BSU campus ministries at Montana Tech in Butte.
Common Ground hunger ministries in Red Lodge.
Literacy Missions training in Billings.
“The offering is unique in that every dollar is donated by Montana churches, the funding raised stays in Montana and is used for specific ministry areas”, explains Dr. Fred Hewett, Executive Director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention. “Churches are now receiving packets which will let them do a single Sunday emphasis or a four Sunday emphasis. The packets include a Montana Missions Offering DVD, bulletin inserts and offering envelopes.”
The offering has aided a number of different ministries over the years including new churches, language missions and others. The emphasis areas are decided each year when Dr. Hewett makes recommendations to the Executive Board, who then makes the final decision. “The offering is constantly evolving to meet current needs not normally funded elsewhere,” Dr. Hewett continued. “It is also the only offering which goes directly to pastors who are experiencing an emergency situation.”
“I first became interested in literacy at a pastor’s luncheon, when the pastor sitting across from me began talking about how literacy missions had changed his life,” Ray Willis, Literacy Coordinator for the MTSBC, related recently. “He told me I would meet a need not met in any other area of people’s lives. It is a tremendous way to touch people who often fall through the cracks while reaching out to their whole families.”
Ray Willis remembers a fourth grader named Isabelle who proudly told him the first time they met that she had memorized all of her prayers to be confirmed. She was almost two years behind her reading level and met with Ray weekly where he prayed with her, taught her to read Scripture worked with her to get her reading level to grade. Children often do not receive reading help at home because their parents cannot read and write well enough to assist them. “Right before Christmas we were reading John 3:16 when she made a decision for Christ. She finished praying with me, jumped up and gave me a big hug,” he recalls. “They moved away and I never saw her again but I knew she would be in Heaven one day.”
Any church can begin a literacy ministry which may include any or all of the following three areas: Tutoring Children and Youth, Adult Reading and Writing, or English as a Second Language (ESL). Each area requires 11 hours of training (usually done on a Friday night and all day Saturday) and a manual which cost about $6 each. There is no age limit for those interested in tutoring, just a saving knowledge of Christ and a heart for helping others. Tutors are asked to commit to a nine month, once a week, schedule which runs during the school year. Some programs, such as the one in Butte, tutor students year round. There are currently eight Montana SBC churches involved in literacy ministries.
To schedule a training, churches can contact Ray Willis at 1-406-855-4265. Like all literacy workers in Montana, Willis is a volunteer so the actual training is free. Interested churches are only asked to provide Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch for the trainings; as well as covering the travel costs and a place to stay for the trainer (a home will do just fine). Once the tutors have completed the training then ministry costs will include copy paper, toner, Bible for students ($3.50 each), snacks for students, and a place to start a small library.
“Literacy ministry is a wonderful place for people to share their faith,” Willis wants Christians to know. “After you have tutored for nine months you can share your faith with anyone because you have lots of experience. It’s a great ministry for youth to get hands on experience in helping and sharing Christ with others. Right now in Yellowstone County there may be as many as 1,000 children who need tutoring help. I tutored the grandchild of a Native American grandmother. The grandmother was saved through another program we ran with the literacy outreach on faith based parenting. The next summer she was helping in vacation Bible school. It is a great way to reach entire families.”
When you call the church office at the Set Free Church in Great Falls the recording gives the usual information on service times and dates, but then there is one more message. A very pleasant voice reminds the listener that if they need a food box to please remember to sign up by Wednesday. It seems like such a little thing until one realizes that the church, along with other area churches, give out food boxes to 3,000 to 4,000 people a month and they have been doing it for 20 years.
Hunger ministries were added as a Montana Missions Offering emphasis about three years ago as an opportunity for churches to help those in need struggling to find enough food for their families. The North American Mission Board had provided some funding but it was not enough to meet the growing need in many areas.
“The responsibility for feeding the hungry is first given to Christians as a Biblical mandate,” according to Dr. Hewett. “Many of our churches have taken up this ministry in different ways from providing free meals to the entire community (such as Church of the Rockies in Red Lodge), to providing food banks, to feeding Native American children on Sundays (1st Baptist Church, Poplar).”
Churches interested in beginning a hunger ministry can contact Stan Bricker through the state office for information on different types of ministries and funding options. Giving to the Montana Missions Offering is another way in which churches who wish to assist in hunger ministries already in place can make a difference. The Set Free Church in Great Falls also takes donations of food to help feed the many people in need, contact their church office at 1-406-453-4479 to find out how to help.
College and Student Ministries
While College and Student Ministries are joined together in the Montana State Missions Offering they are really two unique areas of ministry which reach out to the church of the future. College ministries encompass the college and university campuses around the state while Student Ministries reach out to the middle and high school students in Montana.
“While college students are basically ‘youth without the restraints’, they are still essentially adults,” observes Joe Todd, MTSBC Collegiate Team Leader. “They are in the process of answering the three biggest decisions of life: What will I do (vocation); who will I spend my life with (marriage, and the crowd you follow); and who is my authority—the Gospel, or religion, or irreligion, or self.”
The goal of MTSBC Collegiate Ministries is to “reach and raise up a new generation of disciples who make God famous in their world and accurately pour out what they have received to all generations, and change the world”. Todd’s job is to implement this strategy through four “Strategic Missions Center (campus ministries) in the state. The four centers are: Montana Tech in Butte (Mark Arbaugh); Montana State University in Bozeman (Zach Todd); Flat Head County Community College in Kalispell (Joey Gardner) and the Billings area colleges including MSUB, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone Christian and City College (Jim Tabor). All of the team members are volunteers and several are bi-vocational. The team also hosts the “Winter Blast” a statewide collegiate event each February at Fairmont Hot Springs. In 2015, 140 students and leaders attended. Next year Winter Blast will be held on February 19-21, 2016.
In discussing the importance of the development of young Christians, many who are away from home for the first time, Todd explains,” The pressures and temptations on the college campuses are greater than they have ever been. It is virtually impossible to navigate alone. We all need traveling companions. Christian students also need to do more than play defense; they need to learn and/or hone their ministry skills—sharing Jesus with others, leading small groups, and investing in the lives of others.”
Investing in the lives of students can reap blessed results. Todd invested in a young man named Rob Lee. Lee in turn invested in others by serving on a two year mission to Utah. He never left and is now the Executive Director/Treasurer for the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. Currently, a student Todd has been working with has decided to become a missionary in Southeast Asia.
Mark Arbaugh, Director of the Baptist Student Union on the Montana Tech campus in Butte, works with many engineering students. “Mark follows up and encourages people to serve in a bi-vocational capacity to spread the Gospel,” according to Todd. “As engineers they live and travel all over the world. Mark trains them in multiplication to spread the Gospel wherever they are.
“Student ministry is about hormones, and in general is a transition phase for middle and high school students,” Don Sullivan, State Director of Student ministry. “It is a platform for sharing the gospel and disciple making that addresses real needs. One of the most exciting things is the ability to reach students who then reach and impact their own families. Student ministry often becomes family ministry.”
Sullivan began his new position in June this year and is exploring different options to help youth leaders in reaching young people. “I’m kind of a techie and use technology to reach those who live all over the state,” he said with a smile. “One of the ways people can connect is ‘Legacy MT Student Ministries’, the state student Facebook page. It includes comments, quotes, and hopefully will include helpful content on resources. Subjects may include counseling, programming, administration, games, curriculum and websites which would help leaders and students across the state.”
Student Ministries are responsible for two state wide events: Get Real East (in Billings) and Get Real West (in Missoula). “Between both events we hosted almost 550 youth and their leaders,” Sullivan continued. “Get Real West was started by former Student Ministries Director Jim Tabor. Jim did so much to improve the quality of the events. He is so caring about people and their ministries. He really connects with them.”
Every year many students are saved at both events but sometimes the effects are long lasting and create new ministries. One exciting result of Get Real East happened two years ago, when Pastor K.J. Ellington and his wife, Sharon from Jordan Community Bible Church, brought a group of students to Billings. After the event they became so excited that they asked if they could form a youth group in Jordan, Montana and it is still going strong today. As a follow up, there was a student leader training held in Jordan.
“Youth ministry is headed towards smaller, personal, relational based outreach,” Sullivan reflected. “There are always opportunities for caring adults who have a heart to love and serve students. You must exert godly influence on students who are in the church today. Part of evangelizing the world is evangelizing students. It isn’t a suggestion but a biblical command, it’s the Great Commission.”
The churches of Montana hold their pastors near and dear to their hearts. Like all families, those in the ministry have emergencies in many forms which cause stressful and crisis situations in their lives. A sudden illness is diagnosed, a young church plant is unable to provide insurance for their pastor, a church planting pastor hears of the death of a loved one but doesn’t have the money to travel to the service, these and other emergencies can make an already financially stretched pastor feel like there is nowhere to turn. The good news, is help is just a phone call away. The pastoral emergencies area of the Montana State Missions Offering is a special way to love and care for those who shepherd their flocks, often while holding secular jobs in addition to their churches. Needs in this area often revolve around medical emergencies such as extended illnesses, hospital costs, terminal diagnosis, or a death of a beloved family member. The offering also provides funds for vehicle repair, utility bills, and any other unexpected cost which can put a pastoral family into crisis.
A young pastor’s wife confided that suddenly they were faced with overwhelming hospital and doctor bills. “I don’t know what we would have done. It was a matter of which set of bills do we pay this month and still buy groceries. Then suddenly this check arrived in the mail and we were so touched by the gift. People really felt it mattered that we were here and wanted to help us stay.”
When there is a need the offering can provide up to $500 in emergency funds and the funding is sent out as quickly as possible. This is especially important when the funding is used for travel out of state and families are trying to book airplane tickets.
“The most important thing for people to know about this area is the high priority put on confidentiality and personal privacy for those receiving assistance,” Dr. Hewett emphasizes. “The need is brought to the attention of myself or the state office personnel through the associational offices or others who discover the need for pastoral care. Pastors are always more concerned about others but we want them to know that God is providing help for them in time of need. Don’t refuse or miss out on a blessing that has been provided by the very churches who care about their leadership.”
“The offering is a way for those who are not regular givers to donate to specific areas which effect individual Montanans,” he continued. “It is my observation that the people in our churches are very generous and love to give when they understand the importance of this offering and where the funding goes. In promoting the offering I would say to pastors, don’t be afraid to give your congregations the opportunity to help people around the state.”
2015 Montana Missions Offering Video Downloads
2015 Montana Missions, Full Video (104MB)
2015 Montana Missions, Part 1 (32MB)
2015 Montana Missions, Part 2 (31MB)
2015 Montana Missions, Part 3 (30MB)
2015 Montana Missions, Part 4 (40MB)
2015 Montana Missions Offering Bulletin Insert
2015 Montana Missions Bulletin Insert (.4MB)
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Montana Missions Offering - MTSBC Resource Page
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