Another one from new Mbird contributor and resident youth expert Cameron Cole:
From a standpoint of quantification, I was a church rockstar growing up. My church resume included the following: my family never missed church; I never missed Sunday school; I didn’t miss quiet times; I lead a Bible study; I didn’t drink; I didn’t smoke; I didn’t have sex; I participated in youth group and the local para-church ministry.
However, I reached a theological milestone at the age of twenty, while working on a paper in my sixteenth century British literature class at Wake Forest. While explicating John Donne’s Holy Sonnet I for a paper I hit a stumbling block: I did not know how to define the word grace. The handy acronym my sweet Sunday school teachers had me recite, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, was not going to suffice either conceptually or academically for Dr. Edin. This church poster child, who had not missed a Sunday of church in years, resorted to Roget’s Dictionary to try to discover what grace meant for the first time in my life. It was a word I had heard often, but a principle of which I had no concept.
Not surprisingly, performance defined my life as a teen and college student. Whether that performance involved moral striving, academic excellence, or social impressions, burden and pressure consumed my life. Perhaps, teachers preached the freedom of the Gospel to me every Sunday and my ears simply were deaf, but grace constituted nothing more than an acronym in my life. It wasn’t until a near nervous breakdown at twenty-three and an encounter with my pastor, who introduced me to the idea that the Gospel is rest, that grace started to land in my life.
My meltdown as a young adult and redemption by grace fuels my passion and conviction for the upcoming Rooted Conference, August 10-12 in Birmingham, AL. Student ministers can share many lessons with students, but those efforts amount to “wood, hay, and straw” if the message of Jesus’s freeing grace through the Cross does not serve as the anchor of their ministry. Rooted: A Theology Conference for Student Ministry champions theology over methodology, substance over style, and Cross over context. Rooted involves no dry ice machines or laser light technology; it boils down to conversations about kids and Law and Grace. To any Mockingbird junkie or casual peruser, who ministers to students, we invite you to a youth conference concentrated on nothing more than the Gospel in student ministry.