Churches combine efforts for DNow youth event

By Robin Talley* | May 23, 2024

Students from several metro Phoenix churches join in worship during the DNow discipleship event held over Labor Day weekend.

Strength in numbers

Every summer, hundreds of youth from Arizona Southern Baptist churches attend the weeklong Zona Camp. Many of these campers return full of excitement about their walk with Christ. But by the time school starts, the enthusiasm can begin to fade.

“We wanted to find a way to be more intentional about following up with our kids after Zona,” said Andrew Marchbanks, executive pastor at First Southern Baptist Church at Sahuaro Ranch in Glendale.

Forty of the students who were part of the DNow discipaliship event participate in a mission service project in coordination with ABCS and Rio Vista Center in Phoenix.

Working together

This desire to be more intentional was the catalyst for Marchbanks and Josh Seth, youth pastor at Happy Valley Baptist Church in Glendale, to consider ways to work together. The result was a discipleship event, DNow, over the Labor Day weekend to help encourage students in their faith as they headed into the school year.

Putting together a high energy event that will meet the spiritual needs of youth is a big task for youth ministers who are often part-time, bivocational workers. However, by connecting with other churches and youth ministers in the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists, Marchbanks and Seth found this task a little easier.

Students from several churches in metro Phoenix serve at Rio Vista Center during a DNow event.

Using our strengths

Marchbanks and Seth started contacting other youth pastors they had worked with during Zona Camp. By connecting to the network of youth ministries in Arizona Southern Baptist churches, they were able to access a variety of strengths that one person, or one church, does not have.

“You can only benefit from working together,” Seth said. “Combining our strengths allows each youth minister to focus on what they do best.”

In addition to First Southern, Glendale, and Happy Valley Baptist Church, youth pastors from Avondale, Black Mountain, HeartCry and Royal Palms Baptist Church participated in the planning and implementation of the weekend event.

“Our top priority was for each of us to bring our strengths to this event, so that we could offer the best for the kids,” Seth said.

This group of students participated in the mission service project during DNow.

Reaching the community for the kingdom

In addition to providing the teens with another opportunity to hear the gospel, study the Bible and grow in their faith, the planning team wanted this event to have a mission component.

One of the service projects involved 40 teens helping with food distribution, general cleaning and organizing projects at Rio Vista Center, a community resource center that is part of Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries.

“Coming alongside and equipping churches as they reach their community is one of the goals of ABCS,” said David Trenbeath, ABCS central region program administrator.
Plans are already in the works to have another event like this in 2024, hopefully involving even more youth pastors in the planning and coordination.

“It’s an opportunity for churches not only to cooperate with a common mission but also to serve students together,” said John Walton, youth pastor at First Southern, Glendale. “This kind of cooperation is paramount to our success in reaching students in Arizona.”

All those attending DNow gather for a photo.

Next Steps

  • Consider how your church can connect with other Arizona Mission Network churches for youth events, training for adults or to meet a need in your community.
  • Contact ABCS at abcs.org/volunteer to see how you can reach your community. ABCS has volunteer opportunities in Phoenix, Show Low, Tucson and Yuma. ABCS also provides workshops for training and consulting for groups that want to make an impact in their communities. For more information, contact David Trenbeath, dtrenbeath@abcs.org or 602-346-2300.
  • Pray for the planners and the planning process for the 2024 DNow event. Consider if your church should get involved.

*Name changed for security

Robin Talley, longtime Arizona Southern Baptist, is a former Last Frontier missionary with the International Mission Board.

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