Churches strive to carry on task of missions education
EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story is part of a package on giving that appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan earlier this fall. It is reprinted by permission.
GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)--With X-Box, iPod and Blackberry vying for the attention of today’s kids, some churches have left traditional missions education behind or replaced it with hipper alternatives. Others have replaced missions education with programs such as AWANA -- a discipleship program with little missions education.
But some churches affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have found that traditional missions education programs, such as Royal Ambassadors, Girls in Action and Mission Friends, can still reach kids and excite them about missions opportunities worldwide and at home.
At Cedar Bayou Baptist Church in Baytown, Texas, RAs and GAs are a tradition.
“I think it’s been a part of this church for a long time,” Mark Brousard, the church’s pastor, said. “The men have a heart for working with RAs and the women have a heart for teaching GAs. They want to pass it on. It is engrained in them.”
Brousard believes the Cooperative Program has benefited from missions education in the church. “I think it does help,” he said. “The church has been here since 1943 and they have carried that on.”
Carrying on in an established group is new RA leader Chad Bixler of First Baptist Church in Rusk, Texas. He leads a year-round group of about 20 boys in grades 1 through 5 and believes RAs plays an important role in missions education, as well as promoting involvement in the Cooperative Program.
“Most people only see what’s in their little circle,” Bixler said. “RAs show that it is more than just what you have to do here.”
Bixler began working with RAs as a helper before being approached to take over the program last June. He jumped at the chance. “I’m sold on it,” he said.
Encouraging a lifelong love of missions is the goal of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Sequin, Texas.
“We begin presenting the challenge and excitement of sharing Christ with others at an early age, praying that the enthusiasm will grow throughout the lifetime of each child,” Mitch Kolenovsky, the pastor, said.
The church uses a combination of missions activities, including the Kids on Mission material produced by the International Mission Board and Vacation Bible School material from LifeWay Christian Resources, to teach missions to children from kindergarten through sixth grade.
Forest Hills has seen significantly increased awareness of missions giving thanks to its missions education program for children.
“Our Kid’s Klub collects and sells aluminum cans and takes up an offering each week during their mission study time. All of the proceeds go toward various mission projects. This year our VBS offering for missions was over $1,100,” Kolenovsky said.
At First Baptist Church in Bastrop, Texas, RAs, GAs and Mission Friends comprise one of two major programs offered for children, pastor Raymond Edge said.
“Most churches do either AWANA or missions programs,” Edge said. “We do both.” The church offers AWANA clubs on Sunday nights and a full missions program on Wednesday nights. Edge believes missions education for children is a foundational responsibility of the local church.
“If [children] don’t understand the mission aspects of the church now, they won’t understand it when they are older,” Edge said. “I tell the church we have a responsibility to train and teach the children to live the Christian life, and I take the responsibility very highly.”
Many churches, Edge contended, have diminished ministries in order to streamline their programs -- many times at the expense of children’s ministry.
“I’m not willing to go that route,” he said. “We have mission education because if we don’t teach this generation, who will?”
Edge also believes that investing in missions education now will pay off in increased Cooperative Program involvement in the future. Currently his church emphasizes all areas of missions giving.
“In doing so, I think we’ve gotten more individuals willing to give to mission endeavors,” Edge said.
A combination of AWANA, RAs and GAs is meeting the needs of children at First Baptist Church in Borger, Texas, pastor Scott Maze told the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal. The church combined the discipleship aspects of AWANA with the mission aspects of RAs and GAs to create a children’s program that works well for their children.
Maze also makes sure the program emphasizes involvement in the Cooperative Program.
“Our generation has the opportunity not to be denominational,” Maze said. “But we do more together than separately. If we fail the Cooperative Program, the next generation will be hurt.”
MISSIONS EDUCATION FOR ADULTS
“Missions Night” used to be a staple of many Southern Baptist churches’ international missions programs, but it is a new concept to the members of Forestburg Baptist Church in Forestburg, Texas. They are eating up the information presented to them each month.
Pastor Stewart Holloway said in 2005 his congregation committed to being an “Acts 1:8 church” but had no idea how to enact that challenge. Located north of Fort Worth, the community doesn’t have a large multi-national population, Holloway said, so an emphasis on international missions was needed.
A brainstorming session resulted in the creation of a church-wide fellowship held each month to spotlight a different region of the world and its people. The facts about the region would feed mind, body and soul.
Each month a meal is prepared featuring courses from a specific people group. The first meal, Holloway said, was Chinese in recognition of the summer mission work one of their college students had done in China. Church volunteers have cooked up samples of Greek, Native American, Mexican, Italian, Irish, Jewish and even All-American meals.
Members are charged for the meals, with the money initially going to reimburse the cooks for their costs. But one volunteer, instead of submitting receipts, asked that the ticket money be given directly to the church’s missions offering. And that, Holloway said, has become the standard.
On average, about 50 people attend the dinner meetings. Following the meal, Holloway speaks on the mission work in that particular region and distributes a prayer guide informing members on how they can continually pray for the mission work there.
The pastor and his wife, both from Louisiana, prepared a recent meal of Cajun food. Funds raised went to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Adopt-A-Church initiative in Louisiana.
This material first appeared as part of a special report on giving published by the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, online at www.sbtexas.com/texan.