Rooted: What Are We All About?

Every week, I receive another postcard for a new youth ministry conference pledging to have the magic bullet for today’s youth. Nearly all of these ministries and conferences have much value; I wish I could go to a dozen per year. Amidst the many options, I still feel passionately that Rooted has an important place in youth ministry.

When I was a junior in high school, our varsity football team played Central-Tuscaloosa in the quarter-finals of the state playoffs. Central had the #4 team in America and had not lost in two years. They had three players who would start at the University of Alabama as freshmen and nine players who went on to earn Division 1 scholarships. My Spartans were slow and small and lacked a single D1 player. Among Central’s cadre of studs stood Alabama’s Mr. Football, Antonio Williams, the top running back in the South. In the first half, Central ran Williams to a ten-point halftime lead; we looked virtually helpless against him.

However, in the second half, Central seemed never to give Williams the ball. We all were dumbfounded. It was obvious that the Spartans had no chance of stopping Williams. He was virtually invincible. Unfortunately for Central, their coaches did not realize this fact, and he carried the ball only a handful of times. Eventually, the Spartans marched back, shut down Central, and we toppled the national powerhouse.

I tell this story to communicate that in the full Gospel of grace, we have The Magic Bullet. So often in youth ministry, people search for a new recipe for making disciples, but the Answer is the same old story of God’s love for sinners. The message that God perfectly loves deeply imperfect people is The Message that will redeem the world. It is not helpful instructions to live better or some padding for our self-esteem. The Gospel rescues people from judgment, heals ultimate wounds, and brings dead people to life right now and forever.

Doing youth ministry without centering all things on the Gospel is like having LeBron James on your team in a pick up game at the YMCA and never passing him the ball. As would be the case with “Bron Bron” as your teammate, we need to rely on Jesus and His Gospel at every turn, in every relationship, and in all circumstances.

With Rooted, our mission is to reflect on how everything we do in ministry- missions, relationships, measures, discipline, lessons, messages, counseling, recruiting, volunteers, etc.- can be more deeply anchored in the message of Cross and God’s grace. Hopefully, engaging in this consideration will yield deeper, more vibrant ministries that offer life and that foster life-long disciples of Jesus Christ.

Cameron Cole has been the Director of Youth Ministries for eighteen years at the Church of the Advent, and in January of 2016 his duties expanded to include Children, Youth, and Families. He is the founding chairman of Rooted Ministry, an organization that promotes gospel-centered youth ministry. He is the co-editor of “Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practice Guide” (Crossway, 2016). Cameron is the author of Therefore, I Have Hope: 12 Truths that Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy (Crossway, 2018), which won World Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year (Accessible Theology) and was runner up for The Gospel Coalition’s Book of the Year (First-Time Author). He is also the co-editor of The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School (New Growth Press) and the author of Heavenward: How Eternity Can Change Your Life on Earth (Crossway, 2024). Cameron is a cum laude graduate of Wake Forest University undergrad, and summa cum laude graduate from Wake Forest with an M.A. in Education. He holds a Masters in Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary.

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