Youth News for Dec 2018

Serving the Lord is the privilege of His gospel people.  His mission is the great goal and glory of our earthly lives.  Each day we are making an investment in something, and the question becomes what are we investing in?  Will my investment last into eternity, or will it fade with the inevitable passing of time?

We have spent the last several weeks focused on the idea of Reconnecting. Reconnecting with being like Jesus, with prayer, with worship, community, outreach, servanthood, stewardship, and ownership of God’s church and his mission. All of these are eternal investments. All of these connections make life richer, full of meaning. All of them get at the heart for what we were created. So, have you reconnected? Have you taken up the call to invest for eternity?

Those of you who were present for the final Sunday in our Reconnect series have heard this already, but I wanted to place the possibilities before you again. As you consider the ways you are being called to take ownership of the mission of God’s church, and specifically of His work through FBC Jesup, don’t ask “what would I like to do,” but rather “how can God use me in the ways He has equipped me to serve Him.” When we join with His call and equipping, we will find purpose and joy, even when it might feel uncomfortable at first, even when it requires sacrifice, and maybe even especially so.

So, how can you get involved? How can we “call a new generation to join us in making Jesus more like heaven today than it was yesterday?” Let me count the ways. Imagine with me, if we were able to do something new in the lives of our students.

  • ·What if we had people in the church who were willing to start a drama ministry with the students?
  • ·What if we could send out vans on Sundays and Wednesday nights to pick up students for church and take them home?
  • ·What if we were able to start a mentoring ministry for our students, pairing them with older believers who could share their walk with Christ?
  • ·What if we had someone to teach a middle school boys Sunday school class and show them what it means to be a mature Christian man?
  • ·What if we had enough chaperones that we never had to worry about whether we could take a trip or not?
  • ·What if we had someone to head up a missions focus with our students at the center?
  • ·What if we stopped viewing the youth ministry as the job of the parents and instead equipped it with passionate leaders from all generations of the church?
  • ·What if instead of a 5 to 1 ratio of students to adults, we flipped that and had a 1 to 5 ratio of students to adults?

The possibilities are endless.  The investment is eternal.  How will you partner with us in 2019?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for Nov 2018

First, let me say thank you.  As we approach Thanksgiving, my list of things to be thankful for continues to increase greatly.  One of those things I am most thankful for is you, our church.  Over the course of the past three years it has been a true pleasure to serve alongside you in this ministry here at First Baptist Church.  Your generosity and care for me and my family is greatly appreciated.  I am grateful for your generous financial gift on Pastors Appreciation Day as well.  Without your support, nothing we do here would be possible. 

I am also thankful for the ways we have been seeing God move in our youth ministry over the past weeks and months.  Faith is growing, students are committing themselves to the work of the kingdom, and God is using our time together to deepen our love of Him and of each other.  Family night has been a particular blessing to me, as we gather each Sunday night for food, fellowship, great teaching, and wonderful conversation.  Seeing our families come together and connect with one another fulfills a vision I have had for this youth ministry from the time I arrived here of reaching whole families with the gospel of Jesus. 

Recently, as I visited my hometown for my grandfather’s funeral, I had a conversation with my brother about thankfulness.  We hear all the time the voices of self-help gurus and motivational speakers parroting the advice of Scripture to take some time and make lists of the ways that we are thankful.  They parrot this advice because, well, it’s just plain good practice.  When we focus on the things that we are thankful for, the world just feels like a better place, our spirits are lifted, and most importantly, our attitude toward God and all that He has provided for us is transformed.  In fact, if we can constantly remember that all that is good comes from God, and give thanks for those things, we can live a life that is full of meaning beyond the ordinary gripes of the everyday.

Our God is good to us.  And because He is good to us we can be good to one another.  Psalm 118 tells us:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’

Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’

Let those who fear the Lord say: ‘His love endures forever.’”

Let us join the chorus.  Let us, this Thanksgiving, give thanks to the Lord, for “His love endures forever.”

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

prayforme

 

Youth News for Oct 2018

They often say the Lord works in mysterious ways.  Certainly, as one reads the Old Testament, that statement proves true.  This morning I was reading through the 30th chapter of Genesis, a passage dedicated to the blessings of God on the fruitfulness of Jacob’s family, the sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, and their flocks and herds.  As I read it, I was struck by the strange methods of Jacob’s family to achieve blessing.  It is a chapter filled with multiple wives, servants given as concubines, deceiving uncles, and sheep made to stare at stripped bark while mating in order to produce offspring with streaks and speckles and spots.  All of it struck me as strange, and yet through all of it the family of Jacob, God’s chosen people, were blessed. 

We wonder at times at the workings of God’s will don’t we?  It seems that sin and superstition did not deter the work of God to bring His plans to fruition.  In fact, God used what is evil for what is good.  The mystery of the will of God is not that He uses sinful actions and superstitious behavior to do His work, but that in spite of our sin and superstition God uses humanity to accomplish His purposes anyway.  That the almighty, righteous God would choose people, real people with real problems and real gritty, dirty, sin to bear His name and carry His work to the world.  That, not because of our perfections, but in spite of our imperfections, God loves people, and uses them for the sake of His Name.

We see that all the time in church, don’t we?  Church, of all places, often reveals the brokenness and sinfulness of people in some of the most disturbing ways.  Even when we are seeking to glorify God, we are so often more concerned with our own petty selfishness.  And yet, God uses the church, His people, uniquely and powerfully to accomplish His purposes in the world.  It is through His people, warts and all, that God inhabits the world, transforming it, shaping it, fixing it, for His glory and our good. 

That’s why we believe that here at FBC we need to Reconnect.  We must be together, face to face, caring for one another, living as the bride of Christ purified by His blood and working as a united body for His kingdom.  That’s why we, as a youth ministry, have launched Family Night on Sunday nights at 6 in the cafe, as an opportunity for families in the church as a whole to come and sit face to face, reconnect around the word of God, love one another, lift one another up, and be the church. If you have not yet plugged in to a small group on Sunday nights, come join us.  It’s rowdy up there.  It’s gritty.  It’s real life on real life.  We need yours.  Will you join us?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

prayforme

Youth News for Sept 2018

Changes are in store this September.  The history of youth ministry, at least in its current form, is a brief one.  Often traced to the founding of Young Life in the 1940s, modern youth ministry has been characterized by rallies and evangelistic messages, attractional gimmicks and fun, it produced an incredible movement among young people that saw the growth of youth programs all over the country.  Much wonderful fruit has come from youth ministry, but in the process, some foundational functions of the church have been lost.  Chief among them, youth ministries have succeeded in segregating the youth of our churches from their congregations, and so severed an invaluable resource that these students deeply need to mature in their faith.  That resource is you!

Research reveals to us that the two largest driving factors in the failure of youth ministry to retain students beyond their teenage years can be identified as 1) lack of depth in theological teaching, and 2) lack of relationships with adults in their churches.  Put positively, if we can teach our youth about their faith in a deep and compelling way, giving them a solid foundation for life in this world, and if we can connect our students in meaningful relationships with at least 3 adults in the church who serve to love and mentor them, the chances of their staying faithful in their churches and in their faith moves from the variously cited 30% upward to closer to 80%.  Now that’s an incredible difference!

So, foundational to a faithful youth ministry, armed with that information, is this question: how do we connect our students with you?  The best way is simply this, when you see them, talk to them.  Search them out.  Love them.  That may be easier said than done.  So, as a youth ministry here at FBC we have two primary ways you can connect with our students.

First, on September 9th we are launching our 3rd annual Pray for Me Campaign.  If you haven’t heard of the Pray for Me Campaign, talk with some other folks in the church.  This ministry serves to make a connection between our youth and our adults simply through the act of committing to pray.  Our students sign up to have prayer champions (nearly all sign up), and you sign up to pray for them!  If you haven’t done so yet, take some time to call the church office and sign up!

Secondly, also on September 9th we are launching a brand new emphasis through our youth ministry called “Family Nights.”  Every Sunday night at 6pm during the standard small group calendar year we are inviting whole families to join us upstairs in the cafe for face-to-face discussion and discipleship.  We will use the curriculum that the rest of our small groups are using, and inviting teenagers, adults, and kids to join in the conversation.  Here are the requirements to come: nadda.  Will you join us?  I hope you will!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for August 2018

Summer has come and gone, and with it a flurry of activity, both within and without of the youth ministry here at FBC.  From VBS to Camp Hawkins, escape rooms to bowling alleys, service projects to ping pong tournaments, all along the way we have seen the work of God among and through us.  A large part of that has been the labor of our summer intern, Jill.  She has kept us all in line here at FBC.  But Jill’s time with us is at an end, and so while saying goodbye to summer, we say goodbye also to someone who has become a dear friend.  She is, as well, saying goodbye to all of us, and so we thought we would give her the space here to say goodbye to you:

As this summer is nearing an end, I'm reminded of all that this summer has consisted of. Being able to be a part of this church for the summer has exceeded my expectations and has meant so much to me. I cannot say thank you enough to every staff, member, family, and student that I've been able to meet this summer. Everyone has been so welcoming and made this town a home for me. I will always have a special place in my heart for Jesup, Georgia as I'm reminded of the countless memories, numerous laughs, and most importantly, the place God moved and spoken so powerfully. It has been truly a pleasure to be able to serve God with everyone in this church and town. Thank you for letting me join your ministry and for giving me this experience. I will continue to pray for you and cannot wait to hear how God continues to move!

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Philippians 1:3-5 

Jill’s influence will be missed, but we look forward to seeing how the Lord uses her for His kingdom in years to come!  Saying goodbye is both the trial and the joy of our summer internship program.  In a way, we get to be an equipping ground and a launch pad for the future ministries of these interns. 

As much fun as the summer can be, I am looking forward to getting back into the routine of a normal schedule, back into the solid and steady work of investing week after week in the students here at our church.  The fall semester has some great things in store for us as we welcome the new school year, trusting in the future that God has for us.  Let’s join in that work together!  It’s going to be an amazing year!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for July 2018

One of my favorite things about the summer is the chance I have to reconnect with our college students.  Every Sunday night we host the college and young adults of FBC Jesup at our house to study, pray, and fellowship together.  This summer it was suggested that we work our way through the Minor Prophets, and so far it has been a fascinating journey.  We began with Jonah, working our way through to the moment when Jonah whines about the heat (something I can appreciate in south GA) because his shade tree died, and God says to Jonah, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

That’s my favorite line: “and also much cattle?”  I can remember sitting on a hillside reading through the book of Jonah during my days as a camp counsellor and reading that line for the first time, thinking, “really?  That’s the way Jonah ends?  Why have I never heard that part?”  Our God is a God of pity, a God who calls on His people to have compassion, compassion for the cattle, compassion, even, for the people of an enemy nation, a place known for it’s evil and darkness.  And He is a God who calls us to the hard task of loving our Ninevite neighbors, those who threaten our safety and oppose the plans of God.  He sees behind the bluster of human pride to the deep seated need we all have of Him.  And He calls us to do the same.

This week we have been working with middle school students at VBS, and the theme of our middle school week has been Kyle Idleman’s series “Not a Fan.”  It has been a challenge to move beyond the kind of Christianity that has us sitting in the bleachers and cheering for “team Jesus,” to actually being out on the court.  There has been a lot of conversation about the cost of following Him, and as we have seen His call on us to give up everything for His sake we have encountered various ways we like to hold on to our comfortable Jesus.  One of those ways is our struggle to see beyond “us” and “them.”  Jonah could only see the enemy in Nineveh.  God saw “120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle.”  So, how do we see our neighbors?  With the vision of Jonah, or with the vision of Christ?  If we start to look at those around us with the eyes of Christ it will cost us.  It will drive us to sacrifice for the good of the “enemy.”  It will cause us to work for the salvation of all “others.”  But in the end, only when we see through the eyes of Christ do we see the world for what it’s meant to be, and only then can we truly serve the Kingdom.  So what’ll it be?  Fan, or follower?  Jonah, or Jesus?  The choice is up to us.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach