A weekend of multiple churches from the same community coming together to love the youth of their city is a special occasion. Disciple Now (DNOW) is a youth ministry event that has been impacting the lives of Oklahoma Baptist youth for many years.
Since the beginning of the year, churches across Oklahoma have been teaming up to put on an event that will challenge students to boldly proclaim Christ, all the while knowing they are supported and loved by others in their youth group and city.
“It was really positive for our students, just to get a way for a weekend, hammering what Jesus has done in their lives, and for them to be able to grow in their faith, I think that was a
really big win for them and for us,” said Mark Cruz, student pastor at the downtown Tulsa campus of Broken Arrow, The Church at Battle Creek (TheChurch.at).
Churches in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metros took different approaches toward their individual DNOW weekends. TheChurch.at hosted “LIFT” tour, which is a program from Student Leadership University that tours the country.
Broken Arrow, First attended the same LIFT weekend.
“At a lunch table you might have two or three students who go to different churches or don’t go to church at all, and with LIFT weekend, we want them to know what churches are available to them,” explained Dakota Hummingbird, girls ministry associate at Broken Arrow, First. “In a sense, we don’t care where the kids go to church, we just want them involved somewhere.”
Churches in Moore and South Oklahoma City also cooperated organizing “United Weekend,” hosted by Oklahoma City, Eagle Heights. Jerry Young, youth pastor at Moore, First, described working with other churches in the same city for a common goal.
“I loved working with other churches. I believe cooperation between churches is really important. It helps students see a ‘Kingdom-focused’ mindset as well as helping them see other believers in their schools,” Young said. “It also allows churches to pool together resources and accomplish things together they probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish alone.”
Bethany, Council Road held an alternate version of DNOW called Big Weekend. The Cody Dunbar Band led music, and Andrew Burkhart brought the message. Nearly 200 teens gathered from across the Oklahoma City area to praise in worship, learn about the Gospel, play games and more.
Oklahoma City, Quail Springs; Edmond, Henderson Hills and Edmond, First partnered for a northwest Oklahoma City-focused group, also with LIFT tour.
Jeff DeGiacomo, student pastor at Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, explained the special partnership with the two Edmond-based churches saying, “Three years ago, we made a
decision to partner together for DNOW weekends so that students from the same schools and places could be brought together for a weekend and worship together and see how the Lord moves through that.
“It builds a great community among the body of believers in northwest Oklahoma City and Edmond and helps the kids to know that they are not alone in their faith. Seeing it all come together is incredible,” DeGiacomo remarked.
Throughout DNOW weekends, youth groups divide boys and girls into groups by grade. Traditionally, people within the church open their homes in which the groups stay for the weekend.
“Seeing all the host parents and all the ways they interacted with the students and how they provided food and snacks and homes to our students, it was awesome to see the kids make themselves at home and those relationships build,” Hummingbird said.
Relationships with each other and volunteers, or adult sponsors, and building confidence in sharing the Gospel are focal points of the time at DNOW. Through relationships built and strengthened at DNOW, youth pastors saw tremendous growth within their respective groups.
“We’ve seen a lot of students come together… we had kids really bond where normally kids wouldn’t hang out with each other. It really helped them to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ,” explained Cruz.
Most explained the weekend as a refreshing time for students to clear their heads from the business of school and focus on the ultimate goal as Christians, proclaiming the Gospel.
Oklahoma City, Quail Springs spent Saturday afternoon doing service projects, mostly involving spending time with senior adults at retirement communities. “Watching them just love on and encourage and open up their bible and share scripture with these senior adults it was truly a remarkable thing,” said DeGiacomo.
More than students benefitted from DNOW weekends across the state. At Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, college-age students through senior adults volunteered their time to invest in the lives of the youth in their church.
“We had a college student volunteer to serve as a group leader that lost his father years ago and was able to connect with a student who recently lost their father. So the Lord moved in ways that we couldn’t have imagined, it was such a great match-up,” said Hummingbird, as Broken Arrow, First also featured college-age volunteers.
Cruz explained the impact that the focused weekend and teachings had on students in his youth group, “Students came up to me and said they finally understood, and what the Lord has done for them, and it just clicked. They said, ‘What we’ve heard you preaching to us for a year and a half completely makes sense.’ So they had the opportunity to follow through with baptism that Sunday.”
Many decisions were made at Oklahoma DNOW weekends. Ten participants accepted Christ as their Lord and savior at Bethany, Council Road’s “Big Weekend.”
One group leader explained how a teen confided in her small group, “One of the girls asked us to pray for her younger brother, also attending Big Weekend, to accept Christ as his Savior during the weekend. The Lord answered this prayer with a yes, and we all celebrated together!”
Moore, First saw three students accept Christ and four more surrender to the ministry. In the youth group from Oklahoma City, Quail Springs five gave their lives to Christ, and
several were baptized from the Broken Arrow, First group.
“I think it was a good refresher, they’re going to go and talk about this during school, at lunch, at sports, and they’ll be able to share that with their friends. Our hope is that they will get conversations going about what they learned and how they can share the Gospel with other students at their school,” exclaimed Hummingbird.
Through the time spent planning DNOW weekend, countless hours of sleep lost and the Gospel being proclaimed to the impressionable minds of Oklahoma youth, growth and courage were built in youth groups across the state.
Look for future coverage in the Messenger, highlighting DNOW weekends in other churches across Oklahoma.