Mike Calhoun didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but after learning about the love of God in his teen years he never looked back.
He’s devoted the time since to discipleship and teaching others how to pour into the lives of young people. This weekend the American pastor is speaking at Word of Life Bermuda’s Flashpoint Conference, which wraps up this afternoon at Calvary Gospel Chapel.
“I’ve been to Bermuda several times before and just love the island,” Mr Calhoun said. “The director of WOL Bermuda, Mark Hall, asked me to speak about some basic principles of youth ministry to encourage youth leaders in the upcoming year, so I will be talking primarily about the idea of accountability and how we can help young people live consistent lives — from their personal and spiritual walk and other daily disciplines as well.”
He believes life can be tough for young people today; Gen Z is often criticised, especially for its reliance on technology.
“When you are told something often enough you believe that,” said Mr Calhoun. “The message we hope to pass on to youth workers, that they can share with the young people they come into contact with, is they don’t have to buy into that name or that world view.
“I want to help the leaders first of all get grounded themselves, because one of the things I’ve learnt is we have to teach by our own example. It’s not enough to stand up and say, ‘You have to do this’. Young people are going to be watching our lives so if we decide as leaders to live an exemplary life then young people will look at that and say, ‘I want that and to live like this’. This isn’t just a conference to tell people what they have to do, but encouraging them to live it out.”
He strongly believes this generation is the one that will bring about the next reawakening of the church.
“Some of the things we look at and see as weaknesses of this generation are actually their strengths to make a difference. With globalisation, young people, even in Bermuda, they are connected with the world through the internet. Technology has made the world flat. They are interacting with young people in Africa, Asia and Europe. When they start thinking about missions and travelling to the other side of the world, it’s not such a big feat for them. It’s a whole different conversation when thinking about reaching the world for Christ.
“They are also technologically gifted and there is so much they can do.”
According to a recent global study 70 per cent of Gen Z is committed to volunteering in some capacity. Mr Calhoun said it’s important to therefore help them find a cause they can support, a real call to something significant that they can get behind.
“Some of the youth leaders I interact with say, ‘Our kids don’t get involved’. My response is, ‘Then maybe you haven’t shared anything significant enough for them to rally behind’.
“I have talked to numerous families here on the island and their kids have travelled and been to school all over the world and for these young people the world is small. God can use that to His advantage.”
One of the messages he hopes to pass on to youth leaders this weekend is that reaching young people is a process.
Mr Calhoun promotes the 2 Timothy 2:2 philosophy of discipleship: if you pour into someone’s life over a number of months or years, that individual will then pour into someone else’s life, creating a ripple effect.
“That’s the thing that is going to make a difference and we are seeing this all over the world in our ministries. It works,” he said.
He retired last year at 65, having spent 43 years with WOL. As he felt he had more to give, he joined The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina as the Pastor of Ministry Training. Its goal is to plant 1,000 churches around the world; Mr Calhoun is charged with training seminary students for future ministry.