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Cell groups strengthen California youth group

On a Wednesday night in San Jose, Calif., 20 teen-agers have gathered in Robert Stefani’s living room to talk about issues ranging from problems with relationships to drug abuse.

Most of those present are not Christians, but as they delve into the night’s topic, a lively discussion ensues. The same scene occurs in other Christian homes throughout the area.

"We are reaching out to kids who normally won’t come to church," says Stefani, who is the high school youth pastor at Bethel Church in San Jose, where Ken Dobson is pastor. "We exist to win the unsaved then get them plugged into church and discipled."

The cell groups have also provided opportunities for Christian students to hone their ministry gifts. Student leaders guide the cell groups and provide a biblical perspective on the issues and an offer of salvation.

Since starting the cell groups last March, Bethel’s youth group has climbed from 80 to 200 young people.

Todd Bethke and John Lugo Jr., both sophomores at local public high schools and cell group leaders, have led several of their friends to Christ.

"Some people don’t have friends or a group to hang around with," says Bethke. "So we invite them. The cell groups give people an opportunity to talk about their problems."

"Most of my non-Christian friends are scared of church because they really don’t know how to fit in," says Lugo. "But, the way we do this — it makes me happy knowing we are reaching out to our non-Christian friends."

After attending the cell groups and finding a sense of belonging, many of the teen-agers want to become involved at church.

"I’ve never seen anything like it," says Dobson. "The kids are asking real questions and they are being led to Christ."

— Kirk Noonan


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