The third year of our partnership with Judson Baptist in Nahsville, TN brings a new twist. This year a team of 7 teenagers (including our Elisabeth) with two leaders will be sent by our Banská Bystrica congregation to serve at a VBS at Judson.
Partnership with Judson Baptist
This year is the third year of a partnership between Narnia Elementary School and Judson Baptist of Nashville, TN. Along with financial gifts toward classroom supplies, Judson has invited leaders from Narnia to speak to their congregation and has sent two teams to Narnia. In 2015 a team came to see the school and talk about future partnership opportunities. In 2016 they sent a team and together we organized a summer English day camp for elementary school kids. This year, the last year of our three year partnership, we decided to do something different.
The original plan was for Judson to send a team for another English camp. There would surely have been enough interest to hold the camp but, unfortunately, with so many other camps our leaders are involved in, we didn’t have the manpower on our side to fit another camp in busy summer schedules.
With options for summer camps seeming to narrow into nothing we started brainstorming. What if instead of Judson sending a team to Slovakia, they helped us send a team of youth to Judson? All of a sudden that seemed like a brilliant idea.
A Blossoming Youth Program
Narnia has opened the floodgates of youth ministry in our congregation. Our denomination organizes an all Slovakia youth camp every year. Each year the camp alternates between older (junior high and high school) and younger (grade school) kids. Three years ago our church, which is about an average size church in our denomination, didn’t send any kids to the national youth camp for older kids. Last year, however, more kids from our congregation attended than from any other church including much larger congregations (500 members compared to our 75).
That drastic change pretty accurately reflects what’s happening in the ministry in our congregation. Whereas just a couple of years ago we had basically no junior high or high school ministry, we now have a sudden surge.
Obviously, there are some growth pains associated with a new ministry. But it also means the opportunity to build a youth culture from scratch. One thing we want to do is develop a leadership mindset in our youth. We want them to understand that the youth group is a great place for them to be fed and grow, but that they also need to contribute to the ministry. We need a strong group of kids that will rise to that leadership challenge.
When Judson offered our kids the opportunity to help out with their vacation bible school, that seemed perfect. It will give our kids the opportunity to participate in a well established ministry where they can jump right in and make a contribution. Hopefully, the trip will be an example of how short-term missions (going in the other direction) can be a great opportunity for mutual blessing.