Just Jesus focuses on ministering to, rather than entertaining, youthcomment (0)
January 2, 2003
By Leigh Pritchett
It’s not unusual for a small church to lose members of its youth group to larger churches that can offer more activities and retreats.
Sometimes, in that smaller church, the youth group may be led by a volunteer who feels ill-equipped for the ministry.
Or perhaps, that church employs a person part time to lead the youth. Or maybe the people who lead the group are new to the ministry and aren’t sure how to go about youth work.
Those are just the kinds of scenarios that prompted Johnny Walker to begin Just Jesus Ministries.
Walker, who is a member of Eden Westside Baptist Church, Pell City, and serves as interim youth minister at Valley View Baptist, Leeds, started Just Jesus Ministries in 1996. He was prompted to begin his ministry once he realized some churches need assistance and direction in youth work, be it through volunteers or youth ministers.
Just Jesus, he explained, helps with lay counseling to train people for ministering inside and outside the walls of the church building and to learn to witness.
The focus is on establishing a ministry to youth but not an entertainment outlet. “We’ve got to move from this entertainment mentality to a ministry mentality,” he said.
Such a ministry, which offers solid biblical instruction and an opportunity to serve, is what young people are craving, he said. “The kids flock to that.”
Training young people to serve God is something that can be accomplished regardless of a church’s finances, Walker said. Teaching youth to witness and giving them the opportunity to hand out tracts in the parking lot of a busy store, establishing a service project to widows or a balloon ministry are just a few of the possibilities for giving young people the chance to reach out.
“Whatever churches need, we try to provide it” or find someone who can, said Walker.
Just Jesus Ministries also serves as a resource for churches by offering events in which the young people can participate, Walker added.
Two annual examples are the 24-hour fast the first weekend in March and the fall retreat the second weekend of November.
The goal of the fast is to help feed and clothe needy children. Walker said the money accumulated during the fast is divided among the counties of the churches that participate.
The agencies that receive the funds must give an accounting as to how it is used and cannot allocate any of it for administrative costs. Ten percent of the money raised goes toward administrative costs of Just Jesus.
Another avenue in which youth are presented with the chance to serve is through a beach ministry.
Walker noted that in the last two years more than 1,500 tracts and 700 Bibles have been handed out along Panama City Beach as a result of that ministry.
“We’ve had churches as far south as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to join us for that,” said Walker.
Brian Waters, minister to students at St. Clair Association’s Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Leeds, said the youth from his church have participated in some events of Just Jesus Ministries.
The experience, he said, builds team unity among students of different churches and schools, developing “a real appreciation for brothers and sisters [in Christ].”
Waters explained that a lot of emphasis is placed on developing a relationship with God and each other.
Walker was ordained in 1996 at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Cropwell and is a licensed Christian counselor through the Georgia Christian Counseling Association. He sees firsthand in his work as a school resource officer in the Pell City School System that young people are hungry for guidance.
And when the volunteers at church feel unprepared for working with those youth, that hunger goes unquenched, or the young people seek out a proverbial banquet table at another church.
The flip side also can pose a problem. Perhaps a young person becomes a Christian and attends church.
However, his or her parents are immersed in personal or marital battles at home that keep them from being supportive of the young person, Walker said.
“That support is so important,” he continued. For that reason, he and his wife, Alisa, are developing a marriage enrichment and parenting project called Family Works.
It is the intent of Family Works to provide marriage enrichment retreats, as well as monthly meetings for discussing issues and developing leadership to expand the group. Similar emphasis is to be placed on parenting.
One outgrowth of the Just Jesus Ministry reaches into many homes, even into those where the family may not attend church.
In weekly columns of the St. Clair News-Aegis, St. Clair Times and the Leeds News, Walker focuses on marriage and parenting.