This small church went all-in on reaching youth. Here’s what happened.

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A renewed focus on reaching young people has affected other areas of ministry at McFarland Road Baptist Church in Dalton, where Charles Rogers is pastor. MRBC/Facebook

DALTON — You could understand Charles Rogers’ confusion when someone asked about the need for a pastor at McFarland Hill Baptist Church.

On Tuesday night, Rogers had just gotten home from seminary class and decided to make a post on the church’s Facebook page. As pastor of McFarland Hill for seven years, he’d often make announcements on the page for church members.

“As I finished writing I got an alert on my phone,” he told The Index. “Someone had answered a job application posted to our page.”

It was one of McFarland Hill’s lay preachers, thinking Rogers had posted the application as a joke. Rogers, in turn, thought the respondent had been the prankster and thus responded by confirming the request for a job interview.

It took a moment on the phone for both to realize neither had placed the pastoral opening. Only one other church member facilitates the Facebook page, and confirmed he didn’t make the post either. Rogers and others aren’t sure what happened. It could’ve been a hack.

Whatever the case, McFarland Hill is far from needing a new pastor. They like the one they have just fine.

A decision to make a commitment

McFarland Hill was established in 1940. Like many churches, though, it had reached a time of struggling when Rogers arrived in April 2011. On his first Sunday, 35 people showed up.

A year or two into his tenure, Rogers and the church decided to take drastic steps to reach youth.

“We made a commitment to make Wednesday nights all about youth,” he explained. “I told the church that it would take every one of us if we were going to do it.”

So, the church stopped having adult services on Wednesdays and instead directed those efforts to children and students. This remained the case for two years. Time went to planning for, inviting, and working with young people.

Rogers ended up being right; it took all of them to do it.

“On the first night we had three children and 12 adults. Now, we run about 100 students on Wednesdays in senior high, junior high, and Awana classes.”

Consider that McFarland Hill averages 175-200 in worship on Sundays, with 75 or so being youth. What’s more, Rogers is the only staff member. The youth program is run entirely by volunteers. Plans are, though, to one day hire a student pastor.

During the summer students continue to meet, though Rogers says things might be geared a little more to being “playful” alongside a brief Bible study or devotion. He also places a lot of credit with the church’s music ministry and incorporating choruses alongside hymns. That consistency is important, but not the biggest difference maker.

Don’t work in limitations

“People ask me about the key to our growth, and I don’t have a definitive answer,” he said. “The main thing I see is that in my time as a pastor (The 62-year-old started in the ministry at 24.) you have to get people going in the same direction. That should be the case from pulpit to pew. Have everyone on the same page; no arguments, no egos. Do what’s best.”

“It can be done,” Rogers expressed, regarding smaller churches like McFarland Hill and efforts to reach students. “God can do that. So often, we get caught up in thinking we can’t do anything because we’re too small. We try to put limitations on God.

“Don’t give up. Get on the same page with your leadership. Follow the Lord, stay Scriptural, and God will bless you.

“When everyone is willing to work together for a common goal under the Lordship of Jesus things can happen and young people can be reached. If God can do it through us, He can do it through anybody.”

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