By Wesley Black
Billerica, Massachusetts, seems an unlikely place for a dynamic Southern
Baptist congregation. Deep in the heart of a predominantly Catholic state, New
Colony Baptist Church is making a difference in this town of 38,000, about 30
miles northwest of Boston.
The attractive and well-maintained church campus sits on River Street, a
main thoroughfare in the community. Positioned across from a high school, New
Colony Baptist Church is in a strategic location to reach students. And the
youth at New Colony aren't afraid to live their faith out loud.
Resources to help you build an exemplary youth
Download free monthly Bible studies, group activities and video clips
designed to help you emphasize missions in your youth ministry.
Offers your teens a way to stay relevant in sharing their faith with
non-Christians through missions and evangelism. The site is filled with youth
activities that will keep them coming back every day.
Download valuable resources to help reach non-Christian students and involve
your youth in missions.
Youth can connect their friends to God through their own personal Web page,
where they can tell the story of how God changed their lives.
A creative, "abstract" approach to worship makes the service culturally
sensitive so visiting teenagers feel welcomed and encouraged to participate.
It's a great opportunity for students to invite their friends. "People who
don't feel comfortable coming on Sunday mornings will come to Cross Culture,"
says Zach Alley, a student leader in the youth group. When asked to describe
the approach they use to reach students, leaders often say the youth are
allowed time to "date and fall in love with Jesus."
This dynamic youth ministry also is reaching beyond the walls of the church
and out to the community through campus Bible clubs, local service projects and
mission trips in North America and overseas. "We're committed to community.
It's a strength of this church," says Phil Wilkes, pastor of New Colony Baptist
Church. "One of the ways we build bridges for youth ministry is The Link, a
non-denominational, student-led campus club that meets after school. It's
another way for our youth to present Christ to their friends in a
Youth at New Colony bring their friends to church and serve in a variety of
mission efforts, demonstrating the outcome of intentional discipleship
mentoring by adult leaders.
The result of this ongoing discipleship is a group of youth who consistently
live out their faith, striving to eliminate any difference between their Sunday
behavior and their lifestyles during the week.
Key factors for success
Stories such as what's happening at New Colony come from the latest in-depth
study of youth ministry, the Exemplary Youth Ministry research project. Pastors
and youth leaders across the country are talking about this nation-wide,
interdenominational study involving churches from a variety of sizes and ethnic
groups. "This will prove to be one of the most influential studies of youth
ministry ever conducted," says Dr. Merton Strommen, founder of Search
Institute. It will help to guide and shape youth ministry for years to
Among the most pervasive questions facing pastors, parents and youth leaders
today are how to reach and disciple teenagers and how to prepare them for a
life of service. Pastors and youth ministers listed factors that make up the
most effective youth ministries such as spiritual growth, relationships,
community, family and congregational support.
The study highlights the critical value of evangelism and missions in youth
ministry. Throughout the congregations studied, there is a sense that God wants
to change people's lives, and He's using youth to accomplish this. The most
effective youth ministries in the country provide evidence that God is using
youth to change the world.
"It's no surprise to me that effective youth ministries have a strong
emphasis on evangelism," says Chad Childress, director of student evangelism,
NAMB. "If we're not actively building a strong doctrinal foundation and
equipping students with a variety of tools and ways to share their faith, we're
just providing entertainment. Churches must release students from the buildings
of steel and wood to begin building relationships with their non-Christian
friends that will impact eternity."
What pastors and youth ministers are saying
1. The most effective youth ministries have a strong evangelical emphasis.
One question asked of pastors and youth ministers analyzed why their
congregations are doing such a good job of nurturing faith in youth. They
answered with some of these comments:
2. The most effective youth ministries have a strong mission-oriented
purpose of seeking to change lives. Pastors and youth ministers described the
strategy and focus of their youth ministries like this:
A key point in every mission or vision statement of an exemplary youth
ministry is something about evangelism, outreach, missions, service and
hospitality. There's an overriding sense that God's Word calls for knowledge
and action. Worship leads to service to the world around us.
Evangelism comes in a wide variety of channels, from bringing friends to
Christ, to witnessing, to making disciples. Mission trips and service projects
are regular parts of the youth ministry strategy. Often, these effective youth
ministries lead the entire congregation to be more evangelistic.
An exemplary youth ministry continually engages in outreach and missions.
After analyzing the questionnaires completed by the best youth ministries in
the country, the study complied the findings into ministry areas. The findings
in the box at left represent how congregations ranked their youth group in
evangelism and missions. On a nine-point scale, with nine as the highest
possible score, a score above 4.5 shows an extraordinary commitment to this
Youth changing the world
The best youth ministries in the country clearly place an emphasis on youth
reaching out and bringing the world to God. If we hope to do our best in youth
ministry, we must work hard to build a consistent desire within youth to reach
outside the walls of the church to the lost world. This is demonstrated in
youth bringing their non-Christian friends to church or youth group meetings.
We see this in youth talking about their faith to their friends. It's
accomplished by encouraging youth to serve through mission trips, service
projects and community service ministries, plus making deliberate efforts to
make the youth group and the church hospitable and caring to the entire
God commanded Christians to reach out to others with the gospel message. The
Great Commission says we are to make disciples of all people. In Acts 1:8 Jesus
points His disciples from the surrounding community to the entire world.
The most effective youth ministries in North America-like New Colony Baptist
Church-are demonstrating this in the lives of their youth, leaders and parents.
They are the living examples that God is using youth and adults to change the
Full results of the Exemplary Youth Ministry research project will be
reported at The Spirit of Youth Ministry Conference, August 4-6, 2005, in
This national conference, designed for pastors, youth leaders and
denominational leaders, will feature presentations, worship times and
interactive group sessions to process and discuss implications from the study.
Information and registration forms can be found at www.exemplarym.com.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC