Roughly a decade ago, Willow Hills Baptist Church went through one of its most trying seasons in her now 75-year history. Several factors -culminating in a church split -saw the church in a very difficult place, a place more and more churches find themselves in, but one from which few churches ever recover. When the dust from this split settled, nearly all the young families, children and youth were gone and the average age of the attenders was over seventy years old. As previously stated, this condition is becoming more and more common and nearly always deadly. In most cases, those left bemoan their current state, remember the glories of years gone by and simply try to hold on long enough for the church to outlive them. This is a large part of the reason 4,500 churches permanently closed their doors in 2019, and why once strong churches decline and die. Of the many churches that get to this place, few are willing to pay the price and make the sacrifices to see their church live again.
But to their eternal credit, the people of Willow Hills chose a different path. They chose to pay the price, they chose to personally make the sacrifices, they chose to endure the pain of change to see people reached for Christ and the church renewed. They prayed, yes, but they were not the type to stop with prayer. Their works accompanied their prayer and their faith was bolstered by their works. People whose children had long since grown, came out to serve in Fall Festival and Vacation Bible School and some even went to take teens to camp. They taught children’s Sunday School classes and came back on Sunday nights to minister in the AWANA program. They assisted with our teen and college ministries. They gave so the church could bring in a children’s director, youth pastor, and to start a contemporary worship service. Ministers who would not directly minister to them, but to a generation coming behind them.
As a result of their faithfulness and God’s blessings, Willow Hills is a different church today. Yes, we are still effectively ministering to our retirement community. But we have become a multi-generational church that is reaching people of all ages. Over the past decade we have seen a children’s ministry that once saw a dozen children come each month that now sees dozens every Sunday morning and over a 100 at AWANA on Sunday night. A youth ministry that was left with 4-5 teens now regularly sees five to six times that many. Our college ministry, young adult ministry and families have grown as well and our Contemporary worship service sees nearly 200 worshipers each week. Today, we are not yet where we hope to be, but we are not where we once were either. And this change is due, in large part, to a generation of people who loved the Kingdom of God and the people of their community more than their own comfort and personal interest. A couple years ago, as our college ministry was growing, a couple who are long time members were sitting much further up than they usually did. Before the service, I asked what had them sitting so far from their normal seats, the husband responded, “More and more college kids keep coming and taking our seats.” And then he broke into a big smile and added, “Isn’t that great.” In many churches, people losing “their seats” to new people is a major problem. To this couple, it was a blessing.
We would not be the church we are today, and we would not be reaching those we are reaching now without those who have stepped up, served and sacrificed. As Willow Hills looks to a bright future, the names of those who have helped position us to impact our world for Christ may be forgotten on earth, but they will be forever remembered in heaven. And as we move forward, may this spirit -this attitude, drive us forward: The Kingdom of God is worth sacrificing for and the souls of young and old, and are worth the personal cost it takes for us to reach them. As Amy Carmichael so well said, “We have all eternity to celebrate the victories of this life, but we only have ‘til morning to win them.”
LETTER FROM OUR CHILDREN’S DIRECTOR
AWANA IS BACK!!!
I’m so excited to announce that the AWANA 2021-2022 year begins on August 15th with our Rootbeer Float Kick-Off and Registration! Getting to be a small part of the biggest and most important decision a person will ever make in their life is wonderful, and we as AWANA leaders get to be a part of it! How awesome is that?!!
Let me tell you a story. There is a young lady I know that just graduated from high school this year. She has attended AWANA throughout her life and has served in AWANA the last several years. She is now stepping into leading and teaching one of the AWANA clubs as the director for that age group. What a privilege it has been to watch her grow in her faith and to love God and others while serving in AWANA! And this is just one of the many stories of all of the wonderful blessings we get to see as AWANA leaders.
As leaders, we are given this opportunity to walk along side these kids and their families on their own journey of faith and hope in Jesus. We do this so that they can discover who God is and learn that Jesus loves them and wants a personal relationship with them. We also disciple kids and students to grow in their love for God and other people because we want all kids to know the joy of serving the Lord and serving other people as we live out our faith in serving Him.
How do we get to do this you may ask. Each Sunday evening, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, during the school year the various age groups from Puggles through Journey (1 year old- 12th grade) study and memorize God’s word through large group and small group times and as a leader, we get to be there on the journey with them. We also have fun, energetic games that teach the kids sportsmanship, listening to directions, self-discipline, and help in relationship building.
Would you like to be a part of walking with them on this journey? Whether you can serve one Sunday a month or more often, we would love to have you join our AWANA Ministry Team as we are making an eternal difference as we share the hope and love of Jesus! For more information and to find out where you can serve, please contact Stacie through our church connector card or online at: https://willowhills.church/ministries/awana