As you read this blog, many of our youth are away at a conference called Challenge, where they are indeed being challenged to walk closely with Jesus and align their lives with the will of God. This is a national student ministry gathering put on every other year by the Evangelical Free Church. It has been going on for decades. As evidence, I participated in the event when I was a kid!  

Every time our students head for Challenge, I am reminded of my own experience. In those days, it took place every year and included a talent competition where a panel of judges would select a winner. Well, growing up a drummer/percussionist, I considered my options: tympani solo (try getting those into the back of the youth group van), or a triangle solo (much easier to transport, but a little boring after the required five minutes). In the end, I decided to do a marimba solo.  

If you don’t know what a marimba is, don’t worry about it — my judges didn’t either. In fact, one of them wrote in his comments, “I don’t know the first thing about the marimba, but I liked the way your hands moved fast.” Another wrote, “I don’t know if that was good or not, but it sounded wonderful to me.” At the end of the competition, I was recognized for performing the BEST marimba solo that year — as well as the ONLY marimba solo!

I have many other memories from those conferences, including the youth choir from one church that usually won all the awards. No one liked them. More significantly, I remember the theme verse my final year was Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  

Even more important, at that same event I received my call into ministry. Being a pastor was not on my mind before that time, but the Lord opened my heart in a unique way and I felt a prompting like I had never experienced before. It would take a while to figure out what all that meant, but I have a distinct memory of being alone in a drab dorm room during an afternoon break, and being convinced of the Lord’s leading.  

My own experiences at Challenge always move me to pray extra hard for Pathway youth as they engage in the worship, teaching and other features of the event. I am mindful that what happened for me could also happen for one of our students. I’d encourage you to join me in prayer that whatever our youth encounter, that they would be challenged, indeed.