Today’s guest blogger is Jimmy Bero from Blackhawk Church in Madison, WI. Blackhawk is part of the 2012 Sticky Faith Cohort. Jimmy is the Director of Student Ministries at Blackhawk’s Fitchburg campus. This post is reprinted with permission from Blackhawk’s publication “Illuminate.”
Justin Warner is not the type of guy who likes to talk about himself, which isn’t that weird until you consider the fact that everybody else loves to talk about him.
While a lot of well-known leaders are famous for their ability to teach large groups, their quirky mannerisms or their raucous antics, Justin is simply a man who loves to be behind the scenes, elevating others into the spotlight and encouraging students to step out of their comfort zone to be the young men and women God made them to be.
In 2006 Justin started serving in Middle School Ministry with a group of seventh grade guys. He stuck with them through the end of their eighth grade year, but at the end of that year, Justin was faced with a decision. Would he continue with these guys as they started High School, or stick with Middle School Ministry? After praying, Justin decided that God was still calling him to serve middle schoolers, so the next year he started with a new group of sixth grade guys.
One of the most significant ways God used Justin in the ministry was his work with the Middle School worship band. At an age when most young musicians are just beginning to explore their gifts and passion for music, Justin’s selflessness allowed him to lead the band in a way that put students front and center, with the focus being not on their abilities, but rather on their identity as children of God. Give Justin a group of students who are passionate about music, and he will build a community so focused on love and acceptance that the music being produced is secondary to the way Christ radiates from the souls of those making it. After three years with his guys, Justin again faced the question of whether to move up to High School with them.
This time, God called Justin to High School Ministry, and his work there has been transformative.
In past years, there was always an adult leader on stage, but now the band is completely student-led. Justin helps provide logistical structure for rehearsals, prints music and gets other leaders to help out. The students are leading everything on stage, free to own the music they are making for God. Justin would say that the congregation isn’t concerned as much with the musical abilities (though they are extraordinary) of students, but on their passion. Seeing young people sing in harmony alongside experienced worship leaders gives us a picture of God’s kingdom.
And that helps create faith that sticks in students’ lives.