EQUIPPING STUDENTS FOR LIFE
Hillcrest Baptist Church | 8501 Bellhaven Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28214 | 704.392.1406
Paul Tripp once quipped that if you add any word to “teenaged,” that word itself becomes a negative. Example: teenaged driver. Does this ring at least a little true? Or how many parents have been told, “You think two year olds are hard? You just wait 'til they’re teenagers. Then you’ll know what hard is.”
American youth are often characterized as selfie-obsessed, immature, overgrown children who have little potential. And while there may be some truth in it, we don’t think it’s totally their fault. Maybe adults have had such low expectations that this behavior has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But is this fair? Is it Biblical? Is it helpful?
At Hillcrest, we believe that while the years in a youth’s life that have the word “teen” attached to them are unique, when we look to the Bible for understanding of adolescence, we get a much different, and more encouraging, picture. The Bible is replete with examples of young men and women who were prepared to walk closely with the Lord even when it was costly, stand firm in their faith in times of intense social pressure, and who changed history because of their obedience and faithfulness. Or maybe even more importantly but less memorably, there were those who learned to love the Lord their God with all their heart and soul and strength and because of this, proclaimed the faith from one generation to the next.
If any of the numerous research studies are correct, then an estimated 70% of our churched youth leave the faith post-high school. Much has been written about this trend, and while we can learn much from the speculations as to why, Hillcrest seeks to examine Biblically what we can do to break the cycle. It seems that historically, youth were viewed as important contributors to family, society, and church. Young people were discipled, and they were vital parts of their community. We believe those are two key components that churches must foster to prepare students to transition to full-fledged adulthood.
THE HILLCREST APPROACH
At Hillcrest, this looks like involving our “teens” in every facet of church life... Biblical discipleship, intergenerational connectedness, intentional service. All of these set a foundation for understanding the importance of the Biblical mandate for believers to be intimately connected to a church family, not just when a person is out of school and fully into adulthood, but in every season of life.
This plays out practically in ways that are somewhat unique from many church fellowships. We believe that it is critical, not only for our young people, but also for our “aged,” to build cross-generational relationships that benefit both. Our students receive the benefit of many wise counselors and folks who pray fervently over them, and our adults are able to pour sacrificially into a spiritually hungry generation, many of whom are growing up very confused about Biblical truths and Biblical accuracy.
We believe that “youth ministry” is not only the calling of a select few adults (although we do recognize that some have been called specifically to give their life to pouring into folks in this season of life), but that every Christ follower has the calling and capability of investing in the life of someone younger in age and faith. We want to intentionally provide opportunities for every believer to fulfill their responsibility to the next generation.
HOW CAN MY STUDENT CONNECT?
Our Sunday School classes and serving teams are arranged so that everyone from seventh graders through senior citizens gather together weekly for prayer, fellowship, serving, and study. Rather that a handful of students who know very few adults in their church family outside of youth leadership, we hope to flip this ratio so that for every student, many adults are investing in their spiritual development.
Each midweek, our students gather for a meal and fellowship during our pre-service dinner. They are invited to participate in our church-wide prayer gathering, and afterward, each semester we offer different opportunities for discipleship and Bible study. We offer ‘through the Bible’ courses each semester, and occasionally throughout the year we offer student-specific courses and introductory discipleship group (D Group) experiences. These give our students a taste of being in a D Group, but in a twelve week setting as opposed to a year long commitment. Students meet with a leader who walks them through a book study and scripture memorization program, and they are introduced to the concept of life on life discipleship.
We also invite our students to volunteer in every layer of church life. From serving with children and or in our kitchen, to serving in audio/visual production or singing in our choir, our students are invited to participate as an important part of our body. They have so much to offer, and we are so thankful for the many students who serve in these areas.
While all of our events, services and serving teams are intergenerational, students naturally connect during our shared meals, pre-service fellowship time, and through serving together in various areas of ministry. We encourage families to make attendance a priority to help teens foster relationships with those their age. We understand that students do desire connections with peers and we believe the best way for this to happen at Hillcrest is for them to be fully engaged in church life.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
We recognize that our structure is unique. If you are considering Hillcrest as your church home and are interested in learning more about how your student can connect at Hillcrest, our Pastor would be glad to discuss this with you.