Youth pastors across the state have encountered many challenges when it comes to getting students re-engaged in student ministry activities after the last year and a half. Many have wondered where to begin.
Mark Parsley, student pastor at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot, Arkansas, found a solution that would fit his ministry and community.
“This semester started a lot different than last semester,” he said. “[Last year] the world was shut down then and we were all online and we were trying to figure out how to engage students and engage our church at large.”
Parsley and church leadership began to pray for an opportunity to reach students again.
“We started praying at the beginning of the summer for God to give us a clear vision on how to engage students and how to create an event that would draw them here so we could share the gospel again,” he said. “That birthed several brainstorming sessions with staff and student leaders.”
Based on TV show
On Sept. 8, they held “Wipeout Wednesday” based on the TV show Wipeout.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, I don’t think I can get a wipeout course here,’ but God has given Mount Carmel this wonderful facility and grounds — over 100 acres — I wanted to use what God had given us so we could spread out and meet guidelines and be safe.”
They got in contact with a company in Hot Springs called Hog Wild Events that had a lot of inflatable games to rent out — bounce houses, obstacle courses, boxing rings with oversized gloves, jousting, Velcro wall and more.
“We had a ball,” Parsley said. “We set up our own course and invited the community.”
By the end of the night, the head count was around 180 kids who had made their way to the makeshift wipeout course on the grounds of Mount Carmel. On that night, they saw 10 salvations.
“The main reason why we did it was we wanted to have a centered event that created community involvement that excited our teens,” he said. “We’re just so excited that 10 kids came to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
Parsley did say this is something they’re going to keep in mind to try again. In student ministry you always have to keep kids’ attention so you’re always looking for new and creative ways to do so, but he hopes that this is something that stays consistent within their ministry and community.
Mount Carmel is no stranger to holding community-centered, teen-involved events. Parsley shared that even before he arrived in 2019, they had a ministry going that had lasted at least a decade or so.
Hosting meal for athletes
Every Thursday night, the church holds a meal for the Cabot football team, along with the dance and cheerleading teams, and gets someone to share a word of scripture with them.
It all started with a burden that a couple within the church had. They were proud members of the Cabot community, having lived there most of their lives, but wanted to continue to lead and minister to the kids in the community long after their own had graduated and moved on.
“Because of the faithfulness and the vision of lay leaders, God has blessed this ministry tremendously over the years,” Parsley stated.
So far this year, in just four weeks, seven football players have accepted Jesus Christ into their lives.
“Because of what’s happened over the many years, it’s grown to be that not all of the kids on the football or dance or cheerleading team come, but about 100 come every week, and we’ve just heard testimony after testimony from them that this is one of their favorite parts of the week in gearing up for Friday,” Parsley said. “What I love about it as a student pastor is that it’s such a huge win and such a huge plus for our church. Our hashtag for our church is #ForCabot — and really all that means is that we want to be all things for all people for Cabot, for all that live here.”
Parsley said the ministry makes him feel great when he steps on campus and sees the guys.
They know that they can trust him and come to him with any questions or anything. This ministry isn’t just for football though. It’s expanded to include other sports and activities within the Cabot Public School system.
“In the spring we feed the varsity basketball team, men and women,” he said. “We do end-of-year banquets for tennis, swimming, baseball, softball. It’s just opened up the door for so many banquets or weekly meals for these students — and it started with the vision from the lay leader almost a decade ago.
“It’s really just us trying to be effective minsters and do effective ministry for our community and God is just really showing up and showing out.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Sarah Vaughn is a staff writer at Arkansas Baptist News, where this article was originally published.