Rick Olmstead is the Director for Youth and Youth Adults on the National Board for the Vineyard USA. To set the tone for 2013, Rick he will be writing a series over the next couple weeks on his vision to ignite the next generation in the Vineyard.
It all began for me September, 2011 in Singapore. I went along for the ride to a conference my wife Becky was invited to, called the 4-14 Window Leadership Summit, in Singapore. I had never heard anything of this movement but I wanted to support Becky in her effort to champion the cause of kids in the Vineyard. As the conference unfolded I became intrigued as speaker after speaker talked about a youth movement called the 4-14 Window Movement. (80% those who come to Christ do so between the ages of 4-14 and 85% between 4-18)
Toward the end of the conference I had become all ears and had one of those Holy Spirit moments. I was in the back of the room minding my own business and all of a sudden I couldn’t stop crying as I was overwhelmed with God’s heart and intent for this younger generation. Then I heard a voice (one of only four times like this in my life) saying, “Rick, this is for you too, I want you to give the rest of your life to kids and young people.” I was stunned and at a loss of what to do but I was certain God had spoken to me at that moment. Parenthetically, I had been asking God how he wanted to use me for the next and probably the last ten years of my ministry life. I did not see this coming! (I had forgotten about an encounter I had in Toronto years earlier where I had a vision of thousands upon thousands of young people coming to Christ in the Vineyard in very similar ways to the Jesus Movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s.)
So what do I do with all this? My first thought was that perhaps I should give up my church (after 30 years) and make this my sole focus for the next ten years. Then I sensed that God might want to use me to influence other senior pastors and leaders toward the vision of the 4-18 generation. So, I got on the plane and started praying and writing down whatever came into my mind. “What will I say to our Vineyard Church family, where should I start and what will I do? First, I realized the need to develop a theology of kids and youth so I could teach what the Bible had to say about kids and young people, and how God used them mightily all over scripture. It was an amazing discovery for me to realize how prominent this was in the Bible. How could I have not seen it before? (I think there is a veil over the eyes of many senior pastors and leaders in this arena and I was one of them.) Sadly, I had not taught a whole message on kids in all my 30 years in Fort Collins, but I soon launched into a six week series called ‘Ignite: Lighting The Fires of a Generation,” that has become the catalyst for everything we are doing today here at Vineyard of the Rockies. The second thing was for me to become a student in what is going on inside our movements with teens and young adults. I am on that journey as I write.
So, back to my return to the USA from Singapore. We arrived home on a Friday and did our weekend services. Then we headed to Houston on Monday for our Vineyard USA Board meetings where we chose our new National Director. It turned out to be Phil Strout, a long time Board member and friend, who invited Becky and me into his room soon after learning of his selection. The first words out of his mouth were to this effect: “As I have been praying about whom to put on my new Executive Team, the first person who came to mind was you Becky and I want Kids to become a real priority of this moment. Then Phil turns to me and says, “I believe that God also spoke to me that you (Rick) should lead and champion our youth and young adults ages 13-35.” (Note, Phil had no idea what I had experienced in Singapore but I knew this was a confirming moment to me.)
As I have wrestled with this I realized that perhaps God had been preparing me for this all along. I was a rescued teenager when a family took me into their home when I was 13 years old. (The same age 13…on the younger end of those Phil asked me to lead.) After I graduated from college. I was 23 and my two teenage brothers, ages 13 and 15, came to live with me until they graduated from High School—a trying experience for all of us. I was clueless and they were pretty wounded by our family system. It was quite challenging trying to be like a dad to them, never knowing or having a dad myself. I was basically a miserable failure but what was I going to do? They had nowhere else to go! Later, miraculously, I continued on with school and ended up with a MA in Education/Counseling/Special Education and became a teacher/coach/principal over the next 7 years.
We planted our church in Fort Collins 30 years ago and have been on the National Council/Board for 25 years or so and most recently functioned as a Regional Overseer for the Rocky Mountain Region. All this to say that I believe God wants to take all those years and experiences and now use them to envision, encourage, and mobilize Vineyard leadership to invest and make this young generation a priority.
I am so encouraged by what I have seen so far in the Vineyard with kids, youth, and young adults. We have an amazing Kids and Youth Task Force and our kids and teens are rising up all over the Vineyard and taking their place in God’s kingdom ministry. Powerful gatherings have sprung up all over the country as thousands of teens are coming together in various settings experiencing God’s presence and power. They are going out and doing the “stuff” that Jesus did, and that the Vineyard has been about from the very beginning.
Could we be on the brink of another “Jesus Youth Movement?” I for one say, “yes and why not!” I believe the Lord is speaking to the Vineyard to come together and invest in this generation. I am humbled by it all and unsure of what to do but I am convinced God is leading this and he will show us what to do. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am “ALL IN” on this vision of “Igniting a Generation” to change the world. If you are of like mind then let’s do this together.