Summer church ministry may look and feel a little different than other times of the year. From camps and kids programs to sports clinics and block parties, opportunities to engage your community with the Gospel are endless. We sat down with our Great Commission Team leaders to ask their perspective on all things evangelism and discipleship. Here’s what they shared:
What summertime ministry made the biggest impact on you as a young person?
Delvin Atchison: It was Vacation Bible School. I came from a small town and small towns didn’t have a lot of camps, mind you this is 40 years ago, but we did have Vacation Bible School. It was as though churches coordinated to have different weeks. It became for us both our spiritual formation and also our day care. Each church in the community would have it. It was the first example I saw that churches were connected. It was my first image of the Church universal. It impacted me profoundly and gave me a sense of community, of family.
How can we remain intentional about discipleship during the summertime?
Phil Miller: There is always the tendency to "take a vacation" from discipling during the summer months because families are spending time away from home (and church) and the summer schedule of VBS, camps, mission trips, etc. squeeze out their portion of the 24/7 that we all share. But, this is also a great opportunity to teach the greater lesson of being a disciple. Namely, that the real test of being a follower of Christ is that we do not take a vacation from our faith. We serve a God who never slumbers, nor sleeps, so that we may have complete access to His presence whenever we need it.
What summertime ministry have you most enjoyed as a church leader? Why?
Joshua del Risco: Summertime for me means a time to be outdoors enjoying the beauty of God’s nature; yes, that includes the heat! One of my favorite summer outreaches was celebrating a soccer clinic in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. It brought the community together around food and sports, while enjoying the diversity of our neighbors. Kids were trained in soccer fundamentals, with the opportunity to showcase their talents in friendly, yet competitive games. The parents supported their children during the games over food and music. Throughout the three-day event, the Gospel was shared one-on-one, as well as in a large group setting. A special memory was the awards ceremony for all the participants and their families. It was at this ceremony that many made public decisions for Christ. The event revived a church and transformed the community.
Summer is a busy season and it’s easy for people to lose focus. What are some ways to keep Christ central during our busyness?
Delvin Atchison: The important thing for parents is to be intentional. To make an effort to say, just like I don’t want you to lose what you learned in school, I want you to maintain a spiritual sharpness. To say, with this busyness I do not want you to forget the things that are significant. Perhaps consider getting your youth a devotional. To say that even when I am vacationing from everything else, this is as significant as breathing.
How important is VBS today, and how can churches be sure to bring in unchurched families from the community?
Phil Miller: Vacation Bible School is still the most evangelistic thing that we do as Southern Baptists. It has remained so for decades. For many churches, their VBS is the closest thing they do to having a revival event. It has been encouraging to see more and more churches taking advantage of VBS to genuinely go beyond the four walls of the church to reach their community. One of the simplest ways for a church to become reconnected with their community is to "go for a walk." Rediscover who lives within walking distance of the church. Surprisingly, many churches have lost sight of the "trees of the Great Commission" by concentrating on the forest.
How would you encourage church leaders to make the most of the summer months for evangelism and discipleship?
Delvin Atchison: I have a conviction that evangelism isn’t an activity of the church, it’s an attitude of the church. More than just a labor, it has to be a lifestyle. When the church’s very core is evangelistic, then you don’t have to make that many changes. For me, discipleship is the natural extension of evangelism. The church has to see her job as not merely making converts, but making disciples. At conversion, we don’t stop. It’s not to just affect what they believe but how they behave.
How can the Texas Baptists Evangelism Team help churches over the summer months?
Joshua del Risco: The Evangelism Team assists churches with the planning and preparation phases of their outreach events. This can include consultation on strategy development, training in the various phases of preparation, and implementation. There are many ways to reach a community during the summer months. Any church, regardless of size or budget, can celebrate effective community outreaches. Our Evangelism Team stands ready to assist all Texas Baptists churches.
During the summer, kids tend to forget some of what they’ve learned in the classroom. Does that happen to church folks too?
Phil Miller: If our focus in discipling is a classroom format based on how well we memorize and recall certain facts, then the answer is "yes." If, however, our focus is living out our faith in a day-to-day real world environment, then summer is the "lab" where we have the opportunity to put into practice all we have been learning. A great reminder for us is the example of the disciples when they first heard of Jesus' death. The human part wants to go back to what our life was like before we met Christ. Summer for a disciple can be the time we learn new things in Christ because we are in new classrooms.
Save the date: Join the Great Commission Team this summer for the Great Commission Summit August 11-12, 2017, hosted by Dallas Baptist University. An all-church staff training event in evangelism, discipleship, preaching and music & worship.