As students enter Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian, Idaho, they see a circle of teenagers on the left near the auditorium.
Shortly after sunrise, Jay Miller kneels on the indoor steps in the school hallway playing Grace Like Rain on his guitar. The 16-year-old leads the group of teenagers in worship and Bible study.
Jay’s athletic stance is reflected in the large windows looking out at snow-lined mountains.
The students open up their Bibles to discuss hope from Isaiah 61 while the activity and noise level around them increases just before the school bell rings.
Moments later the group stands, linking arms around each other’s shoulders and forming a huddle for prayer.
The clash of doors opening and slamming resounds as other students, charging into the second largest public high school in Idaho, gawk at Jay and his friends.
“Over a 2-year time period from 6th to 8th grade, I wrestled with fitting in,” says Jay, now a senior. “I began to think about what kind of person I was going to be and I decided to give up my life to Christ.”
As he glances at his guitar, he adds, “I worried over the thought of possibly losing my friends and that the fear of being known as a Christian might ruin my high-school experience.”
As Jay has made a momentous step in living for Christ at RMHS, now he is taking the momentous step of learning to give his faith away. Reaching out involves many aspects in Jay’s life, from leading worship at his church and youth group to talking with classmates on his Grizzlies baseball, football and track teams.
“Sometimes I have the most random conversations,” says Jay. “After suffering a concussion while playing defense, Mr. Manu, my football coach, had me sit on the sideline.”
As he at there, Jay pulled his Bible out of his sports bag. A couple of teenage football fans, one named Trent, came up to him. They asked him to show them what he was reading.
Jay lifted his Bible and said, “I’m reading my Bible. Have you ever read it?” He asked Trent as he started to forget about his injury, “Do you have a relationship with Christ?”
This caused Trent to talk about his upbringing and beliefs. “I made it clear how Trent could have a relationship with Christ by telling my own story.” At the time, Trent didn’t seem to understand.
Even though it is not always comfortable or convenient to reach out to others, Jay’s training in evangelism helped.
On Fridays, Jay participates in a training opportunity. During lunch period as he heads down the hallway, he passes between rows of cliques made up of football players, skaters and others sprawled out on the floor. They glance his way as they loudly chat, eating from sack lunches.
Jay enters Mr. Morrison’s history room, where the sound of loud laughter and high fives with hugs or pokes resounds at the gathering of RMHS Student Venture, Cru’s ministry to middle- and high-school students, which take place weekly.
Wildly talking, teens plunk down in or on top of desks and grab candy as Mat Turcato, a junior at College of Western Idaho in Boise and a Cru intern, corrals them in order to transition to talk time.
“What do high-school students worry about?” asks Mat.
With mouthfuls of Starbursts, the teens shout out, “College!” “Appearance!” Getting louder, they shout, “Reputation!” “Relationships!”
Mat reads from Luke 12:22-28 and a serious atmosphere ensues. “And He [Jesus] said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.”
Students nod their heads while they listen.
“Student Venture has helped me feel more comfortable letting people know about Christ,” says Jay.
He used to worry about his reputation. Now, on the contrary, Jay admits, “I am seeing that being a Christian is actually making my high-school experience a good one.”
Carrying around his guitar, which he’s fondly named “Monique,” sparks conversations at school with other students who ask him why he has it with him.
Jay said, “I am being known as ‘the Christian’ and it doesn’t bother me.”
Jay is learning from Student Venture to be bold in his faith, bring peers into the group and to Jesus.
That night, Jay volunteered at a Student Venture outreach, where 18 people indicated decisions to trust Christ as their Savior.
As part of Student Venture, Jay learned how to use a booklet titled Would You Like to Know God Personally?, a 4-point outline explaining how someone becomes a Christian.
“I carry it in my binder, ready to use when needed,” says Jay. But he acknowledges it is not always comfortable asking a classmate or friend to make a decision.
One of Jay’s track and football teammates, Chris Fries, claims to be an agnostic.
“I don’t have all of the answers,” says Jay in reference to talking with other students about God. This, too, can feel uncomfortable.
Jay seeks out answers from others including Mat at Student Venture and his former youth pastor, Ryan Boyer.
“I want to get back to people that I have talked to with more of the truth from God’s Word,” says Jay.
“Jay cares about people and asks questions about real life issues,” says Ryan. Ryan encouraged Jay to step out of his comfort zone and get involved with Student Venture in order to reach out to others and to introduce them to Christ.
At track practice, Jay runs with speed and exertion to prepare for the long jump. All of the practice would be pointless if, in the track meet, Jay never made the jump.
In the same way, Jay is learning that evangelism goes beyond talking about beliefs. It includes inviting people to place their trust in Jesus.
At the track meet, Jay faces the afternoon’s chilly, rain-dripping wind, then races down the black track. In the distance, mountain tops sparkle with lines of snow.
Just before reaching the elimination line, he springs into the air, then lands, sand spewing all around. The score keeper measures the distance of his long jump. With a smile, Jay gets to his feet and brushes off his track shorts -- a successful jump completed.
The next school day at Rocky Mountain High, teenagers flow like two slow-moving herds in either direction down the hallways. Students six across swarm past the boy and girl frantically kissing next to their locker.
Loud, persistent conversations resound with cussing, and shouting out to friends. Some shuffle more slowly, concentrating on the floor as if to become invisible, others stride swiftly as they shove their way to their classes.
Another day in high school, and Jay knows he can make the “jump” by giving his faith away. It’s a choice each day.