i had the opportunity to speak to several hundred teenagers last night at “mix” in lawton. jamie austin and his staff are doing an incredible job at every level–really having an impact on their community. there is a diverse mix (where the name originated?) of kids that meet in a cool building and everyone seemed to be super excited. too, i was surprised by how many people i encountered that i know (including my baby sister and her family). it was a fun evening, and i thought i’d use this space today to share a few impressions:
1. i had forgotten how responsive teenagers are. i had no fewer than a dozen kids come up to me after the meetings (i spoke twice–in the high school and young adult services) with tears in their eyes and ask me to counsel/pray with them. kids are so open and vulnerable with their feelings, and they are not at all hesitant about making huge, life-altering sacrifices (it makes me wonder if i exploited that quality when i was a youth pastor). they were very gracious and complimentary toward me. you just don’t get that kind of response with grown-ups.
2. kids are not afraid to dream big dreams and make big plans.
3. kraig mewbourne has grown up to be a pretty amazing young man. i was surprised to run into kraig (he was in lawton visiting his cousin, matt weiszbrod) and i guess i haven’t seen him since he was in high school. his dad and i are best buddies, so i’ve been around kraig for years but it always kind of shocks you when they are suddenly so grown up. kraig just got back from a india and egypt (“just bummin’ around…seein’ the sights,” he claims) and is planning to go to uganda for an internship with a missions organization called “invisible children.” he wants to help african children who are being abducted and sold into slavery. and i thought he was “just an athlete.” it was fun catching up with kraig, and i can’t wait to see what the lord has in store for him.
4. ministry, at its most basic level, is still about relationships. i haven’t heard jamie preach, but he is a scary-good administrator/organizer. even with “mix” running like a well-oiled machine, however, there is nothing there that would explain why eight-hundred kids gather on the outskirts of lawton, oklahoma every wednesday night. nothing, that is, except that jamie is madly in love with kids and they know it. the kids also seem to really enjoy each other. there were tons of cool toys (video games, air hockey, ipods, etc) but the kids mostly ignored them. they just stood around and talked to each other. makes me think that youth minsitry isn’t nearly as hard as we make it out to be.
5. the energy/passion draws adult volunteers like flies. jamie has dozens and dozens of volunteers gleefully working behind the scenes.
6. jamie has lots of clones (and that’s a good thing). his ministry is built on what he calls “downward discipleship.” he pours his life into young men and women with potential, and then he holds them responsible for their gifting (as in 2 timothy 2:2). i even heard these kids talking like jamie–using the same phrases. with a mentoring philosophy like jamie demonstrates, his ministry cannot help but be self-perpetuating.
thanks, jamie, for allowing me to be involved in what you’re doing in lawton. what i saw makes me believe there may actually be hope for the next generation. i’m praying for your continued success.