Merrylands Baptist Church (MBC) in Sydney’s west had a vision to grow their youth ministry through reaching out to local youth who did not already belong to a church or youth group.
The MBC youth group was small with only a handful of teenage girls and the Youth Pastor, Chris Hall. Now, only a few years later, the Youth Centre is regularly attracting 60-70 young people each week, the church Youth Group is thriving, and a new music ministry for young people has begun.
The church took on the ambitious task of establishing a youth centre and in February 2011, the Encounter Youth Centre opened; a fun and safe place for youth of all nationalities, religious backgrounds and family circumstances to come and hang out with one another.
Many young people played instruments but few had the opportunity or confidence to actually be part of a band. As youth leaders talked to the youth in the church, other church youth groups, students at both Merrylands and Holroyd High Schools where Chris Hall taught scripture, the local outreach worker for Holroyd Youth Services, the Senior Strategies Office at the Department of Community Services as well as many others involved in youth work in the Merrylands area, the vision of providing band opportunities as part of the Encounter Youth Centre Ministry emerged.
Through the funds provided by the BCS Connect Grant program, some musical equipment was purchased and the official launch of the Encounter Band Ministry was held on 17 February 2012, 12 months after the opening of the Youth Centre.
An Acoustic Band night was held with four different artists playing, two of whom were local. From this beginning, each fortnight, songs are practised and talents utilised, providing a safe and non-threatening environment as young people build confidence and trust as they work together.
The band project has helped to encourage more youth from the area to come along to the Youth Centre. One boy attending was having trouble fitting in but after discovering he was a very good drummer, he agreed to join the band and now he has found his place and good friendships are developing with others.
Another boy was so impressed with the program he brought along five friends the following week and one of the girls indicated she had never been in a church in her life before!
Since the Youth Centre commenced, numbers attending have steadily grown with between 60-70 regular attendees. In addition, up to 20 young people have stayed on for Bible study, many of whom have never read the bible before.
Rev Howard Bennett, Partnership Development Manager, was privileged to represent BCS to present a Certificate of Partnership and presentation cheque to the church to acknowledge our partnership in this ministry of amazing transformation.
Youth pastor Chris Hall says, “I am excited about how this project is developing, and it has been very encouraging seeing every aspect of the Encounter Youth Centre working together and seeing lives changed.
Every single week the Youth Centre runs I keep getting blown away by what God is doing. It has far exceeded what our hopes and dreams were for the youth ministry at MBC, and I know that it is just going to continue to grow and evolve.”
Is your Baptist church passionate about meeting the social and spiritual needs of people in your community? Do you have an idea for a community-based ministry, but lack the funds to get it started? Then a BCS Connect Grant may be the answer.
To apply for a grant, visit the BCS website for an application form or contact Rev Howard Bennett, Partnership Development Manager via phone 02 9023 2562 or email. Applications open 1 June.