By Sammie Gallo, Abundant Life: You Were Made for More Creator
*This piece was first featured on the New Wineskins Missionary Network Website (edited).
In the midst of summer starting, school ending, and our normal youth group rhythms looking differently for the “school’s out” season, I thought it would be a great time to remind you (whether you’re a parent, youth leader, or student): You were made for more. Period. No debate. No questions asked.
“You were made for more.” I longed to her those words as a teenager – and in some way, I think we all do, really.
Jesus knew that – I mean, it’s so clear really – God knows exactly what we need to hear in each and every moment because He made us + He sustains us. That’s a truth that I have built my life on.
Back in 2017, as I was in my fourth year of serving as a youth leader at my home church, the Lord put it on my heart to dive deeper into the question: are we, as a Church, addressing sex education and relationships in a way that glorifies the abundant life that Jesus died for? Are we looking into the eyes of our students and offering them hope – letting them know that when Jesus said “it is finished” on the cross that He was speaking directly to them? That no matter what mistakes they have made in past relationships, God sees them as white as snow because of what Jesus did FOR them.
I was strongly convicted by the fact that the narrative around sex, dating, and relationships in the Church needed to be reframed – especially for middle school high school students. We need to make this a normative, Gospel-centered, and weekly (not annually) conversation. As I head into high schools (both public, private, Christian and non-religious), I see the reality of what students are inundated with when it comes to the cultural narrative about sex, dating, and relationships, and as I feel the weight of the lies that students are being fed and believing, my heart aches for them to know the truth.
Nationally, the abortion-giant Planned Parenthood is the largest sex education provider in public school systems. The comprehensive sexual education programs that they run teaches students how to have “safe, healthy sex.” They support students in making decisions that developmentally they aren’t yet able to make, potentially creating life-long damage – and they have a receptive audience, because “Generation Z” believes that Christianity is a religion that has too many rules. Additionally, radical western individualism has produced unprecedented social isolation unique to 21st century youth. Even though opportunities for social connection have exponentially increased, suicide rates have reached all-time highs and sexual exploitation is running rampant. It seems as though Satan is preparing for his grand finale – working overtime to convince people that they are alone and worthless.
This is not the sort of abundant life that Jesus was talking about, and it certainly isn’t the kind of life that He died for.
One of the reasons I am so big on empowering young people is because of this: Satan continues his efforts to make sin less offensive, Heaven less appealing, hell less horrific, and the Gospel less urgent.
The thief does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly.John 10:10
If we want to bring real life transformation into the Church’s youth, we must first speak to who they are. Every teenager yearns to know the answer to the questions: “Who am I and what am I doing here”?
Church – We have the answer. And that’s how Abundant Life: You Were Made for More was born.
The worst thing the Church can do is to water down sex education. We misunderstand teenagers when we assume that they are just immature, physically and emotionally. Beneath the physiological realities resides a deep human desire for connection. When we fail to help young people navigate how sex and relationships fit into the broader category of life, I believe we are failing the God who created relationship to be a deep, bountiful gift for us. This new resource is rooted in identity, and covers topics like healthy relationships, sexuality, dating, decision-making, pornography addiction, social media usage, loneliness, depression, and suicide, all resting on the ultimate redemption found only in Jesus Christ.
Identity is the basis of the curriculum because that’s the transforming factor. That’s what the Gospel is all about – it’s the good news for our very souls, it’s the good news that even when everything is broken in us, teenagers know what they are worth and whose they are, they will be more inclined to live for Jesus – following His commandments and walking in His ways.
This curriculum’s goal is to engage teenagers, partner with parents, and equip youth leaders about relational and culturally-relevant topics through Scriptural teaching. I believe that educating teenagers about who they are, what the purpose of relationships are, and how the Gospel interacts with all of this is essential in the Kingdom of God. Why? Because inevitably, if we don’t give them something to live for, someone else will.
As long as it takes: that’s what we have to remember when we’re in the middle of the battle and it looks like there is no hope of us winning. I’ll stay in it, and I want the Church to be in it, too, as long as it takes, because His love is worth us doing anything so that they would know it.
Sammie graduated from Robert Morris University in 2017 with a background in biology and psychology and started working full time with Anglicans for Life (AFL) in 2018. In addition to her work with AFL, she spends time going into public schools with the Women’s Choice Network, speaking to high schoolers about healthy relationships and sex education. Sammie married her best friend, Juan Gallo, in May 2019. During her free time, you can find her leading youth ministry with her husband at their church, where he serves as the youth pastor. Sammie spends her day-to-day making sure that every person hears and believes the words: “you were made for more.” You can follow Sammie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! She’d love to get to know you!