Youth minister celebrates first year

Published 4:41 pm Friday, September 11, 2009

Damon Edwards is reflecting back on his first year of youth ministry in Bainbridge. It was July of 2008 when he moved his wife, Jenn, and their 2-year-old son, Brycen, to Bainbridge to begin service as youth minister at First Christian Church.

Edwards received his degree in Youth Ministry and Psychology from Milligan College in Tennessee in 2004 where he also met his wife. After graduating, he served as youth minister of Central Church of Christ in Johnson City for four years and toward the end of his time at Central, felt led to go elsewhere. He heard through the Johnson Bible College Web site about the need for a youth minister at the Christian Church in Bainbridge.

The young couple visited Bainbridge in early 2008, and Edwards interviewed for the new position of youth minister. The church had never had a youth-specific ministry before, but realized the need for a youth minister to encourage growth and strengthen the values of those already attending First Christian.

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Edwards was hired and moved his family to Bainbridge later that year. It was not long after the move that Jenn realized they were expecting a second child. On April 10, 2009, Brynn Elisabeth was born.

“I did not want a tax day baby!” Mrs. Edwards joked about having her daughter before the national income tax deadline of April 15.

Edwards said, “We were excited to come to a church with no existing youth ministry. It gave us a chance to experiment with new things. There would be no comparisons; it was all new.”

Edwards also mentioned that Bainbridge reminds him of his childhood home in Louisiana.

“There is a lot of farming, a lot of water surrounding the area. I like Bainbridge a lot, except for the gnats. I will never get used to the gnats.”

Gnats aside, Edwards has been working hard since his arrival one year ago. He has expanded the First Christian youth ministry over 50 percent, in grades fifth to 12th. He has been busy getting the kids involved in various activities such as car washes and spaghetti dinners to raise money for the different youth outings they take. Edwards has taken the group to Wild Adventures Theme Park, Disciple Now also known as D-Now and St. Andrews State Park.

Edwards and the youth also traveled to Tennessee in January 2009 to attend the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention, which hosts around 3,500 teens and offers music groups, comedians, skits and worship messages. Edwards plans on attending the 2010 convention, which will again be held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.

In addition to all this, Edwards has volunteered as dean of high school week at Tri-State Christian Camp, located in DeFuniak Springs, Fla.

This past summer, Edwards and other local youth ministers came together to host a college-aged ministry. Called Next Chapter, for the “next chapter in young people’s lives,” the program was held Sunday nights at 8 and lasted from the end of May until the first weekend of August. The study used the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

Edwards said that the purpose behind the weekly study is to concentrate on students who tend to be forgotten in ministry.

“Teens graduate from high school and many times quit coming to church because there is nothing geared toward them and their interests,” Edwards stated.

Looking into the future, Edwards hopes to help host Next Chapter in Summer 2010, along with volunteering at camp again and more First Christian youth outings. Edwards also plans to coach U4 soccer for the YMCA, begin a new young adult Sunday school class and hold more in depth studies for the youth at First Christian.

Edwards mentions that the local youth ministers meet one a month and invites people in the community with ideas to get into contact with any of them. To reach Edwards, call the First Christian Church at 246-4850.