Teens for Christ celebrate 40 years of ministry
When Bruce Cicchese started a Bible study session in his basement in 1974, he had no idea what that would look like 40 years later.
“My wife and I started in 1974 with a Bible club in the basement of our home” Bruce Cicchese said. “It went so well that other people wanted to do that also, so in 1976 we incorporated this ministry. From there it’s grown to what it is today.”
Teens for Christ, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is dedicated to “ministering to and through America’s youth,” which is their motto, Cicchese said. The organization, which used to be headquartered in River Falls, moved to a location at 538 Old State Highway 35 in 2006. The nonprofit works with 700-800 individual kids every year. About 400 attend weekly services and meetings. Teenagers come from all over Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Thursday, Aug. 11 will start the weekend of festivities to celebrate the organization's 40th birthday. Jim Cicchese, Bruce’s son, is now the executive director. Jim laid out all the events that are open to the public:
The festivities will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, with a rally that will feature Rick and Mick Vigneulle. They are Christian comedians who have visited the area before, and who Bruce thought have probably performed for 35,000 people since then. The duo have been featured on America’s Funniest People, 60 Minutes, and have performed at the White House.
Friday night will feature another tent rally and preaching, with free pizza afterwards for all who attend. The rally starts at 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the organization will host a Barbeque dinner, starting at 4:30 p.m. This will be a great opportunity for local residents to come learn what Teens for Christ is about before another rally at 6:30, Jim said.
The weekend of celebration will wrap up with a service and pancake breakfast Sunday morning at 9 a.m.
While they’re happy to be celebrating their 40th anniversary, the years leading up to this have been what matters, Bruce and Jim said. The number of teenagers they’ve worked with and impacted has been what makes it worth the years of work.
The organization sponsors many different programs that youth can participate in. Bible clubs are held at high schools and middle schools, and from those Bible Quiz teams are formed. The Teens for Christ Bible Quiz team is one of the leading in the country.
“Three out of the last five years we’ve won the National Bible Quiz,” Bruce Cicchese said. “Since that’s been started our teams have memorized over half a million bible verses.”
Being a part of Teens for Christ also gives youth a chance travel, for many different types of leadership training. For example, last week a group of 33 young men went on a fishing trip in Canada, where they also spent a lot of time learning to preach when they weren’t casting a line.
The Cicchese family also started an education program for high school graduates called the Institute for Teen Evangelism. This nine month program is aimed at educating young Christians who want to further their knowledge of either the Bible or youth ministry.
Both father and son said they’re proud of what the organization has become, and how they differ from other youth organizations.
Read more in the Aug. 4 print edition of the River Falls Journal.