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    Youth Explosion lives life on The Stoop

    By Jeremy | December 22, 2006

    - My latest article (January 2007, Tri-State Voice) Proverbs promises that wisdom cries out in the streets, waiting to be found by those who seek her. The Stoop, an original musical by Youth Explosion Ministries in Glendale Queens, depicted what she looks like: joyful, strong, engaging, and at peace with herself, her neighbors, and her God. On Thanksgiving weekend, Youth Explosion (YE) celebrated their tenth anniversary with The Stoop, written and directed by associate youth director Ralph Castillo. Ten years ago, Pastor Adam Durso was vacuuming his father Pastor Michael Durso's office at Christ Tabernacle when he felt God calling him into youth ministry. Only 19 at the time, and newly restored to faith after years of prodigal living, the church elders confirmed the call and commissioned him to run with it. Adam and a team of youth leaders -- most of them teenagers -- began to pray, and hosted an evangelistic concert the Friday after Thanksgiving, 1996. With a hand drawn flier and hand-to-hand marketing throughout the neighborhood, they filled the 1,000-seat auditorium and Youth Explosion was born. The tenth anniversary celebration exceeded even that original effort. Five hundred people were turned away from Friday's opening night performance of The Stoop. Four Sunday shows were again filled to capacity, with two encore performances the following week. I had the privilege of attending opening night and on Sunday with my family. The Stoop demonstrated once again that Youth Explosion gets it. Pastor Adam, Ralph, and their team understand how to reach kids, and they're doing it every chance they get. Using language, culture, and methods that resonate with young people, they've created an attractive space where teens can heal from life's wounds and flourish in their uniqueness. But that's not the only reason for YE's success. More important even then the ability to draw thousands into their building, YE doesn't let their events get in the way of cultivating relationships with kids where they live. The brilliance of their ministry lies in engaging young people throughout every layer of the ministry's functioning, even at the "adult" church level. Youth leaders are now the church's executive pastor, its public relations director, its multimedia department, and vital to just about everything else. That's not to say Christ Tabernacle is a youth church. Hardly. But by trusting emerging leaders -- despite their age and relative inexperience -- and equipping and empowering them to actually lead, it's become a model for intergenerational mentorship that actually works. Pastor Michael and Maria Durso and the senior leadership at Christ Tabernacle deserve limitless acclaim for allowing their youth to "shine like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:15). Their courage and the fruitfulness it has borne, testify to senior pastors and ministry leaders everywhere that it's OK to instill within a congregation's culture the Apostle Paul's mandate to Timothy: Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity (I Tim. 4:12). As a result, the highlights of The Stoop were a song performed by a 15 year old who wrote the lyrics shortly after her older sister was murdered; a dance sequence that featured at least 30 different dancers; and a story that emphasized the power of Christ's everyday incarnation in our neighborhoods. On a personal note, I've become YE's biggest fan because Ralph and Adam, and increasingly their spiritual progeny, are great friends. I first met Ralph twelve years ago, when he was a freshman at NYU and I was a senior. He used to crash at my dorm room when he was working late at the computer lab. I even helped edit one of his Writing Workshop papers. Now he's writing original musicals. Rogers and Hammerstein, anyone? Something special happens when we pray for people, and a joy unspeakable overtakes us when those prayers are answered. One night in my dorm room, Ralph and I were up late talking about life. He told me about his best friend Adam, a preacher's kid who had backslidden hard. Brokenhearted yet loyal, he asked if we could pray for his friend. Now Adam pastors the largest youth group in New York City. Youth Explosion's first decade of ministry has become a model for effective youth outreach not because they regularly fill the sanctuary on Friday nights nor because they produce concerts at Six Flags amusement parks nor because Adam's a dynamic preacher who travels the country speaking to thousands (all of which is true). YE exemplifies effective youth ministry despite their rapid growth (not because of it) because they continue to live among the people they serve. Like wisdom, Youth Explosion finds itself in the streets touching teens one by one, and living life on The Stoop. ****** In other regional youth ministry news, over four hundred youth workers gathered at Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on November 11 for Urban Youth Workers Institute's Reload training. Reload is a national tour that trains youth workers in up to twenty-five cities each year. The turnout, discussion, and energy project an exciting future for youth ministry among New York City's two million young people. Congratulations to Bo and Mary Nixon for receiving the first ever Eagle Award for their forty years of innovative youth outreach through the ministry of New Life of New York. - Jeremy Del Rio, Esq. consults urban ministries on youth and community development, strategic planning, and cultural engagement. Visit him online at www.JeremyDelRio.com.

    Topics: articles, UYWI, youth explosion, youth ministry | No Comments »

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