ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Stephanie Copenhaver is not entirely sure why they keep coming back or why they showed up in the first place. Apart from an invitation through her kids and their friends, there didn’t appear to be anything else that drew six students two years ago — midsummer, no less — to “learn about Jesus” in a four-week study in July.
The second week, 12 students showed up, and, by the end of the study, more than 30 students had been introduced to the Good Samaritan, the Armor of God, biblical values and Jesus, about whom most knew little to nothing.
“These weren’t churched kids, and yet most of them totally hung on every word,” said Copenhaver, a member of Northside Baptist Church in Roswell, Ga.
This all started the summer before her youngest son John’s fifth-grade year. Copenhaver said she had been considering how privileged her kids were to know about the Bible and about Jesus. She wanted other kids to experience the life God intended for them.
“I called two other mothers and asked if they wanted to get kids together to study the Bible,” she said. “They said ‘sure’ and we told our kids to invite their friends.”
After a few planning meetings over lunch, the mothers had developed a few short lessons that would introduce unchurched, soon-to-be middle schoolers to the Bible, God and God’s plan for the people He created.
Last year the same kids returned, this time bringing some of their friends to learn about Jesus’ miracles in the Gospel of John.
As a result of the study, one student — Phillip Bruce — became a Christian and was baptized. “We got a cool-looking cross made for him. He wears it all the time,” Copenhaver said.
Two years into being with the group, Bruce says he is noticing a change in the way he thinks about life.
“I think twice about things now,” Bruce said. “I forgive more quickly, and now I go back and change my mind when I think about doing something foolish.”
Copenhaver’s evaluation of these experiences: “I stand at these meetings and I think, ‘I can’t believe He chose me to be a part of this.'”
Copenhaver is quick to point out that she and the two other moms involved in this ministry — Pam Troutman and Jiska Van Ede — aren’t doing anything special, other than simply remaining open to God’s leading.
“I think if you’re open to God, He will give you opportunities,” she said. “A lot of people say they don’t feel like they know enough. Well, I don’t either. I’m not a pastor. I’ve never read through the entire Bible. But I think that if you love God and make yourself available then that’s all it takes. And honestly I’d be blown away if just five unchurched kids showed up.”
Troutman said observing what God is doing through the kids has surprised her.
“What strikes me most is how these kids, many who go to different schools, actually are praying and caring for each other,” Troutman said.
“I don’t think any of us ever could have expected it to go like this.”
Van Ede says the group is able to give her boys and the others something she didn’t experience in her native Holland.
“I was the only one on my street to go to church,” she said. “[Biblical community] is the thing I never had as a kid growing up in Europe.”
Living on mission
“Life On Mission,” a new resource offered by the North American Mission Board, challenges Christians to live on mission in their everyday lives. In Life On Mission, authors Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe shared stories of laypeople impacting their spheres of influence with the Gospel.
“The Christian life is a life on mission,” said Dustin Willis, a former church planter whose experiences are chronicled in Life On Mission, which has been released through Moody Publishers. Willis works with Coe at NAMB as a mobilization and equipping coordinator.
Before becoming NAMB’s vice president of mobilization and marketing, Coe spent seven years planting Gallery Church in New York City. He wrote of how believers living out the everyday mission of God led to his and his wife’s salvation and ultimately to their call to ministry. Coe’s great-grandmother, as a layperson, actually helped start the church where Coe’s wife, Carmen, accepted Christ.
For the future
Similarly, believers like Copenhaver who are living their lives on mission are recognizing that they are working for future generations as well.
“I feel like these kids are still open and unjaded, but I also know they are exposed to so much at a very young age that will shape how they see the world,” Copenhaver said. “I feel like if we get them at a young age we can help shape future generations. And while I may not know all of them really well, I have a personal interest in where they spend eternity.”
Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of On Mission magazine. To learn more or subscribe, visit www.namb.net/onmission. See an online version of this story and accompanying video at http://www.sendnetwork.com/OMvideo. To learn more about Life On Mission or to order resources, visit www.lifeonmissionbook.com .