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Tuscaloosa youth minister successful in retention of high school studentscomment (0)

October 2, 2008

By Manda Gibson

Robert Mullins serves as youth minister for about 110 students who attend Calvary Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association on an average Sunday morning. In 18 years of youth ministry, he has seen many students remain faithful in church involvement and many others drop out.

Mullins said 10th grade is when students are most likely to stop attending church in his Tuscaloosa congregation. As students get their driver’s licenses, parents often give them freedom to make more choices. As a result, some students who had been regularly involved in church choose to do other things.

Additionally, with more and more Sunday and Wednesday games and practices, Mullins sees sports activities taking students away from church.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with sports, he said, but parents need to send the clear message that sports are not more important than church.

In fact, Mullins said he wishes more parents would take the stand that church is not a choice, but something in which all family members will be involved. Still, Mullins said, Calvary has had a large success rate in retaining students throughout high school.

A big reason for that is the variety of leadership opportunities for older students, such as leading younger students in the youth choir, dance and drama team; leading prayer times and Bible studies; being part of the worship band; and serving as summer camp counselors for the younger students.

Sunday morning studies — like Generation Change, a financial course designed for teens — give students practical applications for life after high school and, as a result, get them to church on Sunday mornings, Mullins said. For many teenagers, adult involvement determines whether they’ll stay in church, he said.

Because of that, it’s essential that Sunday School teachers and other youth leaders stay involved in students’ lives — even in simple ways, such as sending a text message or e-mail or staying in touch through Facebook.

And parental involvement can’t be underestimated. When parents make church a priority in their lives, young people tend to follow that model, even when they’re juniors and seniors in high school.

“They still want that parental involvement in their life,” Mullins said.

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