St. James UMC Youth Outreach Working to "Ignite" Passion for Christ
Tasha Busby-Jones will drop everything to tell you about the genesis of the Ignite Program at St. James UMC in Teague, Tx. It was her “burning passion to ignite a fire for God upon this generation,” she shares. “Ignite aims to build up a generation of young people, on fire for God -- that are not only ready, but capable of making an impact on their generation”. As the Children and Youth Ministries Coordinator shares her story, she can trace her passion for youth work back to her early 20s. “That passion grew once I moved my family from the inner-city to the rural town of Teague, Texas. Since there is no YMCA, Boy's and Girl's Club, or youth center, I would see many young people roaming the streets and loitering outside the library after hours with nothing to do which contributed to the negative stereotypes about young people. From this observation, my heart felt burdened to bring about change, so I began to seek God’s direction.”
Inexperience was no hurdle for Tasha, because she was driven to create something life-changing for area youth. “I wanted to provide a safe environment where these young people could come and belong, have fun, be inspired, learn, and develop their gifts and transferable skills. Teague needed a ministry focused on discipleship and giving students an opportunity to use their gifts for the body of Christ -- some kind of Christian youth club where young people could come and grow in many positive ways.” She shared the vision with the Lay Leader, pastor and congregation and the new Ignite ministry launched in March.
Now two or three dozen people, ages 3-33, are meeting every Tuesday and Thursday, finding a safe space to be welcomed, heard, and accepted into a spiritual family free of judgment. Tasha believes, “It is important to let the young people of our community know that they matter, and are an important and an essential part of this world. To respond to social and spiritual needs of the attendees, our gatherings consist of contemporary worship, fun activities and outings, and a dynamic message relevant to today’s generation.”
Adds Tasha, “The secret to our growth is having a unique community program that involves adult and peer leaders who are committed to providing guidance and mentorship to our young people. The many influences surrounding our young people today through music, movies, magazines, media and peer pressure, create a need for a safe place. Ignite provides a safe, faith-based environment where young people can come together, express themselves without being judged, and to learn about being in relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The popularity of the Ignite Program, has spread through peer-to-peer word-of-mouth invitations.
“Some of Ignite's young people lack positive role models and consistency, while others are lacking discipline and have not established any boundaries. These are issues we have to address and provide guidance in,” notes Tasha.
In a very short time, Ignite has become very important to the young people of the Teague community. Says Tasha, “I can tell young people look forward to our session because they call my cell phone, visit my job, and knock on my door to ‘confirm’ that we will have Ignite group as scheduled.” Her next dream will involve a bus ministry. “Although, we effectively reach dozens of young people each week, bottom line, a bus ministry could introduce more children to the gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Tasha loves “watching young people become empowered and realize who they are in Jesus Christ. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping them to see their purpose and being a support to help them reach their full potential and become the best that they can be. These young people are the future leaders, the future missionaries, and the future youth workers. It is an honor to serve God, St. James UMC and the young people of Ignite. My satisfaction comes from knowing that I have made a difference in a young person’s life. By the word of God and by example, St. James UMC's Ignite Program aims to see lives changed for the better, souls saved, and the world set ablaze by young people that are on fire for Jesus Christ!”