Posts Tagged ‘DiscipleNow’

Story and photos by Ann Carter

DNow work group

In Student Ministry at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, there are several annual events that anchor our year: Fall Retreat; Christmas Pageant; DiscipleNow Weekend, affectionately called DNow; and Mission Trips. I look forward to each of these events with great anticipation, but DNow has a special place in my heart because it is the one event that truly involves the whole congregation.

DNow large group
Home group

DNow is an intentional weekend for students in grades 6 through 12. The weekend is centered on a theme that incorporates all of the elements of faith formation: head, heart and hands. Youth take over the gym and Flamming Hall, and spend the weekend in worship, Bible study, service, play and community. It takes a whole host of amazing people to make this happen, and over the past 30 years that FBC has hosted DNow, the congregation has wholeheartedly supported the weekend activities.

First, there are the host homes. Each year about 15 FBC families open their homes to host small groups of our students, divided by grade and gender. Students pile into living rooms, family rooms, and bonus rooms, sleeping on air mattresses and in sleeping bags. Hosts prepare breakfast and dinner for students on Saturday—filling dining room and kitchen tables to capacity as students and families share a meal. It is beautiful to see the students embraced by adults who become like second parents, students doting on the children of the host home, and host home children blossoming under the students’ attention. The host parents model radical hospitality for the students who are staying with them, showing them what it looks like to open their homes and welcome others.

DNow leadersThen, there are the 30 small group leaders, college and graduate students, as well as young professionals who volunteer to be group leaders in a host home. Each host home has at least two young adult leaders who facilitate Bible Study times, coordinate the students’ activities and spend quality time with the students. One of my favorite things about our adult leaders is that most of them were FBC students not all that long ago. What a joy it is watching their faith practice evolve from student to leader. This is the point of DNow—and all student ministry for that matter—to provide opportunities to learn, to put faith into practice, and for lives to be formed in the image of Christ for the sake of others. During DNow weekend, these small group leaders are most definitely exhibiting the “for the sake of others” part of faith formation.

DNow groups in GymLast, but definitely not least, the DNow weekend wouldn’t happen without the creativity and hard work of the 15 members of the Student Ministry Team. This team is made up of parents and student ministry leaders who are the brains and the brawn behind the operation. They plan the activities, put up decorations, run the sound and lighting, coordinate and distribute food and recruit volunteers. Interestingly, four of our 15 members are former youth. I love that their youth experience was so consequential that they want to enable future generations of students to have the same meaningful experiences.

There are countless ways for all of our church family to be involved in DNow weekend. Last year 120 of you committed to pray for our students, their hosts and leaders during the weekend. Twelve drivers chauffeured students to mission sites, and from host homes to church and back again so host families could go about their regular Saturday family activities. Eleven Sunday school classes and 20 individuals donated money to provide scholarships for students who couldn’t afford to pay for the weekend, and to offset the cost of food and snacks for the host families. And, 800 of you worshiped with us on Sunday as our DNow weekend came to an end.

So, join us this year for our church-wide DNow weekend scheduled for February 15 through 17, 2019. You can host, lead, drive, pray, give or join us in worship as we go about the good work of faith formation. We can’t do it without you, and maybe your faith will be formed in new ways, too!


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Reported by Gwen Tilley.

The congregation of First Baptist Church gives a firm “We will” at every baby dedication. It is a promise of support and encouragement for the children and parents. The intent is to see them through the next 18 or so years.

We watch them grow, give to their mission trip fundraisers, pray for their experiences at retreats and DiscipleNow weekends. On the first Sunday in June we honor graduating seniors. Then we wait for the Christmas Eve services to catch a glimpse of all those youths who have moved to their next stages.

But a glimpse once a year doesn’t tell much of the story. Where are they now? What are they doing? Some have moved far away. Some remain active at FBC; some keep looser ties. Some have found their ways to fulltime Christian service. Hear some of their stories.

Jim-Ed-WillsJim Ed Wills

I’m getting a Masters in Film Production at Florida State University. FBC has given me a solid foundation of faith which guides me in my quest to become a professional film maker by choosing the types of stories that glorify God. Stories bring people together, they provide a common emotional experience that can be shared by multiple people at one time. Christianity thrives on stories, and I believe that I’ve been given a gift to use stories to glorify God in today’s media. I’m still connected to FBC through family and friends.

elizabeth-wells-nortonElizabeth Wells Norton

As a youth I experienced the love and encouragement at FBC to grow in my faith so that there was no question that Jesus would always be number one for the rest of my life. I love being a youth leader (at FBC) because it is awesome seeing these youths come to know Christ and encourage them to pursue Him above all else. I hope to inspire someone the way I was.

Jeff-UkropJeff Ukrop

While I became more involved as an adult than as a youth, I am blessed to have been influenced by the “great cloud of witnesses” that shared time and talent on the third floor every Sunday morning. The consistency of faith presented by these special folks was obvious 25 years ago and flows through my life today. (Jeff is currently Executive Director of First Things First of Greater Richmond, an organization devoted to strengthening families.)

Holly-JesenskyHolly Jesensky

Being a part of youth group at FBC was one of the biggest blessings during high school. It has been a family to me, led me to get plugged into a Christian Fellowship group at the University of Virginia, and allowed me to grow closer to Christ.

Laura-NorvelleLaura Norvelle Purtee

I am living in Nashville, Tennessee, and working at Baptist Global Response, an NGO (non-governmental organization) that does disaster relief and community development around the world. I am also a photographer.

FBC was the biggest part of my life in Richmond. It kept me grounded in faith, led me to a deeper relationship with Christ. I made my life-long and closest relationships in the youth group. I felt my call to missions there; I overcame self esteem issues with the help of mentors and friends. After my sophomore year at the University of Tennessee I came back and served as the youth intern for a summer. I learned more about leading and being a mentor. I made amazing connections with girls who I still keep up with. God used FBC to radically change me and the path of my life for the better. He continually reminds me of where I came from and my foundation in Him that was revealed at FBC!

Kristen-TaylorKristen Taylor

I don’t have a single great memory from growing up that does not include the FBC youth department in some way. The experiences, people and mentoring I received there were instrumental in shaping the woman I am today, and I was so blessed to have had a ministry like that in my life. (Kristen graduated from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond – BTSR – in May.)

Trey-BeardenTrey Bearden

The Youth Ministry at FBC taught me that at the core of who we are as Christians, we are to love. Simply to love God and love people! Looking back, I always viewed church as the building that sat at the corner of Monument Ave. and the Boulevard, but in actuality the church is its people and because of people like Lynn, Nelson, Robyn, Glen, Todd, Martha S., Martha B., Bob, Nancie, Rick, Roy, Martha -and the list goes on, I am the man that I am today. (Trey serves as minister to youth and young adults at Richmond’s Walnut Grove Baptist Church.) I have been blessed beyond measure and am forever grateful for my time at FBC.

Katie-BoykinKatie Boykin

Being a part of FBC’s youth group was a vital element that had a definite shape on my future calling. I honestly thought that I wanted to be a physician, but it was not until I returned to FBC as a youth intern that I felt an ever deeper and clearer calling into pastoral care (Katie is pursuing a double masters in divinity at BTSR and pastoral counseling at Virginia Commonwealth University). Middle and high school years can, at times, seem unbearable and make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Like my youth leaders, I want to assure others that they have at least one person who is committed to their well-being. Plus, it helps that they are absolutely hilarious to work with and continue to impact my life day in and day out.

Saying “We will” is a small commitment compared with the reward of being part of these lives. Perhaps another “We will” of support and encouragement is in order for their next 18 or so years.


Gwen TilleyGwen Tilley’s youth as an MK (Missionary’s Kid) directed her service at FBC: she teaches Acteens for Youth One and Two on Wednesday nights. “It is exciting to teach so many spiritually open youth about missions. I am thankful for the strong relationship between the WMU and the missions classes at FBC. They provide the necessary missions training, encouragement and supplies for our leaders, children and youth to grow.” Gwen and her husband, Charles, have three daughters active in FBC’s Youth Ministry.


Where are today’s youths?

Story and photos by Ann Carter (Youth Associate, Ministry of Formation).

“Where are they now?” gives us a look at the adults our youths have become. Looking at them makes it hard not to look at those who are with us now. What are our youths doing today?

FBC Youth participate in a bake sale to help raise money for the Peter Paul Development Center.

Being teenagers, they’re doing many things. One is supporting the Peter Paul Development Center (PPDC) in Richmond’s East End. On May 21st, Youth One helped set up for a yard sale, hosted a bake sale, and worked in the community garden and classrooms at the PPDC. The yard sale provides an opportunity for people in the community who do not have access to thrift shops and secondhand stores. The bake sale, stocked with goodies made by Youth One and their friends and families, raised $145 for the Center.

The community garden of the Peter Paul Development Center gets tended to by FBC Youths.

The PPDC neighborhood in Church Hill reminded many of their experiences during the Helena, Arkansas, mission trips. They noticed that what is done at the PPDC is very much like the work being done in Helena, and discussed what can be done in their own city to help those who live in poverty.

Today’s youths, like yesterday’s, are serving, growing and building the foundations for their futures.


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