How Youth Ministry Shaped My Life

I have now been in ministry for over fifty years.  It all started with the youth ministry of the denomination in which I was raised.  I had just graduated from high school and had already enrolled in Weber State College in Ogden, Utah, where I hoped to play football.  I was dating a girl whose family lived in Colorado.

Our denomination held a National Youth Conference in Colorado and it so happened that my friend, Kay, was going to be visiting her Colorado family on the same dates as the Youth Conference.  That was all the motivation I needed.  I schemed that if I went to the National Conference, I could conveniently arrange it so I could ride back to Utah from Colorado with Kay and her family.  That was the bait God arranged to get me to the Youth Conference that would radically change my life and that eventually resulted in fifty years of ministry.

The youth camp at Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, was great.  The majestic mountains, the bubbling springs, the fields of sunflowers all made for a wonderful experience.  But even more important was the social and spiritual environment.  My father was a church planter, so usually the youth group was me, my brother, and one or two others.  But here I was with hundreds of youth worshipping God, studying the Bible, and having fun.  The Spirit of God was tangibly present in every service.  It was more than I could ever have dreamed of – hundreds of kids like me worshipping God in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

It was in this conference that I dedicated my life not only to Christ, but to His service.  The big thing at the end of the conference was not the return ride with Kay.  Something much bigger – a vision – had captured my heart.

I went back home knowing that I would soon drop out of Weber College, let my dream of playing college football go, give up an inheritance that the couple I worked for promised me if I would stay with them, and headed for a small Bible College in Houston.

At that youth conference I met Evelyn Tyler who three years later became my wife – a wonderfully gracious, loving, and hardworking beauty who has walked with me now for over fifty years.

It all started from the efforts of a group of devoted Christian workers – men and women to whom I will be eternally indebted.  They had a vision to impact my generation.  I give testimony to the fruit of their labors.  My testimony could be repeated over and over where ministry to youth really made a difference.

Berten Waggoner

Berten has been serving as National Director of Vineyard USA since September of 2000 when the Board of Vineyard USA appointed him. To read his full bio, click here

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