NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (II Tim. 2:2, NIV)
The apostle Paul’s words to his “adopted son” Timothy are the words by which Andy and Kim Harrison live. Harrison, youth education specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and his wife are following the Pauline example to the highest.
Timothy had Paul; Andy had John — John Hatfield, that is.
Hatfield, now director of ministries for the Navigators at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, played an integral part in discipling Harrison when the latter was a junior and senior at Sapulpa High School and a member at Sapulpa, First.
“I had gone to church all my life, but never fully understood what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus until John Hatfield moved to Sapulpa,” Harrison said.
John became a Christian as a senior at Kansas State University through the Navigators ministry. In 1978, he moved to Sapulpa, Okla. for three years while he waited to go on staff with the Navigators at Iowa State University. In Sapulpa, Hatfield was a lay leader at First Church.
“John led a few of us in a small group Bible study and one-on-one discipleship. He taught me how to memorize Scripture; what it was to be a man of prayer and to live out daily my faith in Christ,” Andy said.
It was a lesson well learned, and when Harrison later was called as a youth minister, he knew he had to “pass the torch” to those coming after him. Not coincidentally, he had a wife who felt the same way he did.
The Harrisons were childhood friends in Sapulpa after Andy’s family moved there from Arkansas and Kim’s from Kansas, via Henryetta.
“When I was a 7th grader, she was a 5th grader,” Andy said. “Our parents knew each other because they did business with one another and attended First Church together. So, we played together as kids early on. We started dating when I was a senior in high school and she was a sophomore; we dated four years and then got married.”
Andy was licensed to preach by First Baptist Sapulpa in 1980. His first ministry position was as minister to youth and missions at Parkview Baptist Church, Tulsa, where he was ordained in 1989. The Harrisons served at Parkview from 1985-87 and then joined Hatfield on the University of Nebraska campus for a year to lead evangelistic Bible studies in a dorm.
They returned to Parkview in 1988-1991 before Andy was called as minister to students at First Baptist Church, Durant, Okla.
At Durant, the Harrisons began to implement their heart-stirred discipleship program to students. What began as a weekly task of writing lessons grew into a six-year project which resulted in three books and accompanying leader’s guides — The Discipling Cycle Series, a three-year course designed to help develop strong, biblical discipleship in a church.
The first book was Understanding God, followed by Seek, Share, and Serve and Becoming Christ-like. Understanding God guides students to know God, encouraging them to strengthen their personal disciplines and character qualities. Becoming Christ-like focuses on internal transformation and developing the character of Christ, and Seek, Share, and Serve, originally titled Sharing Christ, deals with evangelism, outreach and discipleship.
Each book contains 30 weekly studies, with each study broken down into five-day sections. The books may be used in any order.
As part of The Discipling Cycle, students are encouraged to: be there each week, have their study completed, have memorized one verse of Scripture and then meet one-on-one with their team leader.
“We never wrote initially to be published,” Kim said, “but just to meet the need of our students in Durant. Then, our church really got behind it after they saw what was happening with our students and some of the adults wanted to use it for their own personal growth.
“They encouraged us to publish it, especially our pastor at the time, Gerald Tidwell, now retired.”
Andy began his first year with about six boys in his group and Kim had about 12 girls. Their last year in Durant, they had 16 boys and about 40 girls, with about a dozen women helping Kim as group leaders.
“Our numbers grew, and we were excited by that, but our critical issue was never ‘how many,’ but rather ‘what kind.’ We’ve been encouraged by what those discipleship students have done since high school,” Andy said.
“We held a testimonial service after the first year, and 10 of the kids each spoke for about three minutes, focusing on what God had taught them,” Andy said. “We had several adults tell us, ‘Those kids know so much more than I do.”
That service led more adults at Durant, First to get involved as leaders, and Kim eventually taught the material to an adult class.
Kim said youth are basically hungry for knowledge and growth. “We tell them to take advanced placement classes in school and strive to excel academically, but when it comes to spiritual growth, we tend to hold them back and tell them they’re not ready, when they really are,” she said.
Andy and Kim are gratified God has blessed their effort, and feel He has led it. “It really comes back to what we believe is the call of Christ — to go and make disciples,” Kim said. “He didn’t call us to go and make converts, but disciples, and He gave us a picture of what that looked like in what He did with the 12.
“It wasn’t because we needed to start a new program of some kind, but because we saw it as our calling to help our students who were needing to be discipled and learn to disciple someone else.”
“I wanted to see in a church what I got from John,” Andy added. “My life was totally transformed by him discipling me. He took an interest in me and said, ‘I’m going to pour my life into you.’ I knew then as I was growing in Christ during those years that God was calling me into the ministry, and I just consumed the New Testament. I couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t go into the ministry.
“Once I began ministry, I wanted to do that with students. It needed to be more than ‘we just come here, we do games, we eat and we have Sunday School lessons.’
“There needed to be some relationships form that go beyond just the hours we spend here, because that’s what impacted me.
“When you’re a youth minister and you graduate kids every year, you want to feel as confident for as many of them as you can that you gave them every opportunity to grow to their greatest potential; to fulfill God’s call on their life, and I feel confident about that.
“God blessed me by sending John Hatfield to come and to minister to me. I’ve often asked, ‘why did I get that?’ It was so God could build in me the desire to do it with others. It’s the Second Timothy 2:2 principle in action.”
The Harrisons are now completing their first year of studies with students at First Baptist Church, Piedmont, Okla., which they now attend.
For additional information, call Harrison at 405/942-3800, ext. 643.