In 2011, God gave me a heart and vision for middle and high schoolers. I wanted to open a center for youth that met them just where they were. So with only five teen interns and only a few hundred dollars to work with, the Catalyst Teen Center was born. In the beginning, Catalyst appeared like a regular youth group, but it quickly transformed into something never seen before.
We began offering classes, everything from Forensic Science, guitar lessons, home economics, Japanese and more. The Teen Center provided a community the teens were starving for. All of them had gifts and talents they longed to pursue, and these classes finally provided a way for them to harness those talents. It truly began to show them the unique design God had built into all of them. What made this even more incredible was we saw it provided a bridge from the unchurched to Church. We saw students came because the classes met an immediate need, but they stayed because of the relationships they built with our volunteers and youth leaders, which led to the Gospel.
Additionally, in the past several years, we opened our “Purpose Project,” which is a nationwide mentoring program designed to help troubled youth clearly see their unique design and purpose in a matter of hours instead of years. Today, we have over 100 certified Purpose Project Guides (aka Mentors) across seven states who commit one hour a week for six weeks to students all over the United States in an effort to show them who God made them to be. We have served over 300 students in the past few years and have plans to quickly expand our innovative mentorship model through school, homeschool communities, and churches.
The exodus from traditional youth ministry has already taken place. Now, youth ministers must adapt to a new normal where students are more isolated and skeptical than ever before. Teens are leaving the church in droves, and if they aren’t currently, many of them will after they leave their parents’ homes. The world’s a different place. Many are unchurched, yet we know Jesus is the answer. So I plan to continue to do my part by not giving up reaching youth in out-of-the-box ways, so that one day, they can know the same Jesus I do.