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Posted: May 29, 2011 12:00 a.m.

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Around the Well

1 Timothy 4:12 "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (NIV)

In Social Circle, many of our youth strive to set an example as followers of Christ through participation in the youth ministries of their churches. Many of our churches have impressive youth programs that not only provide religious education, but also help members to develop social skills and offer opportunities for community service.

First Baptist Church of Social Circle
The Rev. Julian Sims, music and student minister of the First Baptist Church of Social Circle, said his students want to make a difference in their world and community.
"It's a generational thing - they want to be involved in something greater than themselves. Students today are exposed to so much moral failure - often on the part of professed Christians."

Through their study of God's Word, young people hope to make better decisions that will bring them closer to Jesus. Pastor Julian loves working with young people because they are receptive to new ideas and are not locked into a rigid belief system as are many adults.
The First Baptist Church uses KNOWN, a Bible study curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources, a six-year study program which covers the entire Bible topically. Every month they study a different topic in their Sunday morning and Wednesday evening classes; this month the topic is conflict resolution.

Through questions and class discussions students learn to relate eternal truths revealed in the Bible to their daily lives. At the end of the 6-10 year program, Pastor Julian hopes his students will be firmly grounded in God's Word.

In addition to social activities, community service initiatives include participation in the city-wide cleanups, maintenance of member's historic grave sites, work on a Habitat For Humanity building project, and assistance in the FISH 4 Kids summer lunch program.

Corinth Missionary Baptist Church
Minister Tommy Gregory, Jr. (Pastor Tommy) of the Corinth Missionary Baptist Church adds another dimension in discussing his views about youth participation in Christian education. He says that "Young people have concerns about being able to be who they are on the inside. They want to be something but often their surrounding culture leads them to be led away from their real inner selves."

Pastor Tommy is a teacher and athletic coach at Liberty Middle School in Covington. Students in his Christian education group are expected to be committed and consistent in their involvement. This ministry promotes spiritual growth, Christian worship, and fellowship opportunities through Christian activities.
The SAASY (Spiritual, Academics, Athletics and Social Youth) curriculum at Corinth teaches salvation through studying biblical characters and concepts surrounding each character.

Christian education classes for youth are held on Wednesdays and Sundays. Meetings on Wednesdays begin with food and fellowship, followed by Bible study. The students participate in numerous community service events including the city-wide cleanups and assisting with the Corinth 5-10K walk/run. On May 7, in conjunction with the Social Circle Better Hometown Yard Sale, the Corinth Student Ministry sponsored the Spring Fling 2011 fundraiser which featured music, prizes, food, horseback rides and other activities as well as the Corinth Church Yard Sale - with proceeds to benefit Youth 4 Christ.

Social Circle United Methodist Church
Bryan Johnson, youth pastor at the Social Circle United Methodist Church, points out the most important factor that attracts kids to his youth program. He said that teenagers need to have a sense of belonging and that the fellowship in a safe, accepting environment provided through the youth program helps to fulfill that need. Often they are confused and need direction in making decisions that affect their lives.

Pastor Bryan draws upon his experience as a teenager when he became a Christian and was mentored by his own youth minister. He loves working with teenagers because they are excited, creative and a lot of fun.

The name of Pastor Bryan's youth program is Impact² Student Ministries. The prayer for his ministry is "for God to impact us so we can impact the community."
Through participation in the program, members learn to get involved in the community, express their inner selves, as well as learning about God's truths. The youth program for grades six - 12 is held on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings.

For example, on Wednesday evenings, after a pizza supper (and potluck for adult members), the service begins with music by a Christian band followed by Bible studies. The last Wednesday of the month is devoted to games, fellowship and fun.

Recent community service projects include taking part in city-wide cleanups, a ministry to assist elderly residents such as painting and building wheelchair ramps, and assisting in the FISH 4 Kids summer lunch program.

The Avenue Church
Pastor Jordan Flores of Social Circle's Avenue Church puts another spin on youth involvement in his church. He believes that most young people are not in a position in their lives where they are seeking a passionate relationship with their creator. Most young people are coming to a student ministry because their friends go; others are simply seeking positive relationships.

He stated that, "We are seeking to develop these young people into fully devoted followers of Christ; but this is a process. I have a huge passion to see all of my community student programs grow."

He shares the vision of Senior Pastor Brian Hoover which is to seek to be THE CHURCH, not just as a place to go, but as a place to serve the community.

The Avenue Church is an affiliate network of which brings messages on Sunday via screen and provides resources to churches at no cost.

THE AVENUE student ministry meets weekly on Sunday nights, alternating every Sunday between the church (Social Circle Theater site) and Pastor Jordan's house. The weeks at the church are called BIG SWITCH, and other weeks are the LIFE GROUPS, more traditionally called small groups.

BIG SWITCH is the full student ministry program filled with worship, a relevant and gospel centered message, games and fellowship. The small group time is spent diving deeper into subjects or messages from BIG SWITCH services and, according to Pastor Jordan, "trying to see what God is telling us and how to apply it to our lives!"

One interesting feature of the church is that its leaders at the church are encouraged to serve with other student programs at other churches whenever possible. Sunday night services have been scheduled on an odd night so that not only the students but the leaders could do just that. Pastor Jordan and Senior Pastor Brian Hoover both serve in other youth programs in the community.

Mars Hill Baptist Church
According to Pastor George Hill at the Mars Hill Church, every third Sunday is known at Youth Day Sunday at which the youth preside over the program. They welcome attendees and lead the responsive reading portion of the service and prayers.

All ages, including youth, participate at their annual Vacation Bible School (June 13-17) and the week concludes with a Friday picnic, with many activities for young members. According to Deacon Andre Jackson, the youth are also very involved in the annual Easter and Christmas programs. Michelle Giles is the youth coordinator at Mars Hill.


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