More youths pursuing religion, Word of God

MYRTLE BEACH— The spirit is apparently moving young people along the Grand Strand.

Church leaders in this resort area say they are seeing children, teens and 20-somethings worship in a surprising revival of faith.

Some believe the condition of national and world affairs, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the continuing war in Iraq, have left youth with many questions.

“We have seen more young reaching out because they have been touched by what is going on in the world,” says the Rev. Fred Johnson, pastor of Sandy Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach. “They are troubled, and they are turning to God for help.”

A study of 3,000 teenagers done in 2002 by the California-based Barna Research Group, which studies cultural trends and the Christian Church, showed that they are among “the most spiritually interested individuals in the nation.”

Myrtle Beach Community Church has about 350 children out of 1,350 members. About 200 of the children attend church each Sunday.

At Living Faith Church in Myrtle Beach, youth membership increased from 12 to 60 in about a year’s time.

While world events play a part, many church leaders believe the real reason rests with God.

“The driving force is the Holy Spirit,” says Matthew Wilson, youth minister at The Christian Church in Myrtle Beach.

Youth attendance at Wednesday night worship services there averages 120. “The more you give them the Word of God, the more they want it,” Wilson said.

Matt Williams is skateboarding for Jesus. He’s among 25 or so skaters in Christ United Methodist’s ministry known as “The Big House.” It’s a service where more than 150 youth teach Bible lessons through singing, dancing, cheerleading and about anything else that can interest young people.

“I wanted to help the little kids skate in a Christian way and give them a good Christian influence,” said Williams, 15. “They get to see good Christian attributes through the sport.”

Essie Lammers, Williams’ mother, says many youth are passionate about Christ because churches are changing their methods — instead of telling young people to come to church, ministers are going where the young people are.

“You have to love people enough to meet in their environment and show them a better way,” Lammers said.

There are also more creative ministries that use live bands and drama to attract young people.

“We get them in the doors first, and then we preach,” says John Rea, executive pastor of Low Country Community Church in Murrells Inlet.

Leslie Hatcher, 18, plans to be a missionary – a calling she says she first felt in the 10th grade.

“I really want to go to Africa because there is such a need over there,” says Hatcher, who attends Langston Baptist Church in Conway and Horry-Georgetown Technical College. “I was scared at first because I said, ‘You can get killed over there.’ But I just prayed, and God has totally taken the fear away.”

Ministers think the trend will continue — youth will stay connected to their faiths and their churches.

“These kids realize how deeply and profoundly God loves us,” says the Rev. Bobby Wilkes, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Myrtle Beach. “So, they want to extend that love and be a channel of that love to other people. And it’s good to see that.”

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The Associated Press, USA
Apr. 12, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday April 13, 2004.
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