First, let me say what a blessing it has been for me to minister with teens for my entire adult life – 40-plus years. You are truly amazing. That really is where my message to you begins. You are made in God’s image. You are God’s handiwork, a reflection of his love for the world to see. Your value is so great that when we all were in need of forgiveness, God placed a value on us. He gave up his only begotten Son as the ransom for your and my life. By God’s word and actions, he has made a clear statement of how wonderful and valuable to him you are. You’re priceless.
Throughout my years of ministry, I found this to be the primary truth that many find difficult to believe. If we truly encounter Jesus with an open heart, we begin to discover that truth, as well as how we have not lived up to what God made us to be. But God built the bridge for you and me. It is up to us to decide: will we follow him?
In this issue, you will read interviews with teens who have experienced these elements of conversion and discipleship:
- An encounter with Jesus which sends them in a new direction
- An experience of deep formation, helping them to be Christ’s disciples and to take up positions in ministry in their parish and diocese
- Answering God’s call to mission and service to those in need both at home and on mission trips
All of us –adults and teens – are called to journey with each other on this road of conversion. We are not called to stay in one place, repeat the same experience. We are called to a life-changing encounter with Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, and then to undergo new experiences that form us as his disciples and send us on missions to change the world.
In the stories you read, you will see these elements of conversion and discipleship. There are many ways to take this journey, from encounter, to repentance, to following Jesus, to being formed as disciples, in community with others. In parishes, in ministry programs, in small faith sharing groups, on retreats, national conferences, and more.
Along the way, please pray constantly. Keep your personal relationship with God growing. Share your faith with others who support you in your faith. Share your faith with those who need to hear the Good News you have heard. Continue to walk this journey of conversion, not only now, but throughout your lifetime. Live a life that constantly reflects God’s love as you sincerely love others.
Thank you for being a constant inspiration to me and so many others. God be with you on your way.
Patrick Rinker is the director of youth, young adult and campus ministries in the Diocese of Lansing.