Illinois Church Engages Next Generation in Missions

Reaching the next generation is a major focus of the ministry of Highland Avenue Baptist Church in Robinson, Ill. Submitted photo

ROBINSON, Ill. — The purpose of Highland Avenue Baptist Church is to spread the Gospel, Pastor Dwight McDaniel said.

This starts with allocating 13 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together worldwide in missions and ministries to advance God’s kingdom work.

“Everything we do, if it doesn’t involve spreading the Gospel, it’s not worth doing,” said McDaniel, who has been in ministry since 1986 and pastor of Highland Avenue Baptist since 2007. “The Lord’s blessing us and we try to pass it on. Churches working together through the Cooperative Program is the best way I know of planting churches, spreading God’s Word and supporting our missionaries.”

Jack Blankenbeker, 91, has been a member of Highland Avenue Baptist for 66 years. He worked for almost 35 years at the local oil refinery and served for 40 years as the church’s treasurer.

“God’s pointed out to us several times that tithing is essential,” Blankenbeker said. “It’s as important in a church as it is individually.”

He recalled a time in the church when despite every initiative, the church wasn’t growing.

“We couldn’t get anybody [to attend services],” Blankenbeker said. “We decided to raise our missions money [giving] and immediately we started growing! Missions and missions money is important. I believe it is more God-honoring than anything.

“The Cooperative Program is probably one of the more important programs we have. We explain it, and that makes it very easy for them to give.”

The next generation is an important focus at Highland Avenue Baptist, the pastor said. The Bible-based Awana program draws about 100 kids and 50 adult leaders each Wednesday night — a larger crowd than Sunday morning worship.

Highland Avenue Baptist added a Southern Baptist missions component to the interdenominational children’s program. Missions has been a core emphasis of the southern Illinois church since its founding in 1954. The church has given at least 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program since at least the early 1980s.

The church also gives 1 percent of its offerings to Palestine Baptist Association and 4 percent to the Illinois Baptist Children’s Home.

Highland Avenue is intentional about educating its members in Southern Baptist missions and ministry endeavors, providing materials year-round and showing videos highlighting those endeavors each Sunday in the weeks leading up to Easter and Christmas.

“We want to have people gain a greater vision for missions,” McDaniel said. “We need a greater awareness of the need and the opportunity to be personally involved in getting the Gospel in the hands of people who haven’t yet heard, or listened.”

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Source: Baptist Press