Shepherd Church’s Westside Youth Ministry: A Multi-Ethnic Ministry Spotlight

Dream of Destiny is excited to share news of churches across the country that have a vision for the full expression of reconciliation that a multi-ethnic church offers. In highlighting these churches, DoD hopes you’ll be encouraged by their testimony and will pray for their progress.

In today’s post, Taeler Walden shares her experience working with youth at the Westside location of Shepherd Church.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  – Ephesians 3:20-21

This weekend I had the privilege of starting off my morning in prayer with the worship team. As band members and singers gather hand and hand to pray before starting rehearsal, I cannot help but feel blessed to be a part of this community. As they begin rehearsal, I get to start my set-up work as I listen to the worship music coming from the main sanctuary. Seriously, could I have a better job?

Being the only staff working with the youth at Westside, I think that I can be tricked into believing that I am very much alone in my job. But the reality is that when I walk outside the doors of the youth room, I am greeted with immediate smiles and comments of appreciation from those outside. Every morning people gather to stuff bulletins together. And every morning as I come walking past carrying a heavy load of supplies, these volunteers get up from their seats, take my burdens from me and walk me over to the youth room. Am I alone in what I do? Not at all. =)

Finally, once all set up, the door is opened and as a church we worship together! What a blessing it is to look around and see different generations, ethnicities and backgrounds praising God together. During announcements, middle schoolers and high schoolers are dismissed and we gather together in our little room. I have to admit, I am pretty naive when it comes to knowing what in the world to say to middle schoolers and high schoolers (and hey, I basically still am one!). However, I do know that I love the Lord and I spend time every week praying and preparing to the best of my ability for each weekend. No weekend has yet to happen exactly as I planned. But that has not been a bad thing. Throughout the multiple last-minute problems, the sporadic questions brought up by middle schoolers, messy crafts and bread wars (literally just chucking bread at each other), God has worked in incredible ways. <3 The ways in which He has worked are what I would like to spend the rest of this blog focusing on.

1. Students talk to each other: Don’t underestimate this one. As of this past December, these students came to this ministry knowing no one. My first weekend working with these youth is still one of my favorites. It started off with 3 girls and 1 boy (all high school). We sat down not knowing each other and after a few minutes of studying God’s Word and sharing with one another, one girl opened up and started sharing the work that she had seen God do in her life. I was amazed. Not long after this weekend, students started to feel comfortable hanging out long after they had been dismissed, simply wanting to share life together. This is an incredible blessing!

2. They want to bring change to the world: 
My students believe that they can help bring change to the world. In our prayer jar right now our middle schoolers have written down that they want to end racism, help the elderly and help the poor. Though as adults we say things like “Aw, how cute!” in response to things such as these, how incredible is it that we have young people who see a need for change.

3. They recognize that God has worked in their lives: This year two of our high school students decided to go to summer camp. Not only did this give them an opportunity to worship and learn alongside other students their age, but God has continued to work in their hearts. Both of these same students were also baptized this summer. =) This past weekend I asked the students to write down a way in which they have seen God work in their lives. I then asked them to take what they wrote down and to hang it on our prayer wall as a testimony to others of what God has done. Here are a few things that they shared with us:

  • “God has helped me realize that you need to do what’s right and we need to stand out as Christians.”
  • “No love is greater than His.”
  • “Even as I drifted away, God waited for me with open arms.”
  • “God has shown me true kindness and the will to make other people happy. He has also given me nice friends and family. Also a nice church and house.”
  • “Jesus has always listened to my thoughts and prayers. Jesus has shown me to never give up even when it is hard.”
  • “It was not supposed to be possible for my mother to have children but God gave her a miracle twice.”

So often we respond with “Wow! These are the little things that make what we do worth it.” But when I look back on my time with these youth, I do not believe that these are “little things” that simply made my job worth it… this is what my job is all about.

Thank you, Westside Youth for teaching me about ministry and about God. Though I may have been the “leader,” God used you all to show me more of Him. I am excited to see how this ministry continues to grow and I cannot wait to come back from Texas and visit you all. =)

*Thank you to my siblings Katelyn and Caleb and to Ryan and Shannon O’Donoghue for supporting this ministry so wonderfully. <3

About Taeler Walden

Taeler Walden

Taeler Walden is a lifetime member of Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, CA and a recent graduate of UCLA where she studied Biochemistry and Anthropology.

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