My Mentor Listens to Me!

In a recent article featured in the “News and Views” section of the CRCNA’s website, Chris Meehan interviewed Wendi Kapenga, the Generation Spark director at Victory Point Ministries. 

The article states, “Like many churches, Victory Point has faced the challenge of how to keep young people interested and involved in their congregation as they grow into their 20s”.

Kapenga is quoted saying, “We have a discipleship culture here at Victory Point, and this program fit perfectly. We want to have something to offer before they go off to do life”. This attitude going into the program is key. The congregation wants to disciple their youth and Generation Spark is exactly what they needed to kick start that.

“Many churches, she said, have not created the spaces and places in which older members can listen to and try to understand the hopes and dreams and concerns facing young people.”

Kapenga also shared that “we want to create meaningful connections. We believe the older generation has a desire to share stories and to feel valued. We have mentors who have invested in their own kids’ lives. They have walked their children through challenges and now have more time and flexibility to share what they have experienced”.

Meehan writes, “as part of their program, Kapenga said, they have also recruited prayer partners to offer continual prayer as the pilot program unfolds and relationships between the generations develop”. With this excitement and understanding for Generation Spark, there are great things in store for Victory Point Ministries.

“We want to be heard.”

America’s youth are sending a message: “We want to be heard.”

I wonder…when will disaffected youth stage walk-outs at their churches?

This question came to mind as I observed unprecedented numbers of youth nationwide leading protests against gun violence that killed 17 people at a Florida high school on February 14.  Triggered by a senseless act of violence, the students’ actions were directed at authority figures—the big people they have been told they can trust—who seem to care more about gun rights than child safety.  These words, spotted in a sea of protest signs, gripped my heart: “Why must we be the adults?”

The students tell us “enough is enough,” a mantra heard following every school shooting since the massacre at Columbine. With more than 150,000 children (Washington Post) experiencing a shooting at their schools since 1999, a reasonable person would conclude that change is imminent.  But legislators have clearly not had enough and are unlikely even now to change gun laws or protect the children.

Abby Kiesa (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) observes that these teenagers insist on being heard. They “want the country to be better so they are going to stand up to make it better.”

At Generation Spark, a ministry designed to help churches engage and retain more youth, we hear these same words from youth.  “The church doesn’t listen to us,” they complain. “We don’t even feel we belong.”

I wonder…when will disaffected youth stage walks-outs at their churches?  Oh, wait, they are already doing that, with 70% of them leaving churches every year.

Welcome to Generation Spark!

Welcome to the Generation Spark Blog!

Generation Spark (GS) was started at the Center for Leadership at Hope College by Virgil Gulker with the assistance of Hope College students. GS is a church ministry program designed to solve the problem of youth and adults leaving the church. This intergenerational mentoring ministry integrates youth and adults into the life and leadership of the church.

In the Summer of 2017, the Lilly Endowment  caught wind of Generation Spark and decided to award the initiative  with a 3 year grant to fund a pilot program. Right away a team was created to market the program to local churches and the excitement surrounding GS was outstanding.

Currently, the GS team consists of four Hope College Students, including myself, that are involved in different aspects of the project. Over the past year, we have worked with Virgil and Sarah Kolean, as well as other Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), to begin the implementation process of GS. As of today, we have 6 churches in Holland, Zeeland, and Grand Rapids that are piloting our program. Each church has already been through a director training that prepared them to launch GS at their churches. For now, the next step is for the directors to train their participants.

In this blog, you will be able to learn more about Generation Spark from many different perspectives. We will keep you updated on the pilot programs and the relationships that are being built at each church.

Stay tuned to see God’s plan for Generation Spark unfold!

To learn more visit our website: https://hope.edu/academics/center-leadership/generation-spark/

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter: @gen_spark1

Find us on Facebook: @thegenerationspark