more than a hangout
Two home missionaries give readers an inside look at their youth outreach.
For more information about the FWB Home Missions Department (now North American Ministries), please visit www.FWBNAM.com.
BEYOND ENTERTAINMENT: Youth Outreach in a Mission Church
By Tim Byers
While attending Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, TN, I was able to work in the youth program at Woodbine FWB Church, and my eyes were opened to the need for such programs and the powerful effect they can have on families.
After praying, we felt the key to effective ministry in our area would be through young people. Like much of America, Ashtabula is a post-Christian area. Most families have passed through generations without any effective Christian influence, and many of the young people to whom we minister have almost no prior knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We began our youth program on a Wednesday night two years ago with four young people. The Dayton FWB Church donated a 15-passenger van, and it only took a couple of months to fill it up. In no time, we began to average 20 in our youth group. Before long, we had to run the same route twice in order to pick up everyone. In January 2005, we sold the van and bought a 59-passenger bus. Praise the Lord! We now often fill it up as well.
A Safe Haven for Kids and Their Families
We provide a safe haven where young people can come and be themselves. Many come from broken homes and abusive relationships. Our young people know that our church is a place they can feel safe, talk about their problems, and find answers in God’s Word. Tears have been shed, prayers have been answered, and lives have been changed forever.
They know this is their church, not just another “community program.” This has given them a visible sense of pride. A few weeks ago, while standing on the sidewalk outside the main entrance of the church, I observed a group of teens walking down the street as the Wednesday night youth service was starting. One of the teens is a regular attendee, and he left his friends to come to church. The other teens began to ridicule him for going to church. The teen quickly told them if they were half as brave as they said they were, they would come and see for themselves. They did! Now, six months later, Jesus has saved their souls and this group of teens will never be the same. Positive peer pressure is one of the best weapons we can use against the devil.
In the spring of 2005, a young teen began to attend the youth service and was faithful and dedicated. During our visits with him we got to know his siblings, and after a few weeks, they started to attend as well. The children learned about the grace of Jesus and that only through Him can we have eternal life. They became concerned about their parents and began putting pressure on them to visit church as well. The mother called me one day and said, “I give up! These kids have been hounding me for weeks about coming to church. They won’t stop!” She said that two of her children were crying because they were afraid for her soul. That next Sunday, she and her husband came to church with their kids. An entire family turned their lives around because one teen refused to stay quiet.
Getting Kids Involved
Students are involved in visitation, various special events, trips, parties for the class with the most points, and much more. Each person and class earns points for Bible memorization, guests, attendance, etc. We have lots of fun, but there is always time for Bible study and prayer. Bibles are provided for everyone. A cost is involved, but it is vital as most come from homes where there is no Bible. At any given service, 95% of the students bring their Bibles with them. Our youth ministry here is very personal. It is built on relationships, first with each other and then with the Father. No program or activity can replace this.
Tim Byers is a home missionary to Ashtabula, OH, along with wife Lori and sons Carlton, Gabriel, Matthew, and Isaac.
OUTREACH IN PUERTO RICO
By David Roy
Puerto Rico is well populated with young people! Every neighborhood and community is filled with kids of all ages. Our hearts have always been drawn to the children, and God has opened many doors of ministry to young people. We have been blessed with a group of young people who faithfully attend church. Many started coming as children and are now young adults. Most come from dysfunctional families and struggle daily with things that many of us will never face. God continues to touch their lives in special ways as we try to make this group of kids our own. We love them and take care of them.
God has also provided opportunities for us to take His Word to the housing projects. This was an experience both in courage and faith. These are dangerous communities where drugs and drug-related crime are rampant. It is not uncommon to see drug deals—the exchange of money and the show of weapons—when we’re in these areas. Each time we visit, we pray for God’s authority to take control of the situation. We also ask God for peace and for protection.
Our last visit took us into a place called Monte Tiyo. When we arrived, the place was bustling with children and young people. We set up for a church service on the inner courtyard. This seemed to be the gathering place for conversations and play. Much to our surprise, a horse was also among those gathered. Eventually, some boys took the horse to the side of the building. When the music started they started gathering in. We had more than 100 children, teens, adults, and elderly attend the service.
What a blessing to see so many come. The children were receptive to the puppets and skits. We prayed that God would use this little bit to touch their hearts and get His message out. Youth in Puerto Rico are in desperate need of Jesus. Pray for us as we reach out to those that God places in our pathway.