“How can we improve the college ministry at our church?”
That’s the question John Saxon and Greg Walker pondered last February. Saxon is family pastor at Jubilee Baptist Church in Daphne where Walker is Sunday School teacher for young singles.
Improving ministry to college-aged church members included a missions trip to Kalispell, Montana this summer, where John had reached out to Les Walton, executive vice president of Yellowstone Christian College. Formerly based in Billings, the school purchased a vacated campus in Kalispell that needed indoor and outdoor work to prepare for the fall semester.
Saxon caught his breath as tears welled in his eyes, saying he was “blessed by seeing God work to do exactly what we had been praying for.”
That prayer sought a deeper fellowship for the church’s 18–24 age group.
“The main objective was to pull together college students who were barely acquaintances to do this missions trip, and to allow them to serve and grow closer together as a group.”
Assistance and fellowship
Saxon said the team “served the Lord by assisting what He is doing in this location,” and fellowship grew among team members on the July 24–31 endeavor.
Walker noted he and Saxon were “very intentional about reengaging the church’s college age group. And you build that through community, through lessons, and you get away and connect. That’s what this has been about. When we get back, I expect this motivation for re-engagement will continue as some go off to college and some will stay.”
Scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning dorm rooms, dusting, vacuuming, mowing, weed-eating, painting and unloading four moving vans full of books and furniture may not evoke warm fuzzies for some young people. Nor does such labor typify the behavior of some in that age bracket on summer break from college.
“I think it’s important as a Christian to put works to your faith, so I saw this as an opportunity to serve,” said Rachel Fuller. “Seeing the Lord’s timing in all of this has been such a big blessing, too.”
A team devotional on Proverbs 27:17 and the “iron sharpens iron” principle motivated Sydney Patterson to “grow closer to my church family and to display our faith for everyone to see.”
Blessed by deepened relationships, she said, “God has used our spiritual gifts to complement each other so we could accomplish the goals we had this week. To see His faithfulness, that’s been really cool.”
Madi Saxon added, “We got off the plane not knowing exactly what we’d be doing this week. To get here and to work and have fun — just trusting in the Lord that things go right has been a big part of this.”
Noting that Yellowstone Christian College was outgrowing its Billings campus, Hunter McLaurin said, “I felt a calling to come here and to work and help in any way I could,” adding he also wanted to make a deeper connection with God because “I think He is trying to show me something about the future — a role He wants me in that I’m still trying to figure out.”
“This was a reward trip for me, a celebratory service trip,” said Candy Saxon, who recently completed her first phase of chemotherapy. “I have been blessed by being recharged and refreshed and not having to think about doctors and cancer this week.”
As team cook, Saxon said she “enjoyed bonding with these wonderful kids.”
Calista Patterson wanted to help get the school facilities ready and “help impact the community of Kalispell and the maturity and growth of the students that will be here.”
“The results that we’ve seen I feel have been a blessing to our church,” she said. “It’s been amazing to me to realize that ministry doesn’t always happen in big events. It can be in small events that feed on down the line.”
Noting encouraging team devotional and share-times, Patterson said, “Our paths cross often at church, but not in this intimate environment.”
Gratified by the trip’s success, John Saxon said, “At the end of the day, it’s all about serving the Lord and doing Kingdom work.”
Yellowstone Christian College President Marvin Jones praised the group, saying, “The team from Jubilee Baptist Church served us and the Lord joyfully. They genuinely care about God’s work and what we are attempting to do in Montana, which is still a pioneer state for Southern Baptist work.
“Our team here cannot thank John and Greg and their team nearly enough,” he added. “We are debtors to Jubilee Baptist Church, too. I know God will bless Jubilee for serving outwardly. Our prayer is for God to bless them all in an overwhelming way so that there will not be room enough to receive it.”