'God is clearly doing something': 73 students make salvation decisions at IMPACT camp, 31 more feel called to ministry


ROME, Ga. — Student ministers in Georgia are reporting a growing spiritual awareness among school-aged kids, the latest evidence seen last week when 73 middle and high schoolers made salvation decisions at an IMPACT camp at Shorter University.

“God is clearly doing something in this next generation,” said Chris Trent, Next Gen catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

Another 31 students at the IMPACT camp said they sensed the Lord calling them into ministry, whether as pastors, missionaries or into other roles within the church.

“There’s something happening,” Trent said. “Summer youth camps are seeing amazing things.”

Some 500 students, plus 160 adult volunteers, gathered on the Shorter campus for IMPACT, which, as the name implies, is intended to impact lives.

“IMPACT makes an incredible impression on every attendee because it is designed, from the ground up, to be a focused time of discipleship and intentionality,” said Cameron Wilkins, a Next Gen consultant for the Mission Board and director of the camp. “Serving at IMPACT is just as big of a reward for the leaders as attending is for the students.”

In what church leaders hope is a sign of spiritual revival, congregations across Georgia have been seeing people of all ages coming to Christ in large numbers this year with anecdotal reports suggesting the school-age population has been especially receptive to the gospel.

At the 1025 Church in Monroe and Statham, some 500 children gathered for Vacation Bible School last week. Of those, 45 made professions of faith. At Fayetteville’s New Hope Baptist Church, 86 children responded to the gospel during Vacation Bible School on the congregation's two campuses. More than 630 children attended the VBS.

At least 27 students in Stephens, Banks and Franklin counties have made professions of faith during the school year that just ended through Christian learning centers that provide students a place to study the Bible and pray together.

“Seeing students get saved is always miraculous, but we’re also seeing students sharing their faith, taking the gospel back into their schools and homes,” said Noel Pauley, director of the learning center in Stephens County.

Center Baptist Church in Robertstown recorded 37 salvation decisions at a trout tournament on the Chattahoochee River that drew more than 400 people to the Chattahoochee River.

When the tournament ended, Stacy Dyer, a mission strategist in Blue Ridge and former host of the Extreme Christian Outdoors television program, shared the gospel with participants.

Annual church reports submitted to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board show baptisms have risen by an eye-catching 47% in the past two years. They rose from 10,243 reported in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the state to 15,071 last year.

In the first quarter of 2023, 119 college and university students made salvation decisions through Baptist Collegiate Ministries, said Beverly Skinner, collegiate ministry catalyst for the Mission Board.

“We’re definitely seeing a move of God in Georgia like we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” said Villa Rica Pastor Kevin Williams where 53 people surrendered to Christ at a Passion play attended by more than 4,000 people last month.

In some instances, several churches in a single community have joined together for evangelistic outreaches, as was the case with Love Loud Bowden, where 32 people made professions of faith.

Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta had seen 43 baptisms as of March and 67 since Christmas. Others that have seen big numbers of salvation decisions include Pleasant Valley South Baptist Church in Silver Creek where 21 people made salvation decisions at sportsmen’s banquet, at Dudley Baptist Church where 42 people made salvation decisions, and at Hopeful Baptist Church in Camillia where 30 people made salvation decisions.

In February, 41 people surrendered to Christ at a wild game dinner in the fellowship hall at Bethel Baptist Church in the tiny community of Omega where some 400 men had gathered.

In January, First Baptist Church in Blackshear reported 19 professions of faith at a venison supper. Another 28 people recommitted their lives to Christ at that event.