(Submitted by Blake Bentley, English Pastor at Pickering Community Baptist Church)
I am a new pastor at my church and I’ve been here for two years now. When I came to my small church in Pickering, ON, there were almost no babies in the church, no nursery to speak of, no youth group, no Sunday School for high school youth and no leaders to look after these things.
I came in and we transitioned one of our rooms into a nursery, created Sunday School classes for all ages and I began to search for effective ways to minister to youth in our particular setting. Our youth don’t always come to church—something that is the norm now—and we are short on leaders who are able to teach effectively.
To add to this, we had three girls who were finishing their last year of high school and applying to universities. I realized we had one year with them, then they would be gone. How would we send them out into the collegiate world? Prepared, or unloved and unnoticed?
That’s when I took some of our older ladies through the ideas presented in the Transitions booklet. We paired up each girl with an older lady from our church as a mentor/friend for their last year in high school and their first semester into university. I also used the Grad Mentor Package, found online, from the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches.
The ladies met with their mentees once a month to discuss life and really invest in each of them. Nearing the end of their last year of school we worked to find new home churches for the girls wherever they went. We celebrated their graduation with several parties and recognitions. After they had left us, we sent them care packages in October.
Here’s the funny thing. Even though they have left, they haven’t really. The come home often and so we seem them at least once a month. One of the girls has chosen to continue going to our church even though she attends school in another city. She commutes to school and could go where her friends do, but she chooses not to. These young women talk about how they miss our church and even though the mentoring relationships have ended they continue to have strong relationships with both their former mentors and the rest of our church.
During the summers, they all come back. Why? It’s home. It’s their family. We bothered to care about them for one year, and that was enough. They could have gone anywhere. There are churches that offer much more than we do for university students. Also, we even had a university graduate come back and rejoin the church—a small church that didn’t have a nursery and still doesn’t have a youth group. It pays to invest one on one, especially if you are short on leaders or teachers. The investment is eternal.