One of the ways Friendship Baptist Association lives up to its name is caring for the youth of Blount County.
Led by Steve Sellers, interim director of missions, church youth workers organized a May 15 countywide youth rally. The Sunday night event, held at Blountsville Baptist Church, drew some 125 students with one making a profession of faith in Christ.
Sellers noted it can be “easy for larger churches to do things on their own, but it is good to have several small churches to get together to have something like this rally.”
Tori Parris, singer and worship leader, kicked off the evening, with Scooter Kellum, youth ministry strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, speaking about the parable of the lost sheep.
“There are those that are seeking, those that are lost and those that are astray,” Kellum told the group. “A lot of those who are astray are part of the flock.”
Although they have a relationship with Jesus, they live in darkness, sin or are stagnant in their walk, he added.
Kellum noted how easy it can be to let the world dictate emotions, but there is truth, peace, calm and rest in the Lord.
“Repent, turn to the Lord,” Kellum encouraged. “We can find resolve with Christ.”
Quoting from Romans 10:17, that faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word, Kellum said, “We live in a world where a lot of our gospel presentation is done from a platform, not in a personal setting,” adding a challenge to students to “choose one” with whom to share the gospel.
Friendship Association has planned several other youth-focused events to reach local teens with the gospel.
“Saw You at the Pole” is held annually as a follow-up to September’s “See You at the Pole,” where students gather around their school flagpole to pray.
“Beach Reach” is hosted by three churches: Fowler Springs Baptist, Blountsville Methodist and Blountsville Baptist. Students gain free entry into the Spring Valley Beach Water Park following a morning community ministry project determined by the churches. Students meet for breakfast, have a devotional, implement their project and head for the water park. A rally is held at the end of the second day.
Beach Reach, scheduled this year for July 14–15, will again feature Tori Parris, with Mark Moon, sheriff of Blount County, as guest speaker. It is open to the community and last year nearly 100 students participated.
Reaching out to youth in other rural associations
Friendship Association realizes the critical need to reach young people for Christ. Numerous studies suggest that if students are not reached by age 18, they may never come to Christ. Recent studies put that age even lower. Students in rural areas are often hard to reach, and every association in Alabama has rural churches — at least three or four — according to Rick Barnhart, director of the SBOM office of associational missions and church planting.
“Out of 74 associations, at least 65 are labeled as rural, making approximately 75% fully rural,” Barnhart said.
Josh Meadows, family life pastor at Spring Valley Baptist in Springville who provides leadership for the SBOM’s Speak Tour, said a new approach to events is geared in part to help rural churches make connections.
“The vision is to have at least one stop in every association within the next five to six years,” including rural and non-rural associations, Meadows said.
Speak conference, Speak Tour
Speak Tour events are rallies geared toward students, featuring bands and special speakers. They are similar to the annual Speak conference, a two-day youth-geared event with speakers, music and fun, but Speak Tour events are one-night, regionally focused and free events.
Speak Tour rallies have three primary goals: reach students with the gospel, disciple and mobilize. Meadows described them as “tent revival meets youth ministry today.”
Two Speak Tours have been held this year, with some 225 attending an April event in Covington Baptist Association and 175 at the May gathering in Bibb Baptist Association. The next is set for First Baptist Church in Trussville August 5.
One person said of the tour, “Normally, we have to travel a long way, but you came to our backyard!”
For more information about upcoming SBOM youth events and resources for youth ministry, visit YMLink.org. This year’s Speak conference will be held July 15-16 at Jacksonville State University. For more information, click here.