Submitted by Paige Byrne-Mamahit, former Director of Family and Children’s Ministry

Do a Little Jig!

Even though the arrow fell only a few feet in front of him and many feet short of the target, our jr archer (about six years old) did a little jig and cheered for himself with his friend also cheering for him, with some back pats and fist bumps to follow. Their 1st attempts to hold a bow, nock an arrow, draw and shoot at the target – they rejoiced in their achievement of getting the arrow properly nocked. Never wanting to miss an opportunity for encouragement, I also gave a cheer and complimented them both on their achievement and on being good friends and encouraging each other. The youth and children – their skills improved, and the wins kept coming not only that evening but in the following weeks.

It had not been our intention when the vision for a youth program, which includes archery, camping, canoeing, hiking and other outdoor activities was put forth, that we would consist of elementary students in our program, but the sudden burst of energy and interest among the children challenged us. Responding to that, we adapted the archery component and occasionally other dimensions of the program grew to include younger children and families. So while our older youth are focusing on a Bible study component of the evening, our younger archers have a chance to learn and practice their skills in archery.

This program is the vision and passion of Dave Bray, Chairman of the Listowel Baptist Church (LBC) Deacons Board. An outdoor enthusiast who finds God in His general revelation of creation, Dave wants to pass on these outdoor skills, opportunities to experience God, and potential for life-long spiritual maturity developed within the context of nature. Thus the goal of this program is that discipleship, mentoring, worship, Bible studies, outdoor activities, and games with youth would happen in the context of God’s creation. Through activities of interest to young people around archery, nature, camping, canoeing, and hiking, LBC creates enhanced opportunities to share the gospel and develop disciples of Jesus with youth.

Our new youth program challenged any notion that Christian Education must take place indoors, that youth programs can only include youth, and that Church Christian education programs must occur weekly for the entire academic year. Instead, shorter bursts of activity and programming at specifically timed opportunities throughout the year occur. Also, this “enhanced youth” program, still in its infancy, is meant to be a ‘seeker-friendly’ outreach into the community—opportunities for youth and children to invite their friends. We are challenged to maintain the balance in all aspects of the program between those who know Christ and those for whom the gospel and Christian fellowship are new. Meeting these diverse needs ensures our programming is an inclusive and safe space for everyone.

This journey to a new ministry opportunity started with Dave’s vision and passion and not precisely this linear or this neat (as we circled around and back to some items a few times). The journey included gathering around a few cheerleaders and program specialists to start the journey, getting the LBC leadership and stakeholders on board, securing funding from within our church, finding and purchasing equipment, recruiting and training some volunteers and leaders, garnering prayer support from our congregation, applying for a CBOQ grant to augment and meet program needs, ensuring administrative aspects were in place, and getting insurance health and safety measures. Then – well, would any youth or children be interested? We have run at full capacity since our program began with a waiting list for our next ministry scheduling of the program.

So now, we, the leaders and volunteers, our church family, we are also doing a little jig as we rejoice in ministry and fellowship together for God’s glory.