I remember the moment I fell in love with Maranatha as an adult. It was a Sunday night in June 2007. I had just graduated from college and was sitting with my dad in the evening service. It was Rev. Aaron Messner’s last Sunday at Tenth. Maranatha teens suddenly emerged from the 18th street stairs and flooded into the sanctuary to join the congregation for the night. By the time they were seated, my dad and I were on opposite ends of our pew, surrounded by teens. My heart overflowed with love and compassion for these energetic young people, as I remembered my own years encouraged as a teenager in Maranatha.

Teens are in a unique and challenging time of life. They are changing so much and learning about the world and their role in it. As those who are growing up as Christians or around Christianity, they are wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus. With the ever-changing culture and world around us, they are often on the front lines of these changes and the challenges to Christianity. They are also friendship focused as they are beginning to make a life of their own. Most are a whole lot more flexible than us adults, too. These qualities make teens vital to the life and growth of the church!

When I was a student involved in Maranatha, Carroll Wynne often told us that we were important to the church and should not be overlooked. We took a seventeen-page spiritual gifts test before mission trips to better understand our giftedness and how to rely on one another for the unique gifts God had given to us. Where most adults wouldn’t love sleeping on the floor for a two-week mission trip, we had no problem doing that, and loved the adventure of it. We went to the nursing home and gave private musical performances for bed-bound men and women. As leaders of Maranatha, we have sought hard to build on this and I am grateful for Tenth opening the doors for the teens to participate in the Youth Service, serve on Sundays in a variety of ways, and be commissioned and supported in mission trips serving various Tenth partners over the summers.  

Perhaps what has blessed me most is that Maranatha is one of the many communities within the church that practices kingdom life and puts it on display with the desire of giving others an experience of belonging to Jesus.  I remember hearing often that the gospel is defined as the Good News, or a proclamation that a king has been born. As Christians we often pour our focus into the words of the gospel message whether through preaching or teaching or our own testimony of who God is and what he has done. But in Matthew 10:7, Jesus instructs the disciples to go out and proclaim that the good news is that the kingdom of heaven was near. Not only had King Jesus been born, but he was ushering in a new way of living under his eternal rule. For so long I thought of the gospel as the words we share with others, yet Christ calls us to live differently, not just speak differently or speak a different message. I’ve been blessed to see this lived out in Maranatha (both as a teen and as a leader) as the teens and leaders live out this beautiful communal life. 

It can be easy to think teens have a lot to learn from us adults, yet we can be encouraged by them as we see the way they love being together and serving together. While adults are often so busy with the cares of life, we can learn from our teens the beauty of pursuing one another with the love of Christ, so that not only our words but our actions would reflect and testify to the beauty and glory of our Savior and Lord. My hope is that Tenth will continue to be blessed by the gifts God has given to our community of teens!

Thank you for entrusting me all these years with these precious teens and God’s ministry to them. God has shaped and changed me through this work and these relationships, and I am forever grateful to him.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dora Phan. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org