transformation in their lives, schools and cities.
So many youth leaders and teenagers have told me that this is the most impacting part of the event for them! Our prayer is that God uses Lead THE Cause to transform their prayer lives for a lifetime!
3. Your teenagers will put skin in the game, instead of just playing them.
I'll never forget during one youth leader session when Jason Loewen said, "The difference between Lead THE Cause and camp is that at camp teenagers will stay up until one in the morning pranking. At Lead THE Cause they'll stay up until one in the morning talking about the Gospel conversations they are having with their friends."
Every teenager that attends Lead THE Cause is challenged to engage three friends with the Gospel that same week. We have them text one friend, call a second one and write a full on Gospel letter to a third. That means by the time they get back they have let the "I'm a Christian" cat out of the bag with their peers and have risked those relationships by sharing the Gospel with them.
Relational evangelism puts skin in the game for Christian teenagers on a discipleship level because the Gospel message can trigger rejection, mockery and social marginalization. That very risk is core to teenagers learning how to die to themselves, pick up their crosses and follow Jesus.
Sure, teenagers at Lead THE Cause have a blast too. There's a ton of laughter, fun and all around kookiness. But during these intensive weeks the most fun flows from the unspeakable joy of watching God use them to reach their friends for Christ.
4. You and your teenagers will leave with a plan to reach your community for Jesus (and a tribe to pray for and encourage you!)
We all know the feeling of camp a week later. We are still exhausted but, far too often, many of our teenagers are back to their old patterns. Yes, some came to Christ and others grew in Christ but, if we're honest, the DNA of our youth ministry doesn't usually fundamentally change as a result of a week away at camp. Too often camp is a fire without the wood needed to sustain it. It can be a mountain top experience that fades into a good memory in the valley.
It's the opposite with Lead THE Cause. A week afterward youth leaders are just as exhausted (maybe even a bit more) but they have a plan to execute and a tribe of new youth leader friends to help implement that plan into action. You and your teenagers will join a team of "Revolution X" leaders who are seeking to make and multiply disciples in the mission field where God has placed you. This band-of-brothers (and sisters) affect creates a movement feel that is hard to put into words.
Okay, maybe you don't need to ditch camp. God has used and will continue to use camps to impact teenagers for Jesus. But if it comes down between camp and Lead THE Cause next summer I encourage you to choose Lead THE Cause. It will impact you and your teenagers in a deep way and turn your run-of-the-mill teenagers into world changers.