Youth Challenged: Do the Work of Reconciliation

Post a Comment » Written on October 30th, 2008     
Filed under: News
MIAMI, FL (October 30, 2008) – Phil Jackson, pastor of The House Covenant Church, led the first National Student Leadership Intensive (NSLI) at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Annual Conference held in Miami last week.

The NSLI was a “conference within a conference,” says Jackson. He and Soong-Chan Rah, assistant professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, also were plenary speakers for the umbrella event.

Forty young people ages 16-21 from around the country had to obtain recommendations and write essays in order to be considered and then selected to participate in NSLI. The young people also had to be identified by leaders as people with potential to make a positive difference in their communities.

Jackson’s congregation, often referred to as the hip-hop church, consists largely of young people in the city of Chicago. “The world is trying to get us to see teenagers as a liability,” he says. In reality, he counters, when teenagers get the opportunity and encouragement, “they are being real change agents wherever they go.”

Jackson says NSLI was organized to instill two core values of the CCDA: Listen to the community and do the work of reconciliation. The students had the opportunity to do both.

On one day, they took to the streets to interview people in the community. They later discussed what they had heard. The following day, the group went to the beach, and the students shared their experiences of growing up in their different cultural contexts.

“They were engaged,” says Jackson, adding that Christians need to reconcile with one another before they can effectively reach out to others.

Jackson focused on the state of youth in his plenary address to the larger conference, which focused on the theme “Seeking the Peace of the City.” Rah spoke about “shalom theology,” a message similar to what he shared with Covenant ministers at the Midwinter Conference.

As much as he wanted to inform, Rah says he especially wanted to encourage the attendees. “They’re doing the work of what Christianity is going to look like.”

Rah was encouraged at the turnout of 2,500 people attending the larger conference event. Among the attendees already doing community development, there were many who are considering ministry. A number of Covenant pastors and leaders also attended the conference.

“They were just really hungry to know how to do this,” Rah says.

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