Additional NAMB student evangelism funds help SCBC, other state conventions reach next generation

One of the keys to the future of the church is reaching the next generation. Over the last year and a half, Southern Baptists have been intentionally focused on sharing the gospel with students.

In 2021, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) announced an infusion of $5 million over four years to support evangelistic efforts specifically designed to reach students, and state conventions have been implementing multi-faceted approaches to accomplish the task. Hundreds of salvations have occurred as a result.

“I keep referring to the next generation as the revival generation, because I have faith that God is going to do incredible things in and through the lives of students,” said Shane Pruitt, national Next Gen director at NAMB. “We need to be faithful to proclaim the gospel, and the Lord will work in hearts. That’s what we as Southern Baptists have been doing, and students have been responding. I’ve been so encouraged to hear the stories of all God’s been doing.”

South Carolina Baptists have been hosting regional One Night outreach events across their state, which has resulted in thousands of students attending and nearly 300 professions of faith since the events began in the fall of 2021.

“One Night is an environment that local student pastors create to present the gospel and give students a chance to respond,” said Lee Clamp, chief strategic officer for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. “Partially funded by NAMB, the State Convention Evangelism Team and local associations, it is a beautiful picture of what cooperation for the advancement of the gospel looks like.”

Oklahoma Baptists used the grant to develop a smartphone application called Good News Coach that helps leaders train and encourage students to share their faith as well as hold them accountable to the discipline of evangelism.

“There is a training module that trainers and students can view which provides lessons that are a few minutes each,” said Brian Baldwin, a youth missions and evangelism leader with Oklahoma Baptists. “They include talks about gospel conversation strategy. It’s more focused on the takeoff and landing of the gospel conversation than the gospel presentation itself. In my experience, the struggle is more about how to get the conversation started and then drawing the net.”

More than 100 salvations have been recorded at several evangelistic events, called the Speak Tour, hosted by Alabama Baptists across the state. Ryan Snell, leader of the Ryan John Band and worship leader at First Baptist Church, Opelika, Ala., led worship during the events. (Alabama Baptist photo by T.J. Phelps)

So far, the app has been downloaded more than 4,000 times, Baldwin said. And while it was specifically designed with students in mind, the tool can be used by everyone, and it’s a resource Oklahoma Baptists are eager to share with churches and other state conventions as well.

Brad Bennett, the Making Disciples director with Missouri Baptists, has also hosted rallies across their state. He said his team worked with local churches to create a six-month lead up where they help associations and churches reflect on their own disciple-making structures so that they will be prepared to incorporate those who come to Christ into their congregations, making the model “a holistic process that is about much more than just a single event.”

They host smaller character-building assemblies at local schools Monday through Wednesday before the main event that takes place at a larger venue in the community. Typically, that main event involves an extreme sports showcase that culminates in a gospel presentation.

“We are so appreciative of the monies coming from NAMB so that we can help offset the cost for these churches,” Bennett said. “We’re going to a lot of smaller communities. … So, it’s a blessing. It’s a gift. It’s opened so many doors when we’re able to offer up this grant.”

Alabama Baptists also hosted evangelistic events throughout their state during the first year.

“We had around 1,200 kids attend those different rallies and we had a little more than 100 salvation decisions made,” said Josh Meadows, student ministry strategist. “Some other decisions were made, to be baptized, rededications. It was more effective than I even dreamed that it could be. So, we are extremely grateful for that.”

As part of their events, Alabama Baptists created a 30-day prayer guide for churches to use in the lead up to the outreach event.

Meadows said of the power of prayer, “We’ve seen God go before us in these events.”

— Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.