Smaller Oklahoma Church Builds Strong Youth Program
by: Stafford North | March 5, 2018
The 4th and College Church of Christ in Cordell, Oklahoma, which usually has about sixty in attendance on Sunday mornings, has developed over the last three years a very strong outreach program to the youth of their area. Their work provides an excellent example for all churches to follow, particularly churches in smaller locations.
A strong VBS program in the summer, including some door to door invitations, builds a good attendance from kindergarten through high school. This, coupled with a large back-to-school give-away program, gives the church a very positive contact with the youth in their area. Those in this age group not only know about the church but think well of them. Now that the program is well established, they draw more to come as those attending tell others about their good experiences there. One additional way in which the church keeps in touch with the youth of the area is that youth minister Luke Nance (OC ‘09) does substitute teaching at the local high school which gives him an opportunity to get acquainted with many youth who are not attending church.
Building on these contacts, the church has developed a Wednesday night program called “Encounter,” which draws about twenty-five in kindergarten through fifth grade and about twenty-five more in grades six through twelve. Most of these are from non-church homes. Church vans provide transportation for those needing a ride.
In some periods of time the church provides a meal before the evening classes and at other periods offers just some snacks for the smaller children.
The evening activities begin with a thirty-minute worship period for all the youth. During this time they sing songs, learn the books of the New Testament, and even have a time of silence for reflection. Since many of these have not been to church before, this session teaches them about how to engage in worship not only in their conduct but also in their participation.
In a second thirty-minute period, those present divide into two groups—K through fifth grade and sixth through twelfth grade. The younger group studies a Bible story and even sometimes acts it out. Nance teaches the high school age students from Bible texts, most recently from the Sermon on the Mount and from the book of Acts.
Then comes the third thirty-minute period when the students divide into smaller groups: the younger ones by grade levels and the teens into four groups—junior high boys and girls and senior high boys and girls. These sessions provide the opportunity to share, make application of the lessons, and allow an older member to develop close relationships with the ones attending. In these sessions, the teacher and students make applications of the lesson to their own lives and build intergenerational relationships. The age and gender division allows for appropriate discussion of various issues. Sometimes the local minister, Chris Perrey (OC ’05) even works with a high school group.
Perrey reports that this program has many benefits. Some of the youth are from broken homes and others from poorer families. The sessions help them adjust to their hardship and to have good fellowship with others of their age. Youth from church homes also are strengthened as they get to participate in these Wednesday night classes and to do their part to encourage those whom come from outside the church. And, of course, some begin to attend on Sunday mornings and so do their parents. Recently one of the young men who had been baptized through this program led a prayer and served communion in the Sunday morning service.
Older members have had to adjust to the presence in worship services of those who did not grow up in the church and who still have some developing to do to learn fully to participate in the service. Those wanting to develop a similar program need to keep this circumstance in mind and prepare the congregation.
This story is great good news because it tells of a congregation which is determined to bring youth into its numbers so that as some members grow older, there will be younger ones who grow up in the church to take their place. This story provides a great example of how a smaller church in a smaller location can work to build its numbers for continued growth!
To get more information about this program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.