In 2017, three SBC of Virginia senior pastors (Steve Harrelson from Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, Boston, Virginia; Dennis Smith from Jeffersonton Baptist Church, Jeffersonton, Virginia and Philip Walker from Stevensburg Baptist Church, Stevensburg, Virginia) bonded as “a cord of three strands” through the SBC of Virginia Pastors Fellowship in Culpeper, Virginia. These three church pastors soon recognized that they were also bound by a common passion to fill a void in their area of reaching middle school students with the Gospel.
Access to Public Schools
The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) could have access to public school facilities to conduct Good News Clubs in elementary schools and Junior Youth Clubs in middle schools.
In partnership, together in 2018, three pastors followed God’s calling to lead their churches to begin a CEF Junior Youth Club (JYC) on the campus of Culpeper Middle School in Culpeper to both proclaim the Gospel and to disciple these students. Seven men and women from the three churches volunteered to lead the JYC. They met at the school and prayed for three months before the first student, a seventh-grader named Genesis, joined the club. Through prayer, perseverance, and partnership, these three pastors and churches continued working together to overcome challenges and to seize opportunities like attending parent orientation to invite students to attend the club.
In the 2019 school year, 18 students were enrolled with an average weekly attendance of 16 middle schoolers in the Junior Youth Club at Culpeper Middle, in even better news, four clubbers came to saving faith in Christ during the 2019 school year at JYC. Pastor Dennis Smith stated, “It is evident that God is changing the lives of these kids. They sacrificially give up other activities to attend JYC, and they are calling their parents to a commitment to Christ.” One clubber was even instrumental in leading one of his fellow classmates to Christ through the influence of the Junior Youth Club.
Impacting the Community
Because of this partnership, God has brought excitement in the lives of each of these three churches as they are impacting their community with the Gospel. Members are financially donating to purchase curriculum, snacks, Bibles, prizes and a pizza party for the Junior Youth Club and to assist the club with community outreach in the Culpeper area. Some members even donated the necessary funds to take the students on a field trip to The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
Through the pleading of students and the power of God at work in the hearts of area school leaders, the three churches plan to expand their ministry in the 2019-20 school year to beginning a club in Culpeper High School. School leaders have requested that they consider beginning clubs in two other area schools as soon as possible. The pastors are now praying for more volunteers to take the Gospel to the schools.
Pastor Steve Harrelson stated, “In the end, as we looked at the desperate need of Christian influence in our schools, we discovered that while, we as individual churches, can’t meet the need in every school, we could come together and make a difference in this one. God has given an open door for us to build a force of sold-out Christ followers within the school itself. The open door is there, and our conviction is that it is a sin not to walk through it.”