If you've read the last entry on my family website, my apologies; this will be a repeat. But there are some readers who have not heard about the youth ministry simply known as Jam Nite. About a decade ago, Rachel and I attended a small church in Beamsville with big dreams. Faith Family Church wanted to reach out to the town's youth. Considering the size of the congregation, that was asking a lot, but after some planning and tweaking, our church had a solid monthly program that was the talk of the town among the teens, and even some adults.

We'd invite teenagers onstage, which we hooked up with lights for the occasion, and play for their peers-- either solo or in a band. If a partial band showed up, we'd fill in the gap by providing the missing pieces (sometimes Rachel would play drums for a Guns 'n' Roses cover, having no idea who they were). We'd hear anything from impromptu jamming, to three or four song mini-concerts. Along with providing kids a place to play that wouldn't annoy parents, we also provided free snacks all night, and free pizza at the end. There were various games set up in our basement that kids played throughout the night. The event was christened "Jam Nite"-- not the flashiest name, but it did describe the main activity of the evening.

We didn't have social media and cell phones everywhere like today, but we did have a pastor who was a local teacher, and one kid who made it his mission to tell as many people as possible. Between them, and the posters hung up towards the end of the month near the school, we had over 140 kids streaming into our little church that first Friday night. I remember feeling like I was adrift in a sea of teens. And I remember loving that feeling. I also remember walking down the street between events, and suddenly hearing, "Hey, Steve, when's the next Jam Nite?"

Later on, a new element was added to the ministry. Twenty-four hours after a Jam Nite, we'd host another youth event, Synergy. The tag line described it as, "it's like church... but not". We hoped to add more evangelism and Bible teaching into the ministry by having a youth church for the Jam Nite teens. We had a couple of meetings before everything wound down, but that's a topic for another time. Because I want to get to why I'm sharing this.

Sometimes people have ministry dreams in their heart that they believe are possible, but at the end of the day, they can't say it's 100% doable because it's never actually been done before. Now, maybe it is doable, but they can't say it with certainty, since they never had an opportunity to try it in the real world. But the cool thing about the ministry vision I see? We saw it in real-world situations. And for a number of years, not a just a number of weeks. That's why we have confidence in the Lord that what he did during the original Jam Nite years, he can do again.

Since leaving Youth For Christ, people have asked what's next. Here's an answer: in my teen and Bible school years. I sensed that I was to proclaim to youth the truth about God, faith, Jesus, etc., in a way they'd understand. This is what I want to do now as well, through a vehicle like Jam Nite. But that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Next time, I'll talk about Synergy more in depth, and what role it plays in all this.

In the meantime, let me talk about a major shift in thinking here at Faith News Niagara. If you've ever browsed the Sponsor page in the past, you'd remember seeing a short write-up on why the website was launched. Imagine a missionary looking for supporters... that's YFC/ Youth Unlimited's funding model. That's how their staff get paid.

I say "their staff" because I recently resigned, since I was struggling with finding supporters. I'm all over the giving thing, but asking for something... yeah, really difficult. I'd rather give, every time. Which is why I love Faith News. It's all about giving.

Well, sorta. I mean, if that's true, why take money from prospective advertisers? Truth is, there are people that have had ads on our site that were not charged, because I wanted to give them something of value, and I was able to do so. So I did. Which doesn't make me a hero, but it does make me a giver.

So we're not charging for ads anymore. We're inviting people to give whatever they can afford, because we're going to trust God to speak to the right people to give the right amount at the right time. We're trusting that some will give on behalf of others, and that God will even everything out in the end! Pretty radical, huh?

Keith Green did something like this way back when. He stopped charging for his tapes (remember those?) and instituted a pay-whatever-you-can-afford policy. So we aren't trailblazers or anything. We just want to be givers.

Someone asked me once if doing this was scary. I said yes. But it's really fun too, at the exact same time. When I think that we're relying on people I think... what am I, crazy to do this? When I think that we're relying on the Lord I think... hey, this is exciting!

And if someone has an ad and they really can't pay for it? They should ask God who they should bless, and how. It can be a great opportunity to pay it forward, whatever "it" ends up being. "Freely you have received... now freely give."

So here we go-- we're entering a time of radical generosity, of looking at ourselves and asking what do we have that can be of value to another. Wouldn't it be cool if we all asked that?

What was 'Jam Nite'... and why ads are now free on Faith News Niagara


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May 2015

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"Steve Shares" is where Steve Samuels of Faith News Niagara shares the thoughts on his mind, and the dreams in his heart.