- Faith & Family
To many people, the fact that many youth church goers tend to drift away from the church and sometimes stop attending altogether has almost become an accepted part of the cycle of church attendance.
To combat this drift, Elder Kenneth Lee Washington of Greater Bethel Israel Primitive Baptist Church believes the best remedy is a life long devotion to church going.
“You just have to bring them up in the church,” he said.
And that means that their parents should also be attending church with them rather than just sending them. Washington found that this approach worked for him.
“All my life I loved church,” said Washington who has also been senior pastor of Greater Bethel Israel for nearly 14 years. “I guess it was embedded in me by my grandfather and mother.”
The 49-year old Washington gave his first sermon when he was 15 years old.
However, even with all of his experience in the church, there are a few things that he has learned as an adult that he wished he had known as a teenager.
“In the ministry, it looks glamourous, but I found that you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work,” according to Washington. “It’s more than just wearing a suit on Sundays.”
He has also learned that pastoring requires a great deal of sacrifice from spending less time with his family, to the required early morning or late evenings required to visit the church’s members who are in need or suffering through a crisis.
“But I love it though,” he said.
Washington also balances his responsibilities as pastor with working as the coordinator that prepares students for college at Booker T. Washington Senior High School. In some ways, the roles of pastoring and teaching overlap, as some of his students are also attend Greater Bethel Israel Primitive Baptist Church.
“There have been times when some of the youth, instead of calling their parents, they will call me,” he said.
Changing times, evolving ministries
Now after being in ministry for 38 years, Washington noted how the office of pastoring and even the role of the church has changed to adapt to modern times.
“You have to do a lot of outreach ministry now,” he said.
Greater Bethel Israel Primitive Baptist Church offers traditional ministries – such as youth groups, men and women’s groups, and Bible study – but it has also offered homeownership workshops, different career seminars and even health fairs.
“People come to the church with all kinds of ailments,” he said. And “the church needs to be prepared for all those types of things. It’s alright to sing and pray, but you need to have some other things to offer people as well.”
By Kaila Heard