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7/24/97 New IMB initiative seeks to capture energy of youth

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A former youth pastor of an international church overseas will help capture the energy of high school youth and college students in Southern Baptist International Mission Board volunteer work.
As a consultant for the Volunteers in Missions Department, J. Bron Holcomb of Clarkesville, Ga., will seek to involve more high schoolers and college students in international missions and also will organize recruiting efforts for volunteers in sports and medical projects throughout the world.
The newly created position, effective July 1, represents a continuing attempt of the mission agency to broaden its base of support and involve more people outside traditional channels of participation in Southern Baptist life.
The excitement of high school youth and college students in international missions has grown tremendously during recent years as mission groups outside the International Mission Board have targeted them for a place in cross-cultural ministry.
Although college students have participated in general volunteer mission projects in the past, the board has never targeted them for that work. Efforts to involve students have centered instead on assigning them longer and more specific jobs as summer and semester missionaries.
The growth of that program has exploded, quadrupling in number since 1990. About 525 students were assigned to serve in nearly 50 nations this year. They came from Baptist campus ministry and church-based collegiate ministry groups.
Likewise, participation by high schoolers in International Mission Board projects has grown — multiplying more than threefold just during the past year. In the first seven months of this year, 624 high schoolers filled volunteer requests from missionaries. Many were supplied by groups outside the board.
Until now, other organizations outside the International Mission Board have targeted and harnessed much of the power of those Southern Baptist youth and students unaware of — or unqualified for — participation through the board. Holcomb, 29, says he hopes the board’s new effort will swing open the doors to thousands of Southern Baptist youth and students and produce loyal supporters for the future.
“Youth can be very effective ministers if they’re given a specific project or responsibility,” Holcomb says. “If they’re trained for drama, for instance, and then learn how to share their faith after a drama presentation, they can do amazing things.”
Holcomb worked with Awestar Ministries of Tulsa, Okla., in 1994-95 as international project director planning a summer mission project, recruiting high school and college students and training the teams. He worked closely with International Mission Board missionaries. Awestar has provided youth for projects through the board.
“Youth are very uninhibited, and they haven’t experienced failure yet,” he says. “They don’t have the mind-set, ‘We can’t do that,’ but they are very good at following directions and doing things the way they are supposed to be done.” Plus, America’s international society today equips them to participate in cross-cultural ministry overseas, he adds.
In Stuttgart, Germany, Holcomb led about 40 American and European youth as youth pastor of the International Baptist Church. Begun to service the U.S. military, the church now has more than 200 members from as many as 20 countries.
Holcomb graduated from Clemson University in South Carolina.
The board’s overall volunteer program, meanwhile, continues to expand. Through the first half of the year, 8,389 short-term workers traveled overseas to fill requests by missionaries. That represents an 18 percent increase over the same period last year.
In sports evangelism, the board has filled all 19 volunteer projects planned for 1997 and, for the first time ever, has kept a waiting list for others wanting to go. Missionaries in Antigua reported that a recent evangelism team teaching sports clinics recorded 15 decisions for Jesus.

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  • Marty Croll