Archives For next gen

By Andrew Woodrow

YE 2018 Marion

Hundreds of students and leaders gathered across Illinois in October for Youth Encounter, IBSA’s annual evangelism conference for students. In Marion (above), Decatur, and two sites in Chicagoland, almost 1,400 attenders heard from speakers and worship leaders who encouraged them to keep going in their faith, even as they face unprecedented challenges from the culture around them

For young Christians, following Jesus can be a lonely pursuit. Especially in today’s pressure cooker culture. It’s overwhelming, said student pastor Mark Davis, when young people have constant, instant access to information—and much of it beyond their years.

In that environment, discovering and developing your faith can be difficult. It’s easy to feel alone. At Youth Encounter, IBSA’s annual evangelism-focused conference for students, young believers have an opportunity to escape societal pressures for a while, and fully engage in worship with hundreds of other students like them.

They leave the conference—held this year in five locations around the state—better equipped to live out their faith and share it with the people around them.

Encouraged, emboldened
At Youth Encounter, middle school and high school students are led in worship by up-and-coming Christian artists, and inspired and challenged by some of the top student ministry speakers in the country.

But perhaps the greatest encouragement students receive from the conference is knowing they’re not alone.

“Oftentimes, the students feel that if they talk about their faith or visibly live it out, they’re going to be abandoned,” said Davis, pastor to students at Murdale Baptist Church in Carbondale. “Youth Encounter gives them a chance to see they’re not alone. And seeing there are other students in their area, not just a handful but hundreds of them, helps encourage and embolden their faith.”

For the first time this year, Youth Encounter events were scheduled in five locations across Illinois. Nearly 1,400 students and leaders attended the first four conferences, including sites in Decatur, Marion, and two in Chicagoland, and 62 people have given their lives to Christ. The final Youth Encounter conference for 2018 will be held Nov. 11 at First Baptist Church in O’Fallon.

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To students like Jade Nappier, Youth Encounter is a break “from the stress during the school year that can be hard to find at church.” Nappier, a student from First Baptist Church in Marion, also said Youth Encounter has helped her discover she’s not alone in exploring her faith, motivating her to “be the Christian I want to be.”

Selena Petrowich from Third Baptist Church in Marion has been coming to Youth Encounter ever since she can remember. Now a senior in high school, she describes how Youth Encounter helped her not feel alone in discovering her faith.

“A lot of people trying to come to Christ feel alone. I know I did. So, having more people around you that you know are exploring their own faith [makes it] definitely easier to share mine.”

Petrowich expressed how moving it is to see school acquaintances at Youth Encounter who wouldn’t otherwise show their faith. “What caught my eye was seeing so many teenagers actually open in wanting to learn about God,” she said. “That’s when you realize, ‘Okay, I can do this too.’ And for me, that was my biggest thing: realizing that not just older people can be interested in worship and in God.”

Changing world, unchanging Word
“One of the great things Youth Encounter presents to the kids is that while the culture is constantly changing, the Word is unchanging,” said Madison Presswood, minister of youth at FBC Marion. Presswood encourages his students to be less concerned with the media and warns them where their attention is kept the most is where their sphere of influence is the strongest.

There is also a need, though, to engage the culture without fear, Andrew Nippert encourages his students. “If a church wants to help their young people survive their culture they’re living in and help them prepare to engage with their culture and be gospel-relevant in their communities, you can’t be scared of the culture or of change,” said Nippert, youth and children’s minister at Third Baptist Church in Marion. “Because the one thing that should never change is God’s Word.”

Amid pressures from the world they live in, students are going to mess up, Nippert said. “But that’s why we work with them. That’s why we minister to them. Because they’re who need the Lord. We all need the Lord in our own way, and we just have to be willing to go to those that are, sometimes, the troublemakers. And give them the One who can lead them out of their troubles.”

Equipped to go out
Youth Encounter helps prepare students to take their faith into the community by exposing them to bands and speakers they can look up to, and by equipping them to live out their faith, despite cultural pressures.

“IBSA does a really good job getting solid speakers that unpack the gospel and the reality of Christ in a way that makes sense to the students’ worlds,” Nippert said. “So then, it’s a lot easier to walk back into their world with Christ at the center of what they’re doing.”
High school junior Seth Lindhorst has already been to the youth conference multiple times. He said Youth Encounter teaches students his age realistic ways to live out their faith “and still be normal.”

One of Lindhorst’s frustrations with societal pressures is the bombardment Christians receive for living a ‘boring’ life, despite attempts to be more involved and have appropriate fun outside the church. “It’s extremely difficult for a Christian my age,” said the student from Third Baptist in Marion. “So, the Christian youth in today’s culture feels pressured into doing things that really aren’t appropriate for kids our age.”

Coming to Youth Encounter, however, encourages him not to back down to the peer pressure.

“When I go back to school after Youth Encounter, I always walk with a jump in my step. It gets me pumped up,” Lindhorst said. “Youth Encounter equips you for the long run and gives guidelines you can use in your daily life. And as I’m singing songs, as I’m listening to the speaker, I’m thinking to myself, ‘How can I change my life to make Jesus’ name look better?’”

For more information about resources and opportunities for students, go to IBSA.org/students.

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After serving in ministry for 18 years, I recognize the enormous temptation to look like another pastor or church. When we see the “success” another local church is experiencing, we want it for our church as well. But to copy another church ignores factors like location, budget, and volunteers. What’s most important is that you do you!

Here are three steps to owning your identity as a church:

1. Know who you are. Churches can be faithful to the message of the gospel while using different methods. Jesus said that true worshippers are those who worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). This has nothing to do with what musical style or small group approach you use, but it’s easy to put greater focus on these methods than on our message of Christ.

Every church has strengths. Let me say that again…every church has strengths! Don’t become so consumed with where you want to improve, that you fail to celebrate your staff or volunteers who are laboring effectively.

Perhaps your church is doing a great job engaging and discipling kids, caring for widows, or helping families with the most basic of needs. Communities would be better off if churches worked to their strengths instead of trying to assimilate the strengths of the church down the street.

Knowing who you are also means you know your weaknesses. Perhaps your nursery area is in need of major overhaul. Before you start plugging leaks, ask yourself this question: How long has this been broken? If it hasn’t worked for five years, you can take five months to get the right partners and procedures in place to make a turnaround. Our once-broken nursery is now a safe and inviting area of our church, and a place I applaud our leaders often. It wasn’t a quick turnaround, but it was an honest and effective one. Take a breath and make a plan.

2. Know where you are. There is great variety among our nearly 1,000 IBSA churches. Rockford, Springfield, and Marion share a state, but all have different cultures.

For example, our community has a large number of unchurched, former Catholics, and people who’ve never heard of Southern Baptists. As a result, I take time to clarify elements of the worship service more than I did while serving in Arkansas. These explanations aren’t for the regulars, but to engage the newcomers. I’m also more deliberate in bringing Scripture to the screen during a sermon, knowing there are many here with little experience or knowledge to navigate the Bible quickly.

Be sure also to own your area. Our church is First Baptist of Machesney Park, meaning Machesney Park is our starting point. Like many churches, we draw from several neighboring towns, but our first priority is at our own front door. We work to not just be “of” Machesney Park, but “for” Machesney Park.

While I’d like to see our impact stretch out even more into the neighboring communities of our First family, knowing who and where we are is our first step for message impact.

3. Know where you’re going. Knowing who and where you are allows slight adjustments as you work to strengthen current ministry efforts. But you should also be asking long-term adjustment questions: Where are we going? What is the future impact we want to have as a church?

When we asked ourselves those questions, our answer was clear: young adult ministry.
Like many churches I’ve been around, we had a gap between our youth ministry and regular adult ministries. So, two years ago I began praying and talking with our leadership council about how we could have an impact among college-aged/young adults. This was a vital step to ensure our growing youth ministry could funnel our graduates into a clear next step for their discipleship in our church.

God has since brought a group of young adults into the life of our church who have connected well with our youth group grads. We’ve still got room for improvement, but taking the time to plan, instead of just reacting to a need, is setting our church up to serve the next generation.

To summarize: Be sure you know who you are. Own it. Celebrate it. Improve it.

Be sure you know where you are. Get involved. Make connections. Be a neighbor.

Be sure you know where you are going. What future ministry goal could your church set?

Heath Tibbetts is pastor of First Baptist Church, Machesney Park.

The Next Generation

NextGen

Reaching the next generation with the gospel is not easy. Those born in 2000 or after are teenagers now. The Millennials, who started coming of age after 2000, are giving way to the “Centennials,” or Generation-Z. They have grown up in a very different world, one where the number of people who claim no religious affiliation at all is about 20% and growing. Jack Lucas joined IBSA as leader of next-gen ministry. IBSA aids churches in reaching children with the gospel, and equipping students as tomorrow’s leaders through VBS, missions events, Youth Encounter in three locations, AWSOM for teen girls, Summer Worship University, and a full summer schedule of camps at Lake Sallateeska and Streator Baptist Camps.

Pray for next-gen director Jack Lucas, worship director Steve Hamrick, camp managers Philip Hall and Mike Young and their ministry teams.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering.

Give to the Offering. If your church promotes and receives a Mission Illinois Offering, we encourage you to give that way. If not, you can also give here — www.IBSA.org/GiveToMIO.

Watch “Now More Than Ever.”

Young family

Gen-Z has its own language and way of communicating. How can we connect?

Her inquisitive 4-year-old sat in his booster seat snacking on chips, staring out the window, and watching the world pass by.

“Daddy, why is the sky blue?”

Leneita Fix listened as her husband gave a simple yet scientific answer to her sweet boy. Then boy asked, “Why do cows moo?”

Her husband began talking about the communication strategies of livestock when her son posed a third question.

“How did Jesus do it? How did he take away my sin?”

Fix and her husband glanced at each other. Wow, where to start? Better not mess this up with the wrong words and confuse him. Maybe talk about the ABC’s of being a Christian? Or focus on the theology of Jesus as the perfect sacrifice. Probably need to tell him the definition of sacrifice—

“Whoa! Look at the size of this Dorito!!” the child said next.

“I love to tell that story because it perfectly exemplifies the reality of Generation Z,” said Fix, speaker, missions and training coordinator for BowDown Church and Urban Youth Impact in West Palm Beach, Florida, and author of several books including No Teenager Left Behind. “This generation has so much information at their fingertips that they are used to having the answers immediately. They want to soak up information, including deep spiritual truths about who God is, but they have only about an 8-second attention span.”

Getting it right
Generation Z is the group of children and students who are being raised and launched into the world right now. Born between 1995 to the present, Gen-Z is nicknamed the “Always On Generation” because they’ve never known a life without a touchscreen, without global terrorism, without civic unrest and financial unrest, and they have a unique perspective of what a normal family unit looks like.

“Another difference is while Millennials are well-known for dealing with FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, Generation Z is more concerned with FOMU, or Fear of Messing Up,” Fix said during her D6 Connect Tour presentation at First Baptist Church Bethalto.

Sky, cow, Jesus, Dorito: This teacher’s story shows how today’s kids can think deep thoughts—and shallow ones—almost at the same time. How will parents make the most of the moments they have to communicate about the more important matters?

“They have a deep need to know the right answers and having Google at their fingertips leaves no room for doubt. Studies show that Gen-Z is destined for success in both college and career and they care about injustice more than any other generation in history.” However, it’s their fear of imperfection and “not getting it right” that Fix said could easily derail their ambitions.

“We have to teach them the difference between messing up and intentionally making wrong decisions,” Fix said. “It’s OK to not know the answer or to have questions. We all have questions and don’t have it all figured out. Give them the space and grace to not be perfect. However, if they intentionally choose not to do a homework assignment or some other truly wrong decision, that’s not OK.”

And despite every preventive measure taken, Brian Housman, author of Tech Savvy Parenting, said wrong choices and moral failures are going to happen. He said parents and the church support system must always parent with the end game in mind.

Housman used the example of a video he once saw of 16-year-old Bobby Fisher playing ten games of chess at once. He won every match and when interviewed about how he kept track of each game Fisher said based on the opponent’s prior moves and body language, he developed a strategy to win and then just let that strategy play out.

“We have an end-game in mind financially and in our careers,” Housman said. “We need to focus on the end-game with our kids and the good news is that we’re not alone. We are partnering with the Savior to raise them to be like Christ.”

Without the end game in the forefront, parents default to wanting to change feelings and even unintentionally guilt their kids into better behavior.

“We’ve become geniuses at sin management and masters at behavior modifications,” Housman said. “Christian parents, particularly those in the ministry, are more concerned about the appearance of things and what might make us look bad. We make it about us when we want to change the feeling or their behavior. We need to seek to change their heart.”

“The best approach to moral failure in our kids is the same as God’s approach to us,” he said. “God never shames his children. He loves first, forgives, acknowledges the wrongdoing, but understands what we’re going through. God chooses to be with
us as we walk out of it.”

Say it, don’t Snap it
Communication is key. This generation is bombarded with messages coming at them from every one of their devices. However, when it comes to hearing the messages that matter, Fix said face-to-face interaction is still the best way.

“Don’t over complicate things,” she said. “Generation Z is striving for authenticity. Many studies have shown that they actually prefer face-to-face communication over the multitude of other options. Yes, they talk through Snapchat and Instagram and even through their video games, but the people they consider themselves closest to are those they see every day at home, church, and school.”

But never wait for the perfect moment to have an in-depth conversation, because that moment will never come for these success-driven kids. Instead, Fix suggests utilizing the margins of time between practices and appointments, dinner prep, or yard work.

“There is no longer the space or grace to wait,” she said.

“Remember sky, cow, Jesus, Dorito. Sometimes God will lay an encouraging word or thought on my heart and I text it to my kids right away, because they need to know God loves them and I love them all the time. We need to become really good at communicating in the moments we have.”

-Kayla Rinker is a freelance writer living in Park Hills, Mo. 

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The national fast food chain landed back in the frying pan in mid-September, when a Chicago alderman announced he had succeeded in changing the company’s mind concerning its support of same-sex marriage.

Joe Moreno, who sparked a national debate this summer when he threatened to block Chick-Fil-A from opening restaurants in his ward because of the company’s views, claimed the chain had promised to no longer give money to groups against same-sex marriage.

But others are calling foul on the alderman’s supposed victory.

“There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-Fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect,” said Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, via former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s website.

“Chick-Fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”

Two things seem to be Moreno’s main issues with Chick-Fil-A: The company’s contributions to organizations that support traditional marriage, like Focus on the Family; and an anti-discrimination policy that Moreno claims Chick-Fil-A has introduced in the aftermath of the summer controversy.

The alderman said Chick-Fil-A agreed to add language “opposing discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the company’s employee handbook,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

But Chick-Fil-A’s “Who We Are” document, to which Moreno said the new language would be added, repeats the wording the company used this summer when defending its beliefs and practices. According to a Baptist Press report, Chick-Fil-A’s tradition is to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

The Who We Are document also says Chick-fil-A “supports programs and marriage retreats to help strengthen and enrich marriages,” which more than 4,000 couples attend annually.

According to CNN, Moreno said Cathy”s statement “at the least, muddied the progress we had made with Chick-fil-A and, at the worst, contradicted the documents and promises Chick-fil-A made to me and the community earlier this month.”

The public continues to weigh in on Chick-Fil-A’s Facebook page, posting thousands of comments. Now, it’s your turn:

In your opinion, has Chick-Fil-A done a good job of navigating this summer’s debates over its leader’s views?

Other news:

Supreme Court justice predicts DOMA will appear before Court
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
a Supreme Court justice since 1993, said in an address at the University of Colorado Law School that the Defense of Marriage Act is likely to go before the nation’s highest court by next year. “I think it’s most likely that we will have that issue before the court toward the end of the current term,” said Ginsburg, according to the Christian Post. Earlier this year, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned DOMA Section 3, which defines marriage in federal law in the traditional sense. Read more at ChristianPost.com.

WMU announces young women’s outreach
(From Baptist Press) National Woman’s Missionary Union is stepping up its ministry to younger women through myMISSION, a new, primarily web-based organization for young adult women engaging in missions. The new organization builds on the website mymissionfulfilled.com that WMU created in 2007 to provide missions discipleship resources to the next generation of young women. The site features missional Bible studies and products, interactive blogs from six young adult women in different stages of life, and articles on such topics as prayer, social justice, time management, money and relationships. Read more at BPNews.net.

LifeWay surveys churches’ Lord’s Supper practices
(From LifeWay Christian Resources) The majority of Southern Baptist churches permit anyone who has put their faith in Jesus Christ to participate in the Lord’s Supper, according to a survey by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,066 SBC pastors found 96 percent of their churches allow individuals who are not members of that local church to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Only 4 percent restrict participation to local church members. The survey also revealed that 57 percent of SBC churches observe the Lord’s Supper quarterly. For more findings, go to lifewayresearch.com.