DALLAS (BP)–In college, Norman Flowers dreamed of singing opera under the bright lights of New York City. Now, nothing makes him happier than teaching a bunch of Texas teenagers how to fish.
But don’t look for Flowers sitting on a boat on a lake or standing on a river shore. When he helps teenagers fish, he helps them where it matters most — on their school campuses.
“When an eighth-grade boy starts a campus club right before the end of the school year and starts with 35 kids the first week, and at the fourth week there are over 180 students and some students accept Christ, that’s awesome,” said Flowers, a national campus evangelism missionary for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “That’s what keeps me going.”
Flowers and his wife, Lori, were among the featured missionaries for the North American Mission Board’s March 3-10 Week of Prayer for North American Missions.
Flowers works on a Texas mission field that includes 3,248 junior and senior high schools. With nearly 2.2 million students to reach, Flowers has no aspirations of doing it alone. That’s where FiSH! comes in.
FiSH! is a strategy — developed by the interdenominational ministry Campus Revolution in close partnership with NAMB — that uses student-led Christian clubs to evangelize their campuses. The clubs follow a four-week cycle: Focus week, Inspiration week, Share week and Hook week. During that time, students prepare spiritually, pray for non-Christian friends and share their testimonies. Best of all, students do it on their own.
“FiSH! is geared to be downloaded and started by students,” Flowers said. This is important, he emphasized, because 75 percent of Texas Baptist churches do not have youth ministers and 80 percent have an average attendance of 100 people or fewer.
“A student can go into the www.studentz.com/fish website and be equipped and empowered because they have all the materials they need,” Flowers said, adding that all materials can be downloaded for free.
Since May 2000, when Flowers started as a NAMB missionary, he has heard and been a part of some exciting stories:
— A boy from Wall, Texas, downloaded FiSH! materials and began a club that averaged 30 to 40 in attendance at a school of 250. Ten students made professions of faith.
— Two girls from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex raised money to buy stamps and stationery to write evangelistic letters to all 1,800 students in their school.
— A girl from an El Paso high school started a club with just 10 to 15 teenagers that now must meet in the gym because it is one of the largest on campus.
“The steps these kids take to take up the challenge is phenomenal,” Flowers said.
Although 1,000 Texas schools have clubs using FiSH!, Flowers’ goal is to have a “FiSHing” club at every school in the state. If summer 2001 is any indication, he might be well on his way to reaching that goal. Flowers spoke at 17 youth camps and a youth evangelism conference in San Antonio and helped train 4,000 students at a Super Summer Leadership School, getting the word about FiSH! to about 25,000 young people. More than 2,000 students made commitments to start a FiSH! campus ministry during the summer.
“About halfway through my presentation, I can see that the light goes on and the students start thinking, ‘We can do this. This is awesome,'” Flowers said. “These students are asking, ‘Where do we start? What do we do?'”
Many young people have a passion to reach others for Christ, Flowers said, citing research that shows students today are the most spiritually active in years.
“They’re looking for something to live for,” he said.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have only intensified that feeling.
“Since the 11th, there’s a hunger for why, there’s a hunger for how,” he said. “If students are given a direction and a plan, they’re going for it.”
While FiSH! is one of the main strategies Flowers uses, it is not the only one. Flowers also hopes every Texas school can be adopted by at least one of the 6,800 Texas Baptist churches. In adopting a school, a church commits to praying that each student at the school will be impacted by God’s love and to encouraging students in the church to be campus missionaries.
Flowers already has seen adult Christians prayerwalking at schools. Other churches have used the yearbook strategy, in which student photos from the school’s yearbook are cut out and distributed to church members. The church members then pray for the students throughout the school year.
“Here are adults praying that God will meet with these kids sometime throughout the school year,” Flowers said, adding that the strategy affects both the students and the adults.
Flowers also is a resource provider and encourager for teenagers and youth ministers. Whether students need legal assistance in starting a club, encouragement or fresh ideas, Flowers is available to help. He mentors old and new youth ministers and helps them as they undertake the task of reaching students for Christ and discipling them. He’s also working with others to develop more materials for students to use in sharing their faith.
Before serving with the North American Mission Board, Flowers was a youth and music minister at Texas and Oklahoma churches for 22 years. He said his wife, Lori, is “an incredible prayer partner.” The Flowerses and their three children are members at Lakepointe Baptist Church in Rockwall, where Flowers helps with the youth ministry.
With a whirlwind of a first year behind him, Flowers is ready for what lies ahead.
“Now there’s a direction,” he said. “It’s kind of like we’re just beginning.”
No matter what happens, Flowers is confident it will be exciting and fulfilling.
“God has always used young people,” Flowers said. “This is a mission field where God is moving in incredible ways.”
For more information or to order materials from FiSH!, visit the www.studentz.com/fish website or call 1-800-576-1844. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: STIRRING THE STUDENTS, NORMAN FLOWERS, TIME TO CHAT and PREPPED TO FiSH!.