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Summit focuses on stirring up teens for God’s global mission

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–What will it take to mobilize youth for the cause of world missions? Snappy articles? Slick ads? Pricey photos?
Not so, said five teenagers and more than 30 representatives from Southern Baptist youth agencies, churches and state conventions who discussed the challenge — and necessity — of involving youth in missions during a Youth Mobilization Summit this fall at the International Mission Board’s Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Va.
What youth need is some organization and a glimpse of God’s love for humanity, participants said.
The summit focused on ways to develop the IMB’s youth program and improve resources of youth agencies like World Changers, Awe Star Ministries and others.
A missions movement starts with a missions lifestyle, said Jeff Lewis, a consultant in the IMB’s student section. Once youth understand God’s heart for the nations, they will follow the missions movement.
And, as indicated by growing percentages of Baptist youth, they will follow whatever agencies challenge them to mission involvement and provide them with channels for service.
Participants advised the IMB that better organization, a separate youth department and defined ministry choices to pick from will help bridge the gap with today’s youth.
Since the IMB is not well-known as a youth organization, attendees said personal contact with youth and clear channels of communication — from better materials to more in-house opportunities — should result in more Southern Baptist young people mobilized for world missions.
“We’ve got to restructure and reorganize our processes to facilitate what God is doing among Southern Baptists,” said Jerry Rankin, president of the IMB.
Parents, youth leaders and older youth were exhorted to encourage youth in missions.
“If we [as Baptists] don’t fill the void, the Lord will raise up someone else to fill the void,” said Doug Couch of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Keynote speaker Don Kammerdiener, executive vice president of the IMB, called for Baptists to “raise a banner” in this generation.
“Our generation of leadership will be judged as to whether or not we will be able to transmit to the next generation the wonderful truth of God’s Word,” he said. “If [today’s youth] are not prepared for spiritual battle, we will be sending them out unprepared — and they will become victims.”
The summit also projected an influx of youth in missions after YouthLink 2000, a Baptist-sponsored youth mobilization event in seven cities across the United States slated Dec. 29-31, 1999. The gatherings will be linked via satellite.
Bron Holcomb, the IMB’s associate director of youth and sports, estimates 200,000 to 250,000 youth will attend.
“This will be the largest simultaneous gathering of Baptists for one event,” he said. “We’ve got to prepare.
“What if 10 percent of those youth say, ‘I want to go [overseas] next summer’? That’s 25,000 youth. We’ve got to be ready to take them.”

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  • Jenny Rogers