By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
About 20 years ago some youth pastors in Morgan County decided that when it came to putting on a Disciple Now (DNow) weekend, they could do more together than they could apart.
“They were from Priceville, Hartselle, Decatur and the surrounding areas, and they had a vision for reaching students that’s been passed from one generation to the next,” said Jeremy Albright, associate pastor to students and college at Central Baptist Church, Decatur.
Except that now the network of more than 20 churches — called StudentNet — has expanded so far past the annual joint DNow event that the student pastors sometimes forget that’s the reason it started, Albright said.
Now the network is based in a weekly lunchtime get-together for student pastors to share what’s on their heart, catch up on each other’s lives and help each other with needs specific to student ministry. It’s expanded into monthly gatherings, conferences and fellowships including paintball and crawfish boils.
Allen Stover, a bivocational student pastor who serves at The Ark Family Worship Center in Hartselle, said it’s become a brotherhood that’s great for mentoring and support.
“The issues that we face are different issues than the senior pastor would face and for us to be able to network with these other guys is so great,” he said. “That’s been especially helpful for me because we are a smaller congregation.”
Travis Flannagin, student pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Decatur, said it’s been a great communion of ministry for churches to get together to reach area students without competing.
And, he said, his students love DNow.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Flannagin said.
Because of StudentNet, between 20 and 25 churches are able to combine to put on a much higher-caliber event than anything one church would be able to do on its own, Albright said. About 1,200 students and adult volunteers participate in StudentNet’s joint DNow each year in February.
“We’re able to share our resources to put on a top-notch DiscipleNow, and we are able to work hand in hand in a way that benefits our students and promotes Jesus Christ among our schools and our neighborhoods,” he said. “Many hands make light work and we’re working together for the same thing.”
And they’ll keep pushing to expand its ministry and reach, Albright said. For instance this year StudentNet will award three high school students and one student pastor a scholarship for a missions trip to Valencia, Spain, through Romanian-American Mission based out of Decatur.
“StudentNet has expanded this year to invest in our students this way,” Albright said. “We’re coming together for the Kingdom work and the glory of God and reaching students.”
Leaving a legacy
That’s the legacy left for them by the prior generations of youth leaders, he said.
“Those pastors laid a great foundation,” Albright said. “We just want to build on it more and more.”