By Woody Woodrick
Franks Haynes wants youth ministry in Mississippi to think inside the box.
“We think the wrapping makes a difference, but it’s what’s inside the box that matters,” Haynes said.
Because of that, said Haynes, young people often not offered what they really want and need.
“We lose young people because of two things,” said Haynes. “We don’t invest much in ministries for young people. If we do invest in them, we often invest in things we think they want, but they really don’t.”
Haynes said he believes young people want relationships in authentic communities and the true meaning of life that can only be found in the gospel. “They’re looking for true sustenance that changes lives,” he said.
Haynes is in position to try to offer young people what they want. Beginning July 1, Haynes became the Mississippi Conference coordinator for young people’s ministry. He’s already jumped right into the role, having taken part in Convo 09 and held a meeting of the conference youth council.
Haynes has been involved in youth ministry since the age of 19 when he worked summer positions in Mississippi and Texas. A Senatobia native, Haynes attended Mississippi State University and Asbury Theological Seminary. His master of divinity focused on campus ministries.
“Frank is a spiritually centered person. He is authentic in his faith and life,” said the Rev. Steve Casteel, conference director of Connectional Ministries. “He has incredible organizational skills and is a systems thinker. He is a great communicator and understands the current lay of the land with young people. He also understands the scope of this ministry. Finally, he has an incredible passion to help young people find ways to grow in their faith, in community and in service.”
While many churches have strong youth groups, statistics show that 60 percent to 80 percent of young people leave the church after they graduate from high school. “We are setting foundations for Christian youth,” he said, “but we have to be concerned about what we’re doing once they leave home.
“It’s such a formidable time in their lives. It’s when they establish their world view and values. The church has to be a voice and mentor during that time,” he said.
Haynes, a provisional elder, said one way to stay connected to young people is for church members to not think of them as the future of the church. “They are the church now,” he said.
“Young people are at a place in their lives where they can fulfill God’s calling to be the kingdom of priests,” Haynes said. “They are smart enough, talented enough, passionate enough and just as gifted in the spirit as adults.”
Haynes said he’d like to see stronger ties between college students and local churches. The local church is where he said he believes the best discipling takes place. “The question is how do we best partner with the local church with resources, time and gifts to make disciples,” he said.
Haynes said he plans to meet with youth and college pastors about what they need from the conference. “I’m not going to pretend I have the answers before I understand the questions,” he said.
Haynes said he would like for Mississippi’s young people to be the “model of what passion for Christ should look like for all ages.”