FIRST PERSON: 4 actions to help reach younger generations

Editor’s Note: Messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in June adopted Vision 2025, which includes six action points for reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation. Strategic action No. 4 states: “Turn around the ongoing decline in the SBC in reaching, baptizing and discipling those under the age of 18.”

BURLINGTON, Ky. (BP) – One of the strategic action goals of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Vision 2025 is to “turn around the ongoing decline in the SBC in reaching, baptizing and discipling those under the age of 18.” I think most pastors, churches and church members recognize the need to reach and disciple young people and are supportive of all such efforts. There is a difference between being supportive of an effort and being intentional about taking steps to make progress towards kingdom-minded objectives.

As we approach 2022, I would encourage your church to consider taking four actions to help your church reach, baptize and disciple young people.

1) Pray for your church’s effort to reach and disciple young people.

We all know that apart from God, we can do nothing. Put a date on the calendar, maybe early January, to have a time for the church to come and pray that God would help them reach young people. Ask the Lord for directions, ideas and intentionality in your efforts. Maybe you want to put a team together or just regularly meet as a church for prayer and discussions about your efforts to reach young people.

2) Budget for your church’s effort to reach and disciple young people. 

The church’s budget is often reflective of what is important to the church. Consider how much, if anything, in your church’s budget is directly connected with reaching young people. Yes, you can reach young people without spending money, but activities, camps, resources and events are often helpful in showing young people that we care about them and want to reach them. Sometimes, a part-time position might be necessary to give the attention that is needed to reaching young people.

If financial resources are limited, be creative in finding ways to help pay for student activities. For example, our church hosts a craft fair each year to raise funds to send our children to camp. Our church hosts a 5K race every Thanksgiving to help raise funds to send our youth to camp. We find sponsors who help students who might need some financial assistance to participate in camps or activities. If you cast the vision for reaching young people, you will often find plenty of church members who would willingly sponsor a student, or group of students, who would like to participate in such activities.

3) Start planning.

Intentionality requires planning. A former student pastor, Stephen Brogli, used to have a retreat weekend every January with nearly 200 middle and high school students. This retreat sometimes required more than 20 host homes, multiple vehicles for transportation, facilities, a band, a speaker, lots of food and lots and lots of planning. We reached students throughout the county and it was a great outreach. Did I mention that it took lots of planning and a churchwide effort?

What can your church do in its efforts to reach and disciple more young people in 2022? Can you start early in recruiting help for Vacation Bible School this year? Can you send your students to summer camps that share the Gospel and help disciple your students? Could you start planning a fall retreat or a student outreach event? Do you need to provide some training on sharing the Gospel with children and students? Could you work with other small churches in your association to reach out to students?

4) Make “reaching young people” an agenda item at every business meeting.

I would suggest that reaching and discipling young people should be one of the most important items of business for every church. Would you consider putting it on the agenda to talk about at every business meeting? Somebody could provide a report, or an update, on the church’s efforts to reach young people. Hopefully, there would be opportunities to celebrate the church’s endeavors to reach students, baptize students, disciple students and even equip parents.

Hopefully, there would be opportunities to put students on church teams or committees, utilize students in worship services and ministry positions (greeters, technology, ushers, Scripture reading, prayer, etc.) and to make sure the church is regularly thinking about ways to connect with the younger generations. If the budget is a little short but the church is seeing students saved and discipled, your church has good reasons to celebrate.

I’m sure there are lots of other items that could be added to this list. The key is to be intentional. I want to encourage you in each and every effort you put forth to reach, baptize and disciple young people. If your church takes a few of these steps, I would love to hear from you and celebrate with you as the Lord blesses your efforts.


Harold Best is pastor of Burlington Baptist Church and president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He can be reached at [email protected].

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