Written by Matthew Demitroff
At the age of 13, my spirit was stretching and I longed to grow deeper with God. I grew up in the church and it was apparent that the desire to serve God was present in my life. Youth group became a stepping stone where I could learn more about who God was outside of service on Sunday, bringing my spirituality to a deeper level.
At youth group, I experienced what my heart was desperately seeking, solidifying my faith. Youth group was not just a place where I gathered every Monday and Wednesday — it was a place that changed my life, spearheaded by the work of Matt Ferguson. Matt came into my life when I began high school and helped develop my talents and abilities. He helped me through every situation of abuse and difficulty that I faced in my past and present, and he brought me back to Jesus in the midst of confusion and uncertainty. As a teenager, I had many passions and it was Matt who helped guide those desires into avenues that would take my relationship with God to a new frontier. He challenged me and I wanted to be just like him, as he was like Jesus. Because of this, I asked Matt for his perspective on youth ministry.
What inspired you to become involved in youth ministry?
Matt: I never had a youth leader growing up who was a mentor to me. I went through a phase of my life in Grade 12 and through college where I went to parties and experimented with drugs and alcohol. It is a time of my life I wish I didn’t go through, as I was distant from God. I hoped I could offer the youth some insight from my experiences so they would hopefully learn from my mistakes and avoid the same ones I made.
Why is youth leadership/mentorship important?
Matt: It’s important youth have people they can trust and relate with, and who can offer wisdom and be a sounding board for them when they need to vent. As a youth leader, I always try my best to point them to God and help them look for Him in whatever they are going through. There are many sources for kids nowadays to find answers to their problems, so it’s very important they have a person in their life they can turn to who will share with them Scripture to help them live by.
What do you think youth mentorship looks like?
Matt: Youth mentorship is a relationship built on trust and care where I try to show them that they are important and loved by an awesome Creator who will never turn His back on them. I speak the Word of God into their lives and continually point them to seek God themselves through spending time with Him, by reading the Bible, worshipping, praying, and spending time with other Christians. It’s making sure youth can count on you to be there for them and that you will be honest with them and hold them accountable to the Word of God. Often, opportunities to show God’s love comes from various activities and outings and conversations they enjoy being part of. Following up with the youth all the way into college or university is also very important to keep the communication and relationship going.
What are some qualities of a good youth leader?
Matt: Qualities of a good youth leader are the fruits of the Spirit, and the best way to possess and grow the fruits of the Spirit is to spend time in God’s Word daily and to pray frequently with thanksgiving and praise, asking the Holy Spirit to lead and speak through you. It comes down to wanting more of God coming through and less of ourselves.