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Texting increases youth attendance at Five Points’ Bethel Baptistcomment (0)

July 15, 2010

By Jeremy Henderson

Sunday morning attendance at Bethel Baptist Church, Five Points, has shot up nearly 30 percent and the number of youth has more than quadrupled with the touch of a button — specifically the “send” option on a Samsung Solstice.

That’s the smartphone 20-year-old Chris Sellers said he used, uses and will continue to use to make sure he’s not the youngest person in the pews of the tiny East Liberty Baptist Association church.

“When [I came as pastor] two years ago, he was the only youth that would come,” Jimmy Brown said. “I challenged him. I said, ‘We’re not going to build a class unless somebody gets to work.’ Now every Sunday morning, he gets up and texts all the young people and tells them it’s Sunday morning and time to get ready for church.”

Sellers said he actually prefers to send the texts Saturday night.

“We’re just a small church out in the country, and for a while, maybe just one or two would show up, but for a while, it was just me,” said Sellers, a student at Southern Union Community College in Opelika who has attended Bethel Baptist his whole life. “A lot of my friends didn’t go to church every Sunday, and I just felt like maybe if I invite them, maybe they’ll come if I’m there. So I started sending out text messages on Saturday night, reminding them.”

These days, he doesn’t have to work so hard; Sellers said over the past year, regular attendance among those 21 and under has gone from one to seven.

The church averages just 25 people on Sunday morning.

“I guess that’s what you could call substantial growth,” Brown said with a laugh. “So on the second Sunday in June, we decided we’d have a youth Sunday because Chris had been wanting to share his testimony. We had one young man do all the announcing, a young lady that led the music and her brother came in and played the guitar and a brother and sister (who) took up the offering. Everyone of them had a job and they did great.”

Though Bethel doesn’t have an official youth program, Brown’s wife, Pam, said the high school and college students are close-knit and active in the church, one of the oldest in the association.

“We try to show that they’re important, just as important as the senior citizens and those in the middle,” she said. “We don’t have anyone in the church that works with the youth, but we try to do something quarterly with them.”

But Sellers still thinks in weekly terms.

“If my group starts slacking off, I’m going to have to start sending text messages again: ‘Come to church, come to church, come to church.’”

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