Published April 1, 2019
LONDON—A student-led awakening appears to be happening at Corinth Baptist Church, said church leaders, as youth invite friends and point them to Christ.
In the last year and a half, the number of students attending mid-week Bible teaching has more than doubled.
"We were consistently around 42 or 45-ish on really high nights," said student minister Tim Howard. "We averaged about 108 in the fall."
On a Wednesday night in late February, middle and high schoolers bounded up the graffitied staircase in thundering twos and threes. Upstairs they greeted each other, hugging and smiling. The student worship band squeezed in a few more frantic minutes of rehearsal.
Behind the band on a chalk paint wall the words "The Summit" glowed under stage lights, announcing not only a sense of place on earth but in the eternal.
Howard, who joined the Corinth Baptist staff three years ago, said Wednesday nights are designed to be "high energy" with crazy games and a booming sound system. It's uncertain if Howard realizes he's a contributor to that energy with his animated presentation of the night's message.
"Tim's been a great fit," said lead pastor Andrew Dyer. "We have seen amazing growth over the last 12 to 18 months and Tim has been a big part of that just by being in the students' lives and being real with them."
Howard, on average, attends three or four sporting events or music recitals a week to let students know he cares about them outside of Wednesdays and Sundays.
"If we can move the church outside the four walls and talk about Jesus at a pizza place," Howard said, "that's when we can make a bigger impact because it becomes an authentic relationship instead of a religious habit."
Howard was an intern on the student ministry team at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., before he and his wife moved to growing southeastern Kentucky city of London.
Dyer praised Howard's leadership by recruiting other adults to come alongside and help with the weekly gathering of more than 100 students, and how he reaches students with God's Word through expository Bible teaching and preaching.
Howard said the season of growth in the student ministry "has been a whirlwind," but he was hesitant to accept credit.
"When I came in, it was a fairly young group," Howard said.
"As they have matured, we've been able to build up an understanding of what it means to be a leader. We've been able to build a culture of students leading students, students inviting students."
At Life Groups on Sunday nights, boys and girls separate and under student-led Bible study they build communities within the larger youth group community. Howard's hope is that they will find comfort in sharing one another's struggles, opening up the way to accepting Jesus.
"They are the influencers. They invite their friends. They get them here. They're the ones who make it feel like a family," said Howard. "At the end of the day, that's what I tell them, 'It's on ya'll.'"
Sixteen-year-old Brady Dalrymple was first invited to a D-Now weekend at Corinth and now he's the one extending the invitations.
"I've invited my whole soccer team, my whole friend group and I've invited people I just barely know," Dalrymple said.
It's no secret high school can be stressful, and the sophomore thinks most teens are looking for a place they can feel safe and accepted for who they are.
"At Corinth, you got people that want to pray for you. You got people that want to be there for you and ask how you are. It's just a big family that has structure and support, and easily accepts anyone who walks through that door," Dalrymple said.
Dyer said churches looking to increasing their youth involvement should view the student ministry as an important part of the church's overall outreach, and not as a group of kids shoved in a youth building or life center attic.
"I get really frustrated when
I hear people say we need to reach the youth because they're the church of tomorrow. They're not the church of tomorrow. They're the church today," Dyer said.
And as such, Dyer added, these student disciples of Christ need to be given the responsibility and the opportunity to make disciples of others.
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