Five; The number of fingers on one hand. The number of donut holes I could eat in one sitting. And the number of kids Boambee Community Baptist started with when their Youth Group launched several years ago.
Jonathan Murray is the Associate Pastor at Boambee, and says Youth was formed when he, and his wife Claire, realised teenagers were moving away from their church because there was nothing for them. “We decided to start a Youth Group with just the kids we had – which was two of my own kids, one of the Lead Pastor’s kids, and two other kids,” he shares. “My family went around Australia one year and we thought Youth would be dead in the water when we came back, because we took half the kids out of it!”
And the Group did almost die, with questions of “why are we doing this” and “is it worth it”…But the church stayed persistent. “It was a matter of obedience. God said to do it – because who else will?” Jono says. “He put it on our heart to start with what we’ve got… ‘If you’d do it for one hundred, you can do it for one.’ That was the mindset we had. Where two or three are gathered, God is there.” And now, Boambee Baptist’s Youth Group has grown. “This week we’ll probably have between 50 and 60 kids show up!”
The Group functions unlike most other youth groups. “We were trying to wrap our heads around how to get young people to come to a youth group,” Jono explains. “We figured that if you wait until Year 7, they’re sort of already out of that mindset. So we thought: why don’t we start young and instil that routine and ‘way of thinking’ early – so that when they get to Year 7, it’s actually not an odd thing to go to Youth?”
So, the Group has developed into three different age groups – from Year 1 to high school. “We actually try to disciple the older kids to be leaders for the younger group,” Jono says. “For instance, a couple of weeks ago we did a ‘MasterChef Night’ with the older kids helping the younger kids decorate cakes. It’s really encouraging to see these guys step up and feed back into the lives of the younger kids, and they have a great sense of ownership over the Group.”
(Click here to see how the MasterChef Night went!)
Jono and Claire are in regular contact with Rachel Stuhr (Regional Support & Engagement for Baptist Youth Ministries). “I’m inspired by the faithfulness and creativity I’ve seen in the ministry to young people at Boambee Baptist,” Rachel says. “I’m particularly encouraged by the way Jonathan and Claire are training up the older members of the group to be good leaders of the younger ones. This is a great example of how even smaller churches can provide opportunities for development of young leaders. God is doing great things in Boambee and I’m excited to see what happens next!”
A particular story that stands out for Jono stems from what he describes as ‘a chaotic God-idea’: “As an outreach, we did a LEGO club where we took LEGO to a park and kids could come and play. It progressed to doing it in the shopping centre who allowed us to set up on the floor,” he shares. “A family who used to go to church started coming. They ended up reconnecting and are now a very active part of the church, with the mum becoming one of our Youth volunteers, and her mum starting to come to church too…Sometimes we think, that was organised chaos, and the thought of doing it again is nerve-wracking – but we look at it and go, well, God used that!”
I asked Jono why he thinks the Group has grown so much, and it came down to one thing: prayer. “Yes, we’ve implemented the ideas…but we can’t make kids show up. It’s only through prayer.”
…On that note – let’s pray!
P R A Y / /
● A unique thing about Boambee’s Youth Group is that it’s made up of 70% of kids who don’t go to church (and have no church background at all). “At the moment we’re navigating how to reach the families of these young people (in a non-confrontational way),” Jono shares. Pray for God’s wisdom and direction.
● Pray for the young people who have taken a step into a leadership role – that they would continue and nothing knocks them off the perch.
● Praise God that Boambee Community Baptist have gotten more involved with the Baptist Association. They went to State Conference this year for the first time, which meant others became aware of the church and what they are doing. “When you’re in the bush, you can feel like you’re on your own. But now we feel a lot more connected!”