Barbier reflects on impact, importance of youth ministry
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Jay Barbier has a new title with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and it’s a perfect fit with his love and passion for youth ministry.
Barbier recently was named youth ministry specialist for the TBMB following the retirement of Bruce Edwards in January. He has served with the TBMB for the past two years as evangelism event specialist, coming to that role from First Baptist Church, Millington, where he served as minister of youth for seven-and-a-half years.
The past two years have actually helped prepare Barbier for his new role as he met with and began building relationships with youth ministers and leaders across Tennessee. He shared his vision for youth ministry in Tennessee during a recent podcast of Radio B&R. (The full podcast, Episode 38, is available at RadioBandR.org).
“As youth ministry specialist, my role is to serve churches. … I want to help churches where they are as well as help them move the ball forward when it comes to evangelism, discipleship or anything else that we can do to serve them,” Barbier said.
He observed that discipleship is a key to effective youth ministry. People learn best by example, Barbier said, noting that as a new Christian he wanted to lead others to Jesus. “I had pastors, deacons, and individuals who helped me. They showed me. They took me to visitation. They included me in salvation conversations with other people.”
A youth minister’s job is not over when a student is led to Christ. The disciple-making process must then begin in order that the students eventually see themselves as missionaries, leading people to Christ and helping to disciple them, Barbier said.
Because of that, youth ministry involves more than just working with the students, he stressed.
Youth ministry is three-fold, Barbier suggested. “You have to spend time with the students. You have to spend time with the leaders and you have to spend time with the parents.”
It is imperative for effective youth ministers to invest time and energy in developing and equipping youth leaders and parents, Barbier stressed. A single youth minister can effectively reach one to 20 people, but if he invests his time in equipping five other people, “you have expanded your army.”
The TBMB youth specialist has a 17-year-old son who has been called into the ministry. “Why is that? I have put people in his path for mentoring and discipleship.”
In addition, Barbier said he and his wife have kept their son accountable.
“We constantly preach the gospel. We constantly love him. And, if he messes up, we help him to see that. Praise God, there’s never been any major problems. But I think it is the accountability of the Word of God and constant discipleship. That’s what discipleship is. It’s an ongoing process of loving Jesus and as you love Jesus, you love others.”
From his experience as a youth minister and a parent, Barbier knows that a successful youth ministry helps create successful parents. A successful youth minister will be constantly “pouring into their parents,” teaching them the importance of family devotions and worship times, he said.
As Barbier adapts more fully to his new role, his desire is to “create a pipeline (of resources) for student ministry” that every church can adapt to, whether it is a ministry led by a full-time youth minister, a bivocational youth minister or a volunteer. “Our goal is to serve churches. We want to partner with them so ministry can happen in their community on an ongoing basis.”
Barbier observed that many churches and leaders have the misconception that youth ministry only happens on Sunday mornings and nights and Wednesday nights. Because of that belief, “they never get out into their community.”
In his role, Barbier will plan and implement the annual Youth Evangelism Conference. This year’s event will be held March 13-14 at Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
The YEC will feature concerts and activities to clearly communicate the gospel, but the primary focus will be preaching the Word of God, Barbier said. “We want to proclaim Jesus as King and offer students the opportunity to give their life to Him.”
He added that each student who accepts Christ at YEC will be given a new believer’s book “that walks them through what it looks like to be a follower of Christ” for the next 30 days.