It began when I made a decision to join my wife Becky at the 4 to 14 Window Leadership Summit in Singapore in September, 2011. I had never heard anything of this movement but I wanted to support Becky in her effort to champion and advocate for the cause of kids. As the conference unfolded, I became intrigued by the vision of Luis Bush who had pioneered the 10/40 Window Movement and now championing the 4to14 Window Movement. This was a demographic window of when most people who come to Christ are reached.
Like the prophet urged in Habakkuk 2:2, I wrote down the vision I received. By 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! So what do I do with all this? 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 might be a veil over the eyes of many 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 as pastor, but I soon launched into a six week series called ‘Ignite: Lighting The Fires of a Generation,” that became the catalyst for everything we did at our church in the next season.
So, 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. I want Kids to become a real priority of this movement. 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. Later, after I graduated from college, (another miracle) 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 me to be sure. I was clueless and they, as was I, pretty wounded by our family system. It was quite challenging time trying to be like a dad to them, never knowing or having a dad myself. I felt like a failure but what was I going to do? They had nowhere else to go as they were abandoned by my mother! Later, miraculously, I continued on with school and ended up with an MA in Education/Counseling/Special Education and became a teacher/coach/principal over the next 7 years. I then planted a church with Becky - the Vineyard Church of the Rockies. It was here where I spent my next 30 years as a pastor. Now 8 years I am onto my next assignment from God as the 4/14 Movement Global Leader. Who would have thought!
One thing seems clear - God is calling his Church to embrace his heart for children. Perhaps there will be others like myself, who the Spirit of God will awaken to the vision and mission of raising up a new generation from the 4 to14 Window! Wow, God is so good!