As of July 7th, 2019 our youth ministers of over 14 years have passed the torch to new faces, Josh and Mimi Murray. With that in mind, we'd like to take an opportunity to make a sort of "salute" to James and Paula by highlighting some of the great things they've done for our youth, and our church, over the course of their ministry here.
Their work inside the church has been impactful with the introduction of events designed to give our young people a safe place to spend their time and hear the gospel. The most famous of these programs has to be the SPOT, a weekly event featuring a Friday night of good fun and fellowship. On top of the usual, they also prepared a SPOT specifically for New Years Eve where the youth would be able to come and pray for the upcoming year.
Wednesday nights saw James and Paula leading our young people in prayer circles for holidays and other special occasions to, as James puts it: "just thank our Lord for the blessings or pray for special needs."
Other notable events include the annual Valentine's Banquet which has branched out from a simple youth fundraiser to become an event that incorporates the whole church. Their work during Vacation Bible School used friendly competition to encourage our young people to invite their friends. They also strove to inspire our youth members to use their unique talents for the church outside the youth room, instilling them with a sense of unity and pride in where they worship.
Youth trips can be a powerful tool and James and Paula consistently utilized them to teach our youth about patience, togetherness and service. Holston Baptist Association's Student Conference is an annual event held at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Asheville North Carolina, and our youth are regular attendees. This year, 2019, the event celebrated its 35th anniversary of ministering to the region's young believers through song, fun activities and Gospel preaching.
Another opportunity they've taken advantage of is Youth Alive, an outreach dedicated to students and the teaching of the gospel in a way that seeks to ensure every new generation is able to say: "This is what God has done."
Another great program, MFuge, has seen our youth visit frequently. A week-long camp, MFuge differs from the norm by having its campers participate in local missions. Whether it means planting trees or painting buildings, the kids are taught what it means to serve in a community, and they bring that attitude back with them.
Speaking of missions, James and Paula also had our community in mind with outreach programs. Friday nights after East High School football games, they would open up the church for an after party called the Fifth Quarter. This event gave our young members, and their school friends, a safe place to spend the evening playing, having some pizza or just hanging out. It wasn't unusual to see 70-80 young people come through the doors those nights.
James and Paula also had the youth participate in simpler outreaches such as helping out at the Mary Hughes School Reunion. There they worked to set up the event, serve the alumni and clean up afterwords.
James and Paula have had a profound impact on the church and on our ever important young people. When it comes to building a congregation and causing it to thrive and increase, few things are as important as nurturing our children and our youth. They grow up and make their mark, becoming our new teachers and deacons and technicians and pastors. As the world changes, it becomes more and more difficult to instill a love of the gospel in the hearts of our young charges; James and Paula have done a phenomenal job in that respect. I couldn't tell you the number of times a visiting preacher came and received joy at seeing our youth sitting in their usual seats in the service, a blessing so simple and yet so sweet. Church, remember to pray for Josh and Mimi, they have some big shoes to fill; and while you do, continue to pray for James and Paula, as Christian service is never really over.