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Broken Cisterns & Living Water: My Youth Ministry Philosophy

Written by J Punt

One of the highlights of my undergraduate experience was a short study abroad trip to Israel in January of my junior year. We toured the whole country—from the Negev wilderness in the south all the way up to the Golan Heights in the north. Along the way, our most frequent stops were ruins of ancient biblical cities, each one dating back thousands of years. While the makeup of each ancient city varied, if you explored long enough you could always find an enormous underground reservoir that was made for holding vast amounts of water, a cistern, somewhere near the city center. You see, every city in Israel needed a large, dependable cistern because they were always at risk of siege from one of the huge, power-hungry empires to their north or south seeking to set roots in the region. Since city walls were difficult to penetrate with limited military technology of the day, warlords often surrounded a city and simply waited until the victims either had to open their gates or they would die of hunger or thirst. Without a generous stockpile of water, cities couldn’t last more than a couple days before they had to give in, but with a deep cistern they had a much better chance of being able to outlast their outside attackers.

When the prophet Jeremiah rebukes Israel for forsaking God he talks about cisterns. “My people have committed two sins,” he says, “they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13).

When kids grow older and begin to enter that tumultuous, wild, beautiful season of life during which they will begin the process of building their own identities and their own lives, they’re going to run into some growing pains, some road blocks, and some hurt. They may even feel like they’re under siege at times. And the difficult reality is that there are so many broken cisterns out there for them to pursue in their moment of trouble that might seem attractive at first, but will ultimately let them down in the end because they are not deep enough to fully satisfy.

In my own life, I have found that knowing Christ, connecting with his people, and working to serve his kingdom, is the only reliable source of abundant life that one can lean on, even when the enemy armies come. My prayer for this youth ministry is that in a world full of broken cisterns calling their names, we can help our students know how dependable, reliable, joyful, and true is the spring of living water, so that one day they can echo the words of the disciples saying, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Waypoint Church, thank you so much for being who you are! Amelia and I are so excited to be a part of your community!

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