by Joel Comiskey
God loves to use youth when he does something great. Genesis 37:2 tells us that, “Joseph was a young man of seventeen” when God interrupted his sleep with some amazing dreams. God used Joseph to save the world from starvation and deliver God’s people from Egypt. Samuel was a teen when he first heard God’s voice (1 Sa 3:1) and prophesied things to come to Eli. David was a boy when he defeated Goliath. David’s character development and faith exploits began when he was a young shepherd, caring for the sheep (1 Samuel 17). Daniel and his friends were probably teenagers when they were led across the Fertile Crescent into captivity.
Probably half of Christ’s disciples were teenagers when He began His discipling ministry to them. In this sense, Jesus lead the original “youth group.” The Apostle Paul first began to work with Timothy when he was approximately sixteen years old. Paul discipled Timothy and developed him to become the pastor in the Ephesus, a very important church. He exhorted “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
A church of the future prioritizes youth today. Youth cell groups provide an intimate atmosphere for youth to become disciples of Jesus Christ. As I interviewed pastors and leaders for my new 2016 book, Youth in Cell Ministry: Discipling the Future Generation Now, some churches were just starting their journey. Others were farther along. Some churches had one or two groups; others hundreds. Whether or many or few, it’s essential to remember that the small group atmosphere is essential to make youth disciples through relationships, spirituality, and participation.
John Paul Alves started attending a children’s cell at the Vine Church in Goiania, Brazil when he was 4 years old and accepted Jesus at eleven at an Encounter retreat for children. God touched him in a powerful way. He was healed of his bronchitis. When he turned twelve he was baptized in water and began the Spiritual Maturity Course. He became a leader of a youth cell group, which multiplied three times. He then began to coach four cell leaders.
In the process, God placed a calling in John’s heart to become a pastor. He received various prophetic confirmations, and in 2011 he entered the church’s equipping for future ministers. Through the equipping, God broadened his vision and after two years he became a pastor in the church overseeing a network of youth cell groups.
John is now twenty-three and one of the pastors and missionaries who were discipled through the children’s ministry and now are in pastoral leadership. The Vine is intent on preparing the next generation of church leaders through multiplying youth cells. The Vine mother church in Goiania now has 1,600 youth cell groups with approximately 15,000 youth in these cells (7000 youth cell groups throughout Brazil).
Even though the Vine Church is far ahead of most churches with youth cell groups, the important thing is to follow their example of getting young people involved in cell ministry.