By Jordan Even and Caroline Schildbach
Scripture and experience speak clearly about the blessings that come when Christian men and women work together in service to God and His people. By way of example, check out the following articles written by youth contributors Jordan Even and Caroline Schildbach.
Jordan and Caroline are active in the youth group at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Livermore, CA. Before Our Savior called a full-time youth worker, Jordan and Caroline had the benefit of being served by a husband and wife team, Dr. Steven Christopher and his wife Dee, who also serve Our Savior as directors of discipleship and family ministry. The Christophers taught Jordan and Caroline a lot through Bible study, but the youth also learned much simply by witnessing the Christophers’ Christian marriage in action. Read on to learn more!
“It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).
In this verse, God states that family is an important aspect in His plan. God later explains in the fifth chapter of Ephesians that the family unit is essential to both everyday life and ministry. God also tells us by way of Paul (Ephesians 5) that the love in a family should be modeled after the love of Jesus Christ (John 15:9-17). Though Dr. and Mrs. Christopher often taught memorable Bible studies with the ultimate lesson being Jesus and His love, I will also always remember how their actions silently modeled Scriptural family love to the members of their youth group.
Over the past two years, my congregation has been without a full time youth director. When our former youth director was called by God to serve elsewhere, The Christophers, our current directors of discipleship and family ministries, took on another full time job, relying on God to multiply their time for ministry (Psalm 31:14-15). Mrs. Christopher routinely led our Bible studies while Dr. Christopher served in other areas. Additionally, two particular instances stick out in my mind as prime examples of the family love and sacrifice displayed by the Christopher’s.
Last summer, my church was slated to go on a camping trip. Mrs. Christopher was going to accompany the youth (along a few parental volunteers), and Dr. Christopher was going to travel with his son’s baseball team to watch a crucial year-end tournament. At the last moment, Mrs. Christopher came down ill, and Dr. Christopher went in her stead. It would have been easy for the Christophers to cancel the trip. It would have been easier still for Dr. Christopher to be bitter or grumpy about missing his son’s games. It would have been understandable if he were not entirely prepared with programming and Bible studies. But these eventualities did not occur. Dr. Christopher was upbeat (2 Corinthians 9:7) and fun to be around the entire trip, giving cheerfully of his time. His Bible study about the future (Jeremiah 29:11-12) and God’s plan for all of us (some of our high school careers were quickly winding down at that point) was awakening and comforting. It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever had.
Similarly, both Dr. and Mrs. Christopher accompanied the high school youth of my church to last summer’s LCMS National Youth Gathering. Due to his obligations to the district during the day, Dr. Christopher was unable to assist our group much of the time, so Mrs. Christopher guided our group by herself. She took very good care of us. She gave us a lot of freedom after the days’ scheduled events because she knew she had trained us well in the ways of the Lord. After a hard of day of walking, planning, leading and guiding, Mrs. Christopher welcomed the help of Dr. Christopher in the late evening Bible studies (often close to or after midnight). The trip was certainly more successful due to the timely and seamless transition between our two guides. Such a smooth transition could only be possible in the kind of relationship demonstrated by the Christopher’s.
Amidst our time of transition, the Christopher’s, through the help of God, stepped up their ministry for the benefit of the greater good. Mrs. Christopher led our weekly Sunday school and youth group discussions and Dr. Christopher was always willing to help in whatever way was needed. Their service to us, enhanced by their relationship with each other and God, was a great blessing to us. The Christopher’s were able to depend on each other to help spread God’s Word while they gave magnanimously of their time.
The atmosphere that the Christophers strived to create at all youth events–whether Sunday school, Thursday night youth group, or other excursions–served as a major factor in my decision to attend youth group. The interactions and relationships they encouraged between everyone in the group provided a place best described as a “breath of fresh air” when compared to the negative atmosphere of high school and most of the “real world.” Compliments replaced put-downs, and laughter replaced gossip in this special place where I felt free to be myself and develop my faith through fellowship with other Christian youth.
The 2005 National Youth Gathering in
Fla., served as a wonderful tool to build the bonds in our group and to bring fellowship to the next level. Dr. and Mrs. Christopher knew the value of this experience and did everything in their power to encourage as many people as possible to attend. Before we left for the Gathering that summer, our youth group went to a high ropes course at a local university. This really helped break the boundaries of the separate cliques and create a unified group. I personally found it nearly impossible not to form a strong relationship with someone holding the rope that was attached to me while I teetered across a wire 40 feet in the air! Also, the encouragement that poured from everyone while we attempted these different feats was a beautiful thing.
One of the most amazing things about the Gathering was the positive electricity that could be felt when in a place filled with thousands of other youth on fire for Jesus. The positive feelings I had about my faith and my brothers and sisters in Christ were incredible! Unfortunately, it was not possible to take all those people home with me and find strength in that every day. Dr. and Mrs. Christopher emphasized this point and made sure to build up this kind of strength within our own group, no matter how small the group may have been at any given time. “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them” (Matt. 18:20). Every night of the Gathering, we met in the Christopher’s hotel room to have Bible study and small group discussions about the day’s events. The group growth that occurred at these sessions proved invaluable and was a great aspect of the youth gathering experience.
By acting as living examples of the love that a Christian is called to show to each and every person in his or her life, Dr. and Mrs. Christopher provided the tools and patient nurturing required to form a group of youth whose attitudes and actions cause people to question, “Just what is so different about these kids?” The answer? A deep love for Jesus Christ!