By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
PRAIRIEVILLE, La. (LBM) – Service and discipleship have become a way of life for more than 250 students at Fellowship Church, leaders said, and these young people are committed to serving the Prairieville congregation now and for many years to come.
“We are trying to give ownership of this ministry to the students,” Fellowship Church Spiritual Life Pastor Joe Ashley told the Baptist Message. “They step into positions where they are trained and serve. We like our kids to get their hands dirty and get off the sidelines. That’s a big part of being a Christian. “Our focus also has been on discipleship, where we preach hard messages and talk about topics like fasting, spiritual disciplines and biblical sexuality,” he said. “And kids are here for it.”
Since June 2021, students have gathered every Wednesday evening for both large and small-group discipleship, including 32 who were baptized last year, Ashley said. The discipleship efforts have equipped the students to serve in various areas of the church, including special needs, children’s ministry, community service days and youth worship band.
“The Lord continues draw the lost and unchurched to our ministry,” Ashley shared. “From the beginning we have stressed the importance for our students to be a ‘bringer’ and they have embraced that challenge.”
JOINT MINISTRY EFFORT
While most churches employ one student minister, Fellowship Church has taken a different approach. After a two-year search ended without a hire, Ashley felt led in February 2022 to ask three parents (Pete Jory, Jaimi Ashley and Clayton Wood) if they would consider taking on the role of part-time youth leaders – which they did enthusiastically.
“We had three people who were killing it as youth volunteers and we wondered if God was telling us instead of doing a nationwide search, the ones He wanted were right here in our own church,” he said. “We hired three different skill-sets who see that as a strength and not a point of conflict.”
Jaimi Ashley (the wife of Joe Ashley) said this has been a special and unique season of ministry in her Christian journey. She especially enjoys working with more than 60 adult volunteers who pour into the students each Wednesday night.
“I have never been in a church where we have volunteers who are as excited and committed,” she said. “They are all in. Anything we do, they are there. It’s not an uphill battle. They love our students and provide a place for students to process, heal and grow.”
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Sawyer Bufkin, Chloe Massey and Hannah Womack are among the students who have embraced service. The three juniors told the Baptist Message their love for Fellowship Church has grown since becoming involved in ministry.
“The situation between our church and youth group is unique,” said Bufkin, who helps lead a fourth and fifth grade boys class on Sunday mornings and also wears a costume to entertain the kids in a monthly large group session on Sundays. “It’s nice to know we are encouraged to serve. That’s preparing us for beyond our teenage years, to serve Him for many years in the future.”
Massey, who serves on the student praise team, said the church has modeled how to lead.
“Our youth group is an authentic biblical community,” she said. “As I have gone through high school, the leaders have poured into us. They have encouraged me and showed me how to lead.”
Womack, who also helps lead worship for the student praise team, said her faith has grown since she began serving.
“I have made true, Christ-centered friendships that keep me on the right path and on Jesus,” she said. “It has taught me a lot of humility, leadership skills and what it means to follow Jesus. And it’s reinforced that I need to be a leader outside the church and introduce them to Christ.”