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Youth ministry leaders cite need to shape comprehensive strategy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–After receiving information about the latest youth ministry resources and services from four Southern Baptist Convention entities, state Baptist convention youth ministry leaders from 25 states cited the need for a comprehensive strategy.

Youth ministry leaders from LifeWay Christian Resources, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union convened the two-day Youth Ministry Summit, Jan. 26-27 in Birmingham, Ala. Youth ministry professors from four Southern Baptist seminaries and several colleges also attended. More than 100 leaders were present.

In the closing session, participants agreed the need exists for an overall strategy for reaching youth, helping them grow in their faith and enabling them to evangelize and minister to others.

“The missing element is the big picture,” Richard Ross, associate professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, said.

In a Jan. 28 evaluation session, entity representatives set in motion a process for involving leaders at the SBC, state and church levels in developing an overall strategy for youth ministry to be completed in early 2002.

“I think we realized that more comprehensive cooperation among the entities is attainable, and the commitment level is there to make it happen,” said Paul Turner, LifeWay’s youth discipleship section manager, who was designated to set up the first meeting. “The collective heart of the youth leaders gathered in the room is to see youth, youth leaders and families become more like Christ. The stakes are too great not to move forward in helping to communicate an overarching strategy for youth ministry. It was the start of a new day in Southern Baptist youth ministry.”

In an earlier presentation, representatives from the SBC entities reviewed the strategies and resources they have put in place for youth outreach and discipleship, with LifeWay’s Sunday school group, for example, citing lay leaders as the number one resource for helping teenagers grow in their faith.

“In this day when teenagers need to see the truth lived out, the leader, if he or she is being spiritually transformed, is critically important,” said Sherry Spillman, youth consultant.

Art Herron, editor/consultant in LifeWay’s National Collegiate Ministry (NCM) department, said youth ministers need to take an active role in helping high school students prepare for college.

He reported that NCM is now offering three-hour “Transitions” conferences to churches, associations and Christian schools to assist high school students in being spiritually prepared for college. Inquiries about Transitions may be directed to Herron at [email protected] or by calling (615) 251-2783.

Phil Alsup, manager of the M-Fuge section in LifeWay’s Centrifuge department, said 659,000 students and leaders have attended Centrifuge camps in 30 states and 15 countries since its introduction in 1979. In addition, M-Fuge camps now are offered with a hands-on missions and ministry focus. Crosspoint camps, launched in 1986, now include a team camp. Centri-Kid, piloted in 2000 for children in grades three through six, is being launched this summer.

“Our overriding philosophy is that all of our events would result in changed lives for Christ,” Alsup said.

NAMB representatives said their threefold approach to youth ministry includes mission education, student evangelism and mobilization.

Allen Huesing, NAMB youth mission education strategist, said the purpose of “mission education is to develop on-mission Christians.” Information about NAMB youth ministry resources is available on the Internet at www.studentz.com, he said.

Scott Grissom, student evangelism associate, overviewed NAMB’s “FiSH” campus evangelism tool. “Our goal is to mobilize Christian students to evangelize their campuses. Peer to peer is the key.”

Through mission trips, the World Changers program where students combine construction and evangelism, summer missions and other activities, Jane Geggus, student mobilization associate, said their goal is to lead youth from a one-time missions experience to a lifestyle of ministry.

Bron Holcomb, IMB youth team leader, introduced a quarterly video, “The Task,” designed “to keep missions in front of your students in a unique and fun way.”

He noted that missionaries are asking for youth mission teams in increasing numbers, but many are in difficult areas of the world. “People are dying every day without the hope of Christ, and our missionaries are begging you to bring students to help them reach students.”

Kelly Davis, of the IMB volunteers in missions department, said 400 youth participated in International World Changers in 2000. In addition to groups, the IMB is providing eight opportunities this year where youth can participate on an individual basis. He said he foresees increasing partnerships with state conventions on youth mission projects.

“We want to work with you. We don’t have all the ideas. Help us to call out students who are willing to go,” Davis said.

Pam Smith, WMU youth ministry consultant, said the focus of WMU resources is helping churches equip youth for the purpose of “going.”

“WMU has in the past been criticized for focusing too much on study,” Smith said. “I want you to know that we have changed. We have moved our curriculum more toward experiential missions.”

She also emphasized WMU’s commitment to training youth volunteers through the use of “EXCEL: Simple and Effective Missions Team Training for Youth.”

Don Schlosser, design editor in LifeWay’s music ministries department, said his department provides materials and events designed to help “reach kids through music. We have the same vision for kids you have. We’re just using music to get there.”

Sherrie Thomas, managing editor of LifeWay’s Living with Teenagers magazine, said she is constantly seeking writers from states and SBC entities to share their expertise “and give visibility to your resources.”
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