The Alabama Baptist
Baptist Message (Louisiana)
Southern Baptist Texan
Alabama youth actively discipling,
celebrate with 13 lake baptisms
By Grace Thornton
HUNSTVILLE, Ala. (The Alabama Baptist) -- On a recent Wednesday night, more than 250 people trodded down the well-worn dirt path from Mount Zion Baptist Church, Huntsville, to the banks of Vaughn Lake.
Almost just as worn is the path to faith in Christ among the church's students and their friends, according to Britton Latham, Mount Zion's student minister.
"Our students do a great job of reaching their friends," Latham said. "When we're in a worship service for students, there would be four or five generations of believers, meaning that students who grew up coming to Mount Zion would bring their friends, who would get plugged in and bring their friends, who would get plugged in and bring their friends and on and on."
That type of disciple making is just "part of our culture" in Mount Zion's student ministry, called Greenhouse, he said.
Latham baptized 13 students in the lake Aug. 7 after a "laid-back" service on the banks that spoke to the importance of baptism.
"Most of the students' families showed up — for some of them, it was their first time on our campus," he said. "And it was great for our church family to see the fruit of pouring into our student ministry — great to see what God's been doing in their lives."
A lot of the friends that students bring to Greenhouse come from a background where getting to church on Sundays is difficult to do, Latham said.
So the church decided to have the baptisms on a Wednesday night at the lake to make it more accessible for them to "follow through with baptism," he said.
It's something new for the church.
Mount Zion held its first lake baptism recently when a man in the church who had been putting off baptism for 20 years asked to be baptized in the lake.
It worked well for him and also for the students, who were "excited to get to celebrate with their friends," Latham said. "They were on board and excited about getting to make their faith public."
Some of the students who were baptized had been Christians for two years. Others had been followers of Christ for only a week or two.
But Ron Madison, pastor of Mount Zion, said they are already walking solidly in their new faith and making an impact on others.
"Many of these students are already making a difference in the lives of their friends as they bear testimony of their relationship with Jesus and the difference He has made in their lives," Madison said.
One of those students is 13-year-old Grace Chapman, who made a decision to follow Jesus during Centrifuge camp July 18.
Already Christ has made a big difference in her life, Chapman said, and she's excited to share that with others. The lake was merely the beginning of that.
"It was really interesting to get to be baptized in the lake rather than inside the walls of the church," Chapman said. "I think that was something special to all of us."
God is doing "great stuff" through the students, Latham said.
"It's been so good to see students intentionally reaching out. For me and the leaders, we're just trying to hang on and keep equipping a generation of students."
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist.
Jesus' example is model
for resort ministries
By Rachel Ortego
ANACOCO, La. (Baptist Message) -- In 2011 the tables were turned on four Toledo Bend fishermen when they became fishers of men as well as of fish.
Because of a Toledo Bend Resort Ministry children's project taking place during a fishing tournament, the four men made professions of faith and a chain of events began that is having kingdom -sized results.
Mary Gore, director of Toledo Bend Resort Ministry in Louisiana's Sabine Parish was not surprised. As far as she is concerned, Jesus operated the first resort ministry and she is emphatic about the impact resort ministries have in drawing people to Christ.
The world-famous annual B.A.S.S. Elite Series fishing tournament takes place each summer in Toledo Bend, home of the fifth-largest man-made lake in the United States.
"In 2011 our local tournament committee asked if we would coordinate children's activities during the tournament," Gore said. "While we were working with the children, the local pastor engaged some of the fishermen in one-on-one evangelism and four adult men made professions of faith. Then, in 2012 when the group returned, we discovered they had a chaplain. We invited the chaplain to help conduct a 'Meet the Elite' event at the church and eight men and boys made professions of faith there.
"Jesus called fisherman first," Gore continued. "He went where people were fishing and he went into the mountains. He didn't sit down in a synagogue. We're doing what Jesus did and following His biblical ministry."
Gore said there has always been some criticism of resort ministries because people say the un-churched should be IN church.
"If they are informed and intelligent," Gore said, "they'll see that many people are not going to ANY church."
The Toledo Bend Resort Ministry was established in 1972; Gore said they have established a presence there and earned the respect of the community. Many of the people they minister to, they may never see again, she acknowledged.
"For some, we get one shot," Gore said, "and we never miss an opportunity to give the plan of salvation and an invitation. We need to make sure they get the gospel.
"When we make snow cones at festivals and the children ask for a rainbow snow cone we tell them there's only one color per snow cone just like there's only one way to Jesus," Gore explained. "When they complain because it's too hot or they want a cold drink, we explain they can get to a cooler place now and get a cold drink, but in Hell there's no escaping. When we give free balloons or other items and parents offer to pay, we say this is our gift to you because Jesus loves you, and share with them there is no way to buy your way into heaven."
Currently mission outreach opportunities in the Toledo Bend area exist in 30-plus parks, in marinas and in numerous low-income housing projects. Five Baptist Associations and 126 area churches and missions are involved in the ministry, with the support of the North American Mission Board and the Louisiana Baptist Convention. "I'm amazed, that after 20 years, God still let's me do this. He is so faithful," Gore said.
Also in Louisiana is the seven-mile by one-mile strip of land that is Grand Isle. Once frequented by pirates like Jean Lafitte in the 1800s, now fishermen rule the seas surrounding the island and come summertime, swimmers, sportsmen and tourists swell Grand Isle from it local population of 1,500 to more than 12,000 people.
Smack dab in the middle of it all is Lighthouse Resort Ministry, an outreach of First Baptist Church Grand Isle. Anything anyone could expect in a "seaside" resort ministry, they do here: fishing rodeo ministry, children's camps, Bible school, and one-on-one encounters in an area that Pastor John Boss describes as "highly un-churched."
Boss says the church and the resort ministry's positive involvement and his history in the community has given them an exceptional edge in ministering there. He learned to witness on the beaches here as a child.
"Our resort is the 'go to' place," Boss said, "and we work closely with the mayor and the town. When hurricanes strike, or in situations like the oil spill, the disaster relief provide is a great testimony.
"I see the resort as the future of everything we do because of our demographics," the pastor continued. "But the main thing we do is specializing in helping people do special evangelism."
The church and resort facilities are also used as lodging for mission teams, missionaries and staff retreats. Ministers who need to "get away" can do so at no charge here. The North American Missions Board helps with staffing of missionaries for summer camps.
"We see more and more people attending retreats here," Boss said. "There are summer guests every weekend."
Research and experience has shown that resort ministry works because it's easier to get people's attention when they are at leisure and more relaxed and open, says David Abernathy, director of Rolling Hills Resort Ministries in northeast Louisiana.
"We minister to people who don't go to church but are willing to come to an outdoor service," Abernathy said. "We see our role as sowing seeds and watering seeds that have been sown."
Rolling Hills has a set schedule of worship services at Lake D'Arbonne State Park in Union Parish, Lake Claiborne State Park in Claiborne Parish and Jimmy Davis State Park in Jackson Parish. They also have permission to hold services at Lake Bisteneau in Webster Parish. Weekends are the times they make the biggest impact on the guests in the park and even larger groups camp out around the holidays, Abernathy said.
"We engage in relational, not confrontational, evangelism," Abernathy said. "We visit each campsite, being careful how to approach guests. We are very laid back. We just visit with them and talk to them."
In addition to worship services, they conduct day camps and family evening programs.
"We now have people in worship services who attended camp as children," Abernathy said. "It's generational." Rolling Hills also operates a disaster relief ministry and a thrift store.
This article appeared in the Baptist Message (baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Rachel Ortego is a regional reporter for the Baptist Message.
Texas church planters:
Evangelize kids to grow
By Melissa Deming
GRAPEVINE, Texas (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- Despite limited resources and even less space, two Texas church plants are centering their evangelism and outreach strategies around children as a means for reaching families with the gospel. The strategy, the planters say, is crucial in building a healthy church.
Currently in its pre-launch stage, Revolution Church in McKinney averages 35 people who gather on Sundays in the home of church planter Randy Moore.
"RevKids is devoted to helping our kids establish a foundation in the Word of God," Moore wrote on the church's website.
"Our goal is to come alongside your family to help your children learn what it means to love God with all their hearts and love others as themselves," he said, citing Deuteronomy 6:5-9. "RevKids is more than just a children's ministry; we consider ourselves a family ministry. We believe that where there are healthy families, you'll find healthy children."
Moore told the TEXAN, "If you are reaching kids, their parents will return. We specifically target kids for all of our outreach events," he explained. Four children have responded to the gospel since families began gathering in February.
An 8-year-old neighbor who accepted an invitation later brought her two sisters and eventually the three of them brought their father. "God has used this sweet little girl to reach the rest of her family," Moore said.
"If the child asks their parent everyday if it is Sunday, the likelihood of a returning guest is dramatically improved."
Stonelake Church, a nearly three-year-old church plant in Cleburne, has also seen families come to Christ through its children's evangelism emphasis. Pastored by Chris Williams, the church averages 130 in attendance. The pastor's wife, Amber, has directed the children's ministry for several years.
"We just recently baptized a man who started coming because his girls came," Amber Williams said. "The girls' grandfather brought them, and they attended regularly for a year or so. Then their father started coming about three or four months ago. He accepted Christ and was baptized on Father's Day. There were three men who were baptized that day. I can't think of a better way to witness to their children than to see fathers show outwardly who they serve."
Mostly younger families between the ages of 25-45, Williams said Stonelake ministers to about 40-50 children from birth to 5th grade each week. Like Revolution Church, many of the families have not attended a church in years if ever.
When the plant began to research their community in the pre-launch stage, they discovered that families were looking for a dynamic children's ministry. Children's evangelism became a vital part of Stonelake's church planting strategy.
To that end, Stonelake provides a program called Adventure Kids during the worship hour for birth through 5th grade. Lessons are video-based and include interactive games and activities. Children's ministry volunteers rotate on a two-week schedule, she said.
"We are reaching younger families and the parents want to know their children are well taken care of and are learning how to grow in their relationship with God," Williams said. "At the same time children want to have fun." The church has also hosted drive-in movies, play days at the water park, and a VBS-type program called Adventure Week.
"You want your children's area to be inviting but when you are portable and have to tear down every week that can pose a challenge. You get creative in making classrooms. We used decorative fences and tents. The kids love the tents because it created an outdoor atmosphere and the fences helped keep the babies and toddlers in one area," she said.
Beyond space restrictions, Williams said recruiting and training volunteers has been challenging as well.
"During our first year, we spent time building our children's workers," Williams said. "Several of them started by loving on the babies and toddlers. We have been blessed with amazing workers who have gone beyond the call of duty."
Despite the challenges, Williams said Stonelake would continue to invest heavily in children.
"We are reaching out to the kids, but at the same time we are reaching the parents. We want to minister to the whole family, not just to the children or the parents," she added.
This article appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Melissa Deming is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN.
EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. The items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.
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