Bethany and Central Baptist churches in Loudon are uniting youth ministries in an effort to keep teens active and reach other parts of the community.
Youth in grades 6-12 will meet at 6 p.m. Sundays, rotating between CBC, BBC and a farm owned by United Student Ministry organizer Teresa Wood and CBC youth minister Shane Wood.
Youth have been meeting on Thursdays for the past month in the CBC Family Life Building for food, various indoor sports and Bible study. The effort was set in motion in July when Teresa hosted a bonfire at the farm and invited both youth groups.
“That was the first time we had gotten together with our youth since this happened,” Teresa said. “Well, then it was a lot of COVID cases, so we kind of stopped doing those in-person things again at church. Now, we’re just trying to get our kids back together and trying to really — given where the world is right now and given circumstances, these kids need to be hearing about Jesus.”
Because of COVID-19, youth attendance at both churches has dwindled. Hopes are by merging the ministries it will keep youth from becoming discouraged. Uniting the groups was seamless.
Youth leaders at BBC used to be at CBC, and there are already many students who have friends in the other church, Teresa said.
“I think we’re going to continue to combine the two,” she said. “We’re also still doing our own things, like our own church. We’re still doing our youth on Thursday night at our church. Then on Sundays will be when we do the united together.”
David Jewell, CBC youth leader, said students need contact spiritually and mentally. He’s also noticed many of them not attending church.
“It’s kind of like working out,” Jewell said. “Once you quit working out, it’s hard to go back. That’s how I look at it. We’re just trying to get them all together. That way when they see each other in school they know they have somebody they can lean on, somebody that’s got the same mindset.”
Shane hopes the initiative will expand the community outreach efforts of both churches.
“I know we still have COVID going on, but something to reach out to the youth and let them know there’s something else they can do to try and get them out of the house to kind of interact and have something just to look forward to, some fellowship,” Shane said. “Getting out and being active again.”
He eventually wants to partner with other churches so the ministry isn’t exclusive to BBC and CBC. Students from other churches can attend, but it’s harder to reach those kids.
Shane hopes kids in neighboring communities who don’t belong to a church come and join. He understands it’s easier for kids to open their hearts to a Bible study lesson in a comfortable, friendly environment.
“I think a lot of times, adults and even kids alike, especially with sports, you can look at Battle of the Bridge for an example,” he said. “They look at Lenoir City as the enemy and Loudon vice versa, but we’re all in the same county. We’re all on the same team, especially in church. It’s not church against church. We’re all serving the same purpose, which is to lead people to Christ, and it can’t be the United States if we can’t be united in our own small little communities. It’s just a united front to show everybody there’s something to do besides sitting around waiting for COVID to blow by.”