In 1999, a group of youth pastors in the Chicagoland area came together with a common passion to reach this generation of youth for Christ. Originating in earnest prayer for revival in their area, this prayer led to planning and preparation for a joint summer retreat. These early prayer meetings were marked by a common passion for the students of this generation, yearning for God's work in the hearts and lives of these young people. Students from approximately ten churches participated in that first Chicago-wide youth retreat and a spirit of renewal seemed to grasp all those involved.
As planning for a second retreat began the following year, more youth workers joined the efforts to reach this generation of youth. It was at this time that a new vision was given from the Lord: a vision of Joshua, after years of wandering in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses, now facing the Jordan River and the Promised Land beyond. After losing Moses, the great leader whom God had used to guide them out of Egypt, it was now up to Joshua to overcome his fears and lead his generation into the land promised to their ancestors.
EMPOWERING YOUTH MINISTRIES TO REACH THIS GENERATION FOR CHRIST.
As prayer continued among the gathered youth workers, this new vision of Joshua, answering the call of God, was extended to this generation of youth: to be the new Joshua Generation that would take up the call to follow Christ and lead this generation into God's kingdom.
The Joshua Generation (J-Gen) Summer Youth Retreats continued each year, and churches from all over the Midwest and beyond began to hear of this ministry and desired to be involved. Many of these churches lacked trained youth workers, being led by volunteers with little or no training or oversight by the first generation leadership. Over time, it seemed that two groups were benefiting from this ministry:
The first were students, especially from churches without trained youth workers. Some of these ministries were really struggling, yet the opportunity to hear God's Word in a relevant manner and worship together with a large number of other students passionate for Christ was inspiring.
The second were youth workers, who, in the process of gathering for prayer and preparation for retreats, developed a deepening sense of camaraderie; like-minded people with very different gifts united their hearts and hands for a common goal.
It seems that we so easily slip into a survival mode of ministry, just getting by with implementing program after program in our churches. In J-Gen we prayerfully long to see God raise the quality and impact of all of our ministries, as we sharpen one another "as iron sharpens iron."