Got a chance to interview Jeff Foxworthy, host of GSNTV’s American Bible Challenge! You can read part 1 of the interview right here, here’s part 2! Be sure to tune in Thursday night for the season finale!
Q: Are your kids involved in a youth group?
Jeff: Yeah, but they’re 18 and 20 now. My youngest is a senior in high school. Just won homecoming queen Friday night, but asked me on Saturday, “Hey dad, will you go with me on a mission trip to Kenya.” She’s been 3 or 4 times. That’s how they spend their spring breaks, working in a slum in Kenya. She’s popular and she’s pretty, but she’s been to Africa, Russia and China. She and her sister have partnered with Compassion International and have helped raise money to help more kids. They’re living it out.
JG: Love it! Tell me more: how have you gotten your own kids to study the Bible?
Jeff: Well, my kids went to a Christian school, so my wife and I figured they got most of the formal stuff, there in the classroom. We kind of wanted to make sure they ‘see’ it in action.
So, when my oldest was 14, there was a group of guys, we all took our oldest kids with us on a mission trip. So my shy little girl, who wouldn’t spend the night at her grandmothers house a mile away, went with me to Kenya to work with people there. She came back and said, “There ought to be something kids here can do. I know kids don’t have much money.” So, she did some research online and learned that more kids die there of Malaria than anything else in Africa. So she found a place where she could buy mosquito nets for ten bucks.
She started baking cupcakes and doing car washes and my shy child starting getting local restaurants to give her a night and she would set up a little table about it. Then she made a little video and partnered with Compassion International. By the time she was in 10th and 11th grade, she was flying around and speaking to youth groups about having been there and what she was doing. By the time she was a senior, she was invited to the White House to speak to a conference of kids who are changing the world. Now she’s a senior in college and helps run the Compassion program at her college campus and has raised over $2M to buy about 200K nets. I said to her, “That’s 600K kids that probably won’t get Malaria because you took one small step”. She’s been to Africa 5 times now. For her, the Bible is alive and in the doing. That’s probably what she’ll end up doing with her life, working for a non-profit.
Recently, someone was interviewing her and asked, “Is it weird for you to be at the high school lunch room and they’re talking about what pants or sunglasses they’re going to buy, and you’re raising money for these nets”. She said, not wanting to judge anyone, “Well, that’s not their fault. I’ve just seen something they haven’t seen. But because I have seen something, I have to respond”.
Q: You have the attention of thousands of church youth workers right now.. anything you want to share with them?
Jeff: Well, for years and years, on Tuesday mornings I’ve led a small group at a homeless mission in my city. (Jeff adds humbly, “not for publicity or anything like that obviously”). We started out with about 12 guys, and now I have about 20 guys that help and it’s grown to 120 homeless guys.
There is probably a connection between where these guys are at, and young people today. That message is… Everybody wants to be worth something. You know, I think that’s the struggle for youth groups and teens. “Where do I fit in?” “Do I matter?” “Am I relevant?” And GOD answer that he whispers and he showed it right there at the cross is that you’re worth EVERYTHING to me. EVERYTHING. Look right there, that’s what your worth to me.
If you could ever get that in the heart of a kid, then I think they would quit worrying so much, that I have to do this to be liked or do this to fit in. When you start understanding really who GOD is and really how GOD feels about you, and it’s not based on your goodness, that it’s based on HIS goodness. That’s what makes it a perfect love, because then the things you do, you do in response, not because you “love” so much, but because you’re “loved” so much.
BONUS QUESTION: My blog is all about youth ministry being “more than dodgeball”. Do you have any horror stories from playing a particular game or funny memory from when you were part of a youth ministry or church?
Jeff: (Laughs…) Well… I grew up Southern Baptist… I don’t know that we had “youth group”. We had Sunday School, Church, Sunday night service and Wednesday night prayer service. I liked Wednesday night prayer service the best, cause they had really good hamburgers at my church for the Wednesday night supper.
I’ll tell you this… in terms of “more than dodgeball” and being more than a youth group, I have a story. I came to my faith when I was 7 years old. I remember being in church, they were doing an invitation, and I said “I’m going”. I remember my mom grabbed me by the shirt and said, “NO, you’re too young, you don’t understand what this is all about”. And apparently, being Jeff, I argued about it all the way home, to the point that they had the preacher come to our house that Sunday afternoon. He sat down and talked to me and on the way out told my mom, “He knows what he’s doing” so we went back to church that night so I could go down. I just did a benefit for YoungLife in Knoxville, TN and that preacher was there and brought the bulletin from that Sunday, 40+ years later.
My struggle was at that youth group age, is that I would look at the church people who were so straight-lined in their dress and the way they acted and I knew I wasn’t wired like that. I would think you know I love them, but I can’t dress like that and act like that. It took me a long time in life to feel like I heard GOD whisper, “I know you can’t, I don’t want you to be like that. I knitted you together, I know you’re not a straight-lined guy. You stay with me and we’ll go places that are perfect for the way you’re wired”.
So, I don’t speak in a lot of churches, but I love to speak at things like Wild Game dinners. I bow-hunt, fish, I love the outdoors. I’ll speak at one of these dinners where there are 3 or 4 thousand show up. Half of them wouldn’t go to church if you paid them. But I can do comedy for half an hour and make them laugh and roll that over into a story of sitting in the woods and watch the sun rise and come to life, you have to say to yourself, this is no accident. There are too many things interacting with each other, this had to have been created on purpose. And if that’s created on purpose, then you’re created on purpose by a Creator and here’s his purpose. Time after time, guys will come up to me and say “I’ve never heard it like that before, as a love story. It’s always been you better quit smoking, you better quit drinking, you better quit…”
And with that … we had to quit, too! Don’t forget to watch the American Bible Challenge season finale tomorrow (Thursday night) on the Game Show Network!