Empowering New York Youth

By   •   September 21, 2012

“Our churches don’t do a good enough job of reaching the students,” Rock the Lakes leader David Leandre said. The youth tend to get overlooked while adults try to run the show, leaving some tweens and teens clueless about personal ministry.

Leandre is part of the Students Task Force for Rock the Lakes in Buffalo, N.Y. As an associate and youth pastor, he said churches aren’t doing enough to call the youth to action—to get them on the front lines of ministry, exercising their talents and reaching their peers.

Friday, he praised Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for helping to bring the community together, but said “we can and should be doing this on our own.”

Leandre and five others from various denominations have been working with area churches to put the youth to work.

“For the most part, the response is really good,” he said. At times, he’s been frustrated because although most churches are excited about Rock the Lakes, some are apathetic about helping out on the front end.

“We haven’t had the level of involvement that we wanted,” Leandre said, but at the same time, other churches have been “ultra-involved,” willing to do anything to make the event a success.

Billy Graham led a Crusade in Buffalo in 1988. Now, it’s his son’s turn to take the podium and—many hope—light a new fire in the hearts of those who attend. Hundreds have been praying that God will use the event to speak to the lost, the struggling, the hopeless and the hurting. According to locals, that’s a lot of people.

Many inner city youth are exposed to gangs, drugs and violence, Leandre said, while those in the suburbs contend with other distractions and a general lack of knowledge about God.

“A lot of youth ministries are pretty broken,” he said. Adults might take on the role of coach, telling students how to do something or how to live, but never letting them play, Leandre said. The youth need opportunities to be hands on, to actively participate.

They should “be out there talking to [their] friends and helping lead youth ministry,” he said. They need discipleship.

That’s where the task force comes in. The goal is to show students how to reach their friends and give them an easy way to do so. It’s not just about inviting non-Christian peers to a concert, but about equipping young believers to effectively share the Gospel.

BGEA ministries like Dare to be a Daniel and FM419, both geared toward youth, provide resources to do that.

“Jesus didn’t say follow me and I’ll show you what to do,” Leandre said. “He said follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” Even then, Leandre said, it was about calling people to action. He hopes students bring their friends to Rock the Lakes not just for the music but in hopes of experiencing what it’s like to see a friend come to Christ—and being part of that.

“If you really want to share your faith, this is the easiest way and probably the most effective way,” Leandre tells area youth. The need is there, he says, so do something about it. And if a peer does come to know Christ, invite that person to church and stand with that person in the faith.

“This isn’t just another program. This isn’t just another ministry,” he said. “They’re not coming back next year. … Now is the time to get involved.”

Children’s Task Force co-leader Cheryl Rinker, who serves as a children’s ministry director, also works to partner and share resources with other churches, but said the event “has definitely broadened our scope quite a bit.” She is confident that the collaboration will last past Rock the Lakes.

Help Us Bring the Gospel to a Hurting Generation

Youth are starved for the hope of the Gospel. You can help bring them the love of Christ by donating to Rock the Lakes.

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