Youth-led services are becoming more popular for many churches across Mississippi. In the past, participating may have been restricted to adults-only but some communities are now seeing how involving children can actually strengthen faith.
That's the case at Relevant Empowerment Church. Their membership has been growing for the past five years.
During one Sunday service, 14-year-old Jalil Jones banged on the conga drums at the start of worship as part of Youth Sunday - held every Third Sunday of the month.
"It's when the kids, they do what the grown people, the elders, do on a regular Sunday," Jones said.
"As you get older, you know, young men and women have responsibilities. And this is a big part of responsibility because you practice and practice and practice. You gotta learn your stuff and stuff like that," Jones said.
Pastor Tony Yarber explains his motivation for being a part of the church.
"Our idea is that we can teach young people how to love on each other. We can teach young people how to respect other people. And we do that through giving them opportunities on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights," Pastor Yarber said.
You might recognize Pastor Yarber's name from his post at Jackson City Hall. He is city councilor for Ward six.
But at Relevant Empowerment Church he is focused on that second word - empowerment - challenging people to find ways to make their situations better by guiding them economically, spiritually, and socially.
"There's no secret that our city suffers from a lot of crime. specifically crimes - people taking other people's lives," Pastor Yarber said.
"That's not something that police officers change. We can put a thousand police officers on the street. That's not what's going to change that," Pastor Yarber said.
"What's going to change that is churches like ours that are attempting to change the mindsets of people, helping to re-establish a moral compass in people, and teaching people the respect for life that comes with the love of god. The love of Jesus Christ," Pastor Yarber said.
Jones says that by involving kids like him, the adults in the congregation are working toward their goal.
"Once you start with one person, it can go to a lot of people because that one person could be the person to change somebody. That one person could be a leader. And, me myself, I'm a leader. I don't mean to brag but I have to be a leader because I have a younger brother. He looks up to me," Jones said.
"He's seven," Jones said.
Relevant Empowerment Church is about to officially adopt John Hopkins Elementary School where the men's ministry will be the prominent presence.
It's also launching a foundation arm from the church to start a women's center, Pastor Yarber said.
If you would like to share your church community with the viewers of News Channel 12 email Jacob Kittilstad at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 601-664-8839.
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