By Kevin Kindelin
So, who is this Pastor Donald Antor guy anyway? What does he do other than the occasional sermon and the greeting/mingling, visit the homebound, hospitalized and institutionalized, and all the other things that pastors are supposed to do? Don’t we already have two more than capable pastors? These are questions some might have if they weren’t familiar with our Stronger Together campaign. Next time you’re in church, take a look around you and count the heads that have gray hair as opposed to the number of those that don’t. Bald and thinning heads don’t count; that can happen at any age. The sad point of my rambling is that the decreasing amount of people in attendance, especially among those in their 20s and 30s, doesn’t bode well for the future of Immanuel. That’s why we’re doing something about it. That’s why we need a young cat like Pastor Donald to reach out and connect with our youth.
The definition of youth, in this context, is broad-ranging, from our wee little ones to our young adults. Pastor Donald’s mission is to help develop the Christian faith in our youth, and nurture them in the teachings of Jesus. It is also his mission to reconnect with those youth who feel that the ministries at Immanuel aren’t geared toward them. Immanuel needs someone who can speak to them in their own language.
I’m reminded of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples to allow the crowd of people comprised of different nations to hear the message in their own languages. My goodness, I love the younger generation, but why can’t my 20 and 30 something nieces and nephews answer their phones or check their voicemails? Because they don’t; they speak a different language…the language of text messages and social media to an extent. Pastor Donald speaks that language.
He uses Instagram to post one minute video devotions on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As a “fisher of youth,” Pastor Donald casts his net where the guppies are swimming. Apparently, that’s not Facebook. Old fish swim there. He encourages the kids to discuss or comment on the videos and usually gets about 30 to 50 views within the first few days of posting one. Pastor Donald figured another good way to connect and interact with our youth is to go where they focus much of their attention…their phones! Every week he sends out individual text messages to 63 kids (as of this writing) asking how things are going or he tailors the messages to something he knows is going on in their lives. Since he started this effort last August, he’s had hundreds of responses and prayer requests. Pastor Donald continues to follow up with the kids that don’t respond because every once in a while, a kid will respond out of the blue and make a prayer request. Instead of saying “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” he sends back a prayer specific to that request.
Pastor Donald also connects to our youth through good, old fashioned face to face interaction. On Sunday nights, he leads Bible study for junior high school students from 5:30 to 6:30 and high school students from 7:00 to 8:00-8:30, depending on how long they want to hang out. He leads mission trips aimed at helping communities, usually through construction based projects, although he does plan on expanding into other areas of service. There are so many aspects to Pastor Donald’s ministry, that like most ministries at Immanuel, it’s impossible to adequately cover all of it in this limited space.
Pastor Donald knows these kids are not only the future leaders of our church (hopefully), but the future of the church itself. He emphasized how vital it is to reach a generation that doesn’t see church as a priority. “Ultimately, my mission is to reach the youth, help them grow in their faith and relationship with God, and be that bridge to the church,” he said. Volunteers are welcome. There’s a lot more work to be done than any one man can do. Lead a Bible study; chaperone a mission trip. Be a part of the future of Immanuel. For our children and for ourselves, we are Stronger Together!