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RAs draws families to Skipperville churchcomment (0)

September 23, 2010

For the past century, Southern Baptists have used missions education ministries to successfully reach families who don’t go to church. Churches across the country have found Royal Ambassadors (RA) and Girls in Action (GA) to be ideal ways to present the gospel and Southern Baptist missions to a new generation of children in first through sixth grades.

Morgan Baptist Church, Skipperville, is one church that has seen great results from these ministries.

The church started RAs in 2007 with six boys. Now more than 30 attend. Most of the growth has come from children who didn’t previously attend the small rural church of about 70 members.

“I think it’s love and attention those boys are looking for,” said Fred Stansell, the church’s RA director. “We give it to them.”

That kind of love and attention also draws the boys’ parents to church.

“The mom and dad — or just the mom — will bring them, and we tell them, ‘Why don’t you just hang out here while the lesson is going on?’ And some of them have. They’ve stayed and attended our Wednesday night prayer meeting,” Stansell said.

Several of those parents have plugged in to the church on Sunday morning, he added.

“We try hard to get the whole family involved,” Stansell said.

There are grandfathers and grandsons and fathers and sons.

For the Stricklands, missions education involves the entire family — dad Anthony works with the fourth- through sixth-grade Crusaders, which 10-year-old Preston is a member of and 4-year-old Parker attends, while mom Suzanne leads GAs (see story, below), of which 8-year-old Abbi is a member.

“Our kids got us [to this church],” said Anthony Strickland, who also serves as the brotherhood director. “We fell in love with it.”

Suzanne Strickland said working with GAs gives her an opportunity to serve God. “And what better way to give the girls leadership and direction than to teach them about God and missions,” she said.

The GA program is relatively new at Morgan Baptist and already has 12 to 13 regular members, Suzanne Strickland added.

The church started GAs because RAs took off so well. And plans are already under way to add Challengers, missions education for boys in seventh through 12th grades.

It’s tough to get Stansell to stop talking about how “my boys” are getting other boys to come to church.

Jeff Watson, one of the RA leaders, said most of the boys involved in Morgan Baptist’s RA group are leaders in their schools.

“They are smart. They are the athletes,” he said. “They are looked up to.”

And they tell their friends about the camping and fishing trips, shooting BB guns and grilling hot dogs and missions and ministry projects around the community.

Pastor Bill Weed attributes the church’s growth from 36 in Sunday School when he came in 2004 to 79 today to the RA program, Vacation Bible School and other activities that have reached children.

“We’ve watched this church literally explode in growth and energy,” he said. “RAs are taking off. GAs are taking off and the Sunday School is taking off.”

Kenneth Hale, director of missions for Dale Baptist Association, attributes the success of the RA program to “committed leadership.”

“They are dedicated to the program,” he said. “It is a proven fact that if you work the program, you will reach boys.
“They use the right literature, do the right emphases and keep it focused on missions, prayer, morality and the key stuff that will develop them as boys,” Hale said. “It is a well-rounded program, and they have pastoral support, which is absolutely a must.”

Steve Stephens, RA consultant for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, agreed.

“Bill Weed is very supportive, giving church service time to recognition of what the RAs are doing, and he often goes with the RAs,” Stephens said. “The leaders attend associational and state RA leader training events, and they often call me to ask questions.

“Their reports of what they are doing and excitement is a blessing to me and has encouraged me in my work as the state RA consultant,” he noted.

For more information, call Stephens at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 268, or visit www.royalambassadors.org or www.gapassport.com. (BP, TAB)

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