Farewell Message from Zach

Thank you!

I want to shout those words from the stage for everyone to hear.  Thank you! In so many ways, on so many levels, this church has blessed us.  How many are the ways?  Let me count them, just a few.

Family.  It’s the first calling of a church toward its members, and it has been the way you have welcomed us and cared for us.  From the moment we arrived in Jesup to youth and parents showing up in the pouring rain to unload a uHaul full of heavy boxes and furniture, to the response and outpouring of love we have received on announcing our move, you have treated us as family.  Thank you.

Investment.  This church, it’s leadership and ministers especially, have invested in us immensely in our time here.  We have grown because of that investment, and seen the love of God displayed time and again toward us.  We have been shaped and moulded here in so many powerful ways.  Thank you.

Grace.  As we have learned and stumbled, you have been gracious to us.  As we have experienced times of strain and business at home, you have shown us patience.  As we have labored  you have come alongside us to help us on the way.  Thank you.

In these ways, and so many more, I want to shout “thank you!”

As we go, there are other words I want to shout, too. “Press on!” I want to say.  It can be easy to give up hope or to take the comfortable route.  Do not let the burden of loving and serving our youth override the immense blessing of seeing them come to faith and grow and produce fruit as disciples of our Lord.  So press on!

“Give yourselves to the work!” I want to say.  The only way our community can be impacted by the gospel is through your time.  People need people, youth especially.  As wonderful as paid staff and nice spaces may be, the only way to make an impact on an eternal soul is through the love of other eternal souls.  So give yourselves to the work!

“Place your hope in the Lord!” I want to say. The days ahead will be the best yet if you will pursue the Lord. Human effort is in vain if it is not from the Lord.  Before you can do the work, you must love the One who gives it to you.  So, trust Him.  Lean on Him.  Hope in Him.  He is the God who holds the future.  He holds you too.

A question I have been asked a few times is this: “do we know who the new youth minister will be?”  I, of course, don’t know.  But at the same time, in another, truer way, I know exactly who the youth minister is.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for Jan, 2019

It’s the beginning of a New Year with all of the possibilities and potential that comes with a clean slate. What will 2019 be like?  What will be accomplished for the work of the church? How will God be glorified and people restored in our midst? There is so much that can be done, and as we begin this new year I wanted to take a moment to put one possibility before you.

why they strayWe are getting ready to begin a study in our small groups around a book by Dr. Steve Parr and Dr. Tom Crites entitled Why They Stay: Helping Parents and Church Leaders Make Investments That Keep Children and Teens Connected to the Church for a Lifetime. It’s a big title, I know, but the subject is of immense importance as we think about the future of this church, and the future of the Church as a whole. How can we contribute to the command of God to invest in the next generation of His people? How can we make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, connected to the church, rooted firmly in their faith, and persevering in their commitment to God in Christ?

These are questions we will be asking, and answering, as we go through this study. As a youth minister, one of the questions that is often raised by those I talk to is, “Why are so many young people leaving the church?” The answers are more numerous than we can list. But the question, “Why do others stay?” becomes the more relevant one for us. There are certain factors grounded in Scripture that contribute to a healthy and sticky faith in young people, and we need to work to cultivate those factors.

This book will help us to consider these factors, and to focus our attention on the next generation. Healthy churches cultivate an atmosphere of welcome and discipleship for younger folks and require the effort and investment of all generations, especially those wiser and more experienced, to accomplish this task.

This is not just the work of the few called to “full-time youth work.” It’s the call of the entire body of Christ. That includes you. So, as we prepare to study this most important subject, won’t you commit to joining us, and so commit to serving and loving the next generation? I hope you will.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

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

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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

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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