By Chris Moon
Church Responds to Youth Departure
Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute, Ind., is revamping its youth ministry to try to help stop the exodus of young people from our nation’s churches.
With “Growing Young at MCC,” the church is dropping some staples of traditional youth ministry—like its high school worship service on Sunday morning—and adding more elements that bring parents and students together in church. The theory is that offering age-specific programming twice a week for students overburdens families.
MCC wants to encourage high school students to be part of the larger church body in ministry teams as a way to involve, retain, and grow teenagers at the church.
“Change is good,” the church student ministry team wrote in a letter to the congregation. “It’s a constant in growth, life, and forward movement. But while change is good, transitions can be awkward (and in student ministry we’re surrounded by people going through puberty, so we know about awkward transitions!).”
MCC cited statistics showing a decline in the percentage of adults who identify as Christians in the United States, now at only 71 percent, and an increase in the percentage of people who do not affiliate with any religion, now at 23 percent.
Even more pressing perhaps is the aging church. Maryland Community Church noted that 22 percent of the adult population in the United States is in the 18-29 age range, but only 10 percent of the church is comprised of adults that age. MCC said nearly 50 percent of “youth group seniors—young people in our church—drift from God and the faith community after they graduate from high school.”
“As followers of Jesus, parents and leaders who have been in student and pastoral ministry much of our adult lives, we aren’t satisfied with the dangers of the shrinking and aging of our worshipping community,” the church’s leaders wrote.
The church this year will start offering a worship service for middle school students on Sunday mornings and a service exclusively for high school students on Wednesday nights. High school students are invited to worship in the sanctuary during weekend services and serve at the church during those services.
Student Overcomes Challeges to Make Impact
God opens doors.
That’s the enduring message student Olivia Ruckriegel of Redemption Christian Church in Jasper, Ind., learned last year after she wasn’t able to go on a mission trip to Mexico. When that door to ministry was shut, Ruckriegel discovered God had freely opened another—to help an orphanage in Uganda from where she lived in Indiana.
Ruckriegel attended a Christ in Youth summer conference, still bummed about not getting to go to Mexico.
“At that CIY, I really felt like God kept saying, ‘Go and do more and show my love to more people,’” Ruckriegel said. “And I had no idea how to [do that] because I wasn’t able to . . . go across the world to do this internationally. So I felt that if I can’t leave, I need to make a way to stay here and still impact people.”
Then she was presented with the opportunity to help raise money for an orphanage in Uganda that needed to purchase land.
Ruckriegel paired her love for soccer with a T-shirt-selling venture, and raised the exact amount of money needed to purchase the land for the orphanage. Today, the land has been fenced and the orphanage has used it to grow crops. A structure eventually will be built on it.
The orphanage houses 70 kids.
“None of it would have happened if (Olivia) hadn’t done that,” said Kim Smith, a sponsor for the orphanage.
Olivia’s story was shared in a video posted to Redemption Christian Church’s webpage. The video recounts the challenges Olivia faced to get the fund-raising effort off the ground. But God was faithful, and the money was raised.
“From a perspective of uncharted (territory), Olivia takes a handful of leaps of faith here,” said Corey Andry, student minister at Redemption Christian Church.
Longtime Seminary Staff Retire
Emmanuel Christian Seminary in Johnson City, Tenn., has said goodbye to a couple of longtime, familiar people.
Dan Lawson, director of seminary development, retired from 29 years of service. And John Mark Wade, the theological librarian, retired after 25 years of service.
Lawson arrived at Emmanuel in 1988 after 22 years in youth and singles ministry at churches across the country. During his time at the seminary, the school tripled its gift income and more than doubled the endowment. Lawson also spearheaded efforts to fund the seminary’s student village.
In a Facebook post, Emmanuel said Lawson’s impact “reaches around the globe, visible in the countless healthy ministries that exist today because of his work.”
Lawson currently is working toward his doctor of ministry degree at Emmanuel.
Lawson is succeeded by Phil Roberts, who will serve as assistant to the president of Emmanuel for seminary development.
Wade came to Emmanuel a quarter century ago after serving as director of the library at Dallas Christian College. He also served as a youth minister, teacher, and church librarian.
David Kiger has been hired to serve as the next theological librarian at Emmanuel.
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Central Christian Church in Beloit, Wis., is helping children in Puerto Rico affected by the 2017 hurricane season. Proceeds from the church’s annual “Cookie Walk” event—where volunteers sold boxes of home-baked cookies for $10 per box—went to provide food for hungry children.
Ten Mile Christian Church in Meridian, Idaho, hosted a monthlong “Diaper Drive” in the fall to collect diapers and wipes for the local Meridian Food Bank and foster care families. To promote the effort, the church posted a video on Facebook of people being blasted by diapers shot from a cannon.
StoneBridge Christian Church in Omaha, Neb., hosted a one-day retreat in February for area business leaders. The “Work As Worship” retreat allowed Christian business owners, CEOs, and business leaders who want their faith to impact their work to come together and hear from speakers on the topic.
The youth team at College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, Mo., didn’t let the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation go by without a party. The group got together to pray, and then they put on costumes and ate “Reformation Snacks”—Fruit Roll-Ups to represent Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and pretzel sticks to represent the nail he used to hang it on the door of the Wittenberg church.
University Christian Church in Manhattan, Kan., reached out to military families by hosting a “night out” for single parents and the spouses of deployed soldiers. The church offered free childcare so parents could go shopping, have alone time, or spend time with friends. UCC is located near Fort Riley, a U.S. Army post.
First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio, hosted a two-day women’s retreat called “Livin’ the Dream.” The retreat focused on whether someone is living out the dream God has planned for her and to help women recognize, embrace, prepare for, and live out God’s dream with courage and passion.
Northside Christian Church in Wadsworth, Ohio, assembled a large stack of shoeboxes last fall by collecting 1,736 gift boxes for Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child.
Christ’s Church in Mason, Ohio, recently hosted its “Night to Shine Shopping Day.” The church partnered with Cinderella’s Closet to provide a large selection of prom dresses for members of the community.
Southpoint Church in Trenton, Mich., tackled the dangers of technology with an event called “Creating a Media-Safe Home,” featuring Jim Burns, of the Homeword Center for Youth and Family. Topics included how to manage things like movie and television content, online bullying, and social media.
Lifepointe Church in Raleigh, N.C., hosted a special event during the holidays called “Foster Care Christmas.” It was for families who are providing foster homes in the community, and it featured inflatables, a movie, and a visit from Santa Claus.
New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, Va., made sure the Christmas season was sweet by having members of its student ministry compete in its annual “Great Christmas Bake Off.” Students attempted to make the best Christmas-themed treat before time ran out. Guest judges selected the winner.
Manhattan Christian College in Kansas is trying to help churches reach the baby boomer generation. It hosted a conference called “Reaching and Unleashing Baby Boomers,” with an emphasis on providing meaningful ways for members of that generation to serve in the church.
Milligan College recently hosted its annual “Buffalo Tales,” a student storytelling event in the college’s McGlothlin-Street Theatre. It promotes storytelling as an art form and as an effective method of communication.
Johnson Harvesters this winter held its annual “Soup-port Our Missionaries Soup Cookoff.” The Harvesters, a missions emphasis group at Johnson University Tennessee, sent proceeds from the event to Knoxville Area Refugee Services.
Guy Fox is the new lead pastor of Diamond Canyon Christian Church in Diamond Bar, Calif. Fox previously launched Venture Christian Church in Murrieta, Calif. He replaces James Price, who retired after leading DCCC for 37 years.
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