The folks at Capri Christian are serious about training up young leaders in the church. There’s a verse in Proverbs that says: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Students meet at 10 a.m., every Sunday, for Bible study and 7 p.m., for youth group.
An integral part of training the youth is Ray Mackmin and his wife Deborah. Five years ago Pastor Curt Ayers approached Mackmin, who runs an insurance agency during the week, to teach the middle school class Sunday School class. At that time, usually about five students would attend. Michelle Reynoso was one of them. “There was me, the pastor’s son, his friend and some other kid,” said Reynoso.
The class has exploded to 50 students each Sunday and Reynoso is now a youth leader in training. She is enthusiastic about bringing friends and watching them become a part of the church, saying “The church family really helps you get close to Christ.”
Mackmin wasn’t excited about teaching a class as he had never taught before and had no experience with youth. “I told him I would do it until they found someone else. I believe that’s when God began calling me into teaching. It didn’t take long to realize how hungry the kids were for the word of God, and I knew I had to dedicate myself to this incredible group of young people,” said Mackmin.
“The majority of the students who attend Sunday school and Wednesday evening youth group do so on their own. That is inspiring to me, as well as other church members,” he said.
“Our goal is to build a strong spiritual foundation in every kid that joins our group and to develop Christ-like character in the kids, in hopes that they will become leaders, whether in their marital home, job or community. Unfortunately our school systems continue to let us down when it comes to keeping God in school. With so many single-parent homes and often, both parents working in a two-parent home, where do the kids go today to be spiritually fed? Both of our pastors and elders at Capri Christian Church feel that is our responsibility,” said Mackmin.
His wife Deborah added, “As Christian adults, we are to be fishers of men and to spread the gospel; 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says, ‘All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ That verse is pretty clear to me and helps direct us all in our relationships with the youth.”
Additionally, high school and college students in the youth group who have a desire to be a spiritual leader within the group become part of the youth-leader-in-training program. They learn how to conduct Bible lessons and to pray openly. Mackmin hopes that many will take it a step further by going to a Christian college to become a youth pastor or missionary.
The church lady visited Capri Christian’s Wednesday evening youth group. It was an evening of hugs, praise, prayer, rap and cell phones. Seventy-five students of various ages, sizes, colors, cultural backgrounds and modes of dress filled the pews. There were students from Lely, Naples, Baron Collier, St. John Neumann and Seacrest high schools.
Youth-leader-in-training Jose Sotelo opened the evening with prayer. The students next rose and sang praise and worship songs that were projected on two screens in the front of the church. Student leader Lauren Orr gave the evening’s Bible lesson that stressed understanding God, trusting God and walking in faith. The students followed along in their Bibles. Some tapped notes and Bible references into their cell phones.
Next, Mackmin asked for prayer requests. Their requests for were for those near and dear to them, mostly for their mothers and for family members facing illness. The service ended with a jubilant presentation of Christian rap by Tim Parsons. “The only way to live my life is through Jesus Christ… Oh my God is great… screamin’ for the Holy One… rappin’ for God,” were some of the lyrics. Afterward, students went to the fellowship hall for refreshments.
Pablo Barcenas is another of the youth leaders in training. “Church is new for many who attend,” said Barcenas.
His friend, Gerard Eustache, added, “It’s special when you come out of your own will and your bring your friends.”
“It’s a blessing to find a church like this. Many drive far distances to attend,” said Barcenas.
Dave Mustachi, one of the youth leaders who is an adult, said, “I’ve never seen kids like this in my life. They are amazing and very spiritual. It is very heartwarming and fulfilling to be a part of all of this. There are no cliques or snobs. They embrace the other kids. Its all about God and Jesus.”
“I have never been associated with teenagers that have such character and the strength to stand up at their school and to their peers about God and what the Bible says about controversial subjects,” said Mackmin. “They have all been an inspiration to Deborah and myself. We are truly blessed to be a part of this group. God didn’t bless us with any children of our own, and now we know why. Between family and the kids at Capri Christian, we feel like we have 50.”
Upcoming at Capri Christian is a Trunk & Treat, 5 to 7 p.m., Oct. 31, in the church parking lot. “We want to get to know the kids and families in our community and to provide a fun and safe way to enjoy fall harvest,” said Mackmin.
The church will also begin a 5 p.m. Sunday Night Group on Nov. 1 for youngsters in kindergarten to the fifth grade. If you have any service changes, new classes or special events. Please send your news to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathleen Tuttle, a Marco Island resident since 1987, has written articles for various nonprofits for more than 25 years. She is a community volunteer, former science teacher and microbiologist.