It Worked for Us
Twice a week, more than 150 students gather early in the morning for PB and J. No, not peanut butter and jelly, but Prayer, Bible and Jesus.
The Rev. Jason Wade, associate pastor and youth minister for Gray and Clinton United Methodist churches in Georgia, heads the ministry that led to the two gatherings.
On Wednesday mornings, about 125 students gather at Dairy Queen in Gray, a small town of just more than 2,000 people in central Georgia.
The mostly student-driven prayer time started about 10 years ago with 10 students. A group of the church youth approached Wade and asked him if he would be willing to join them for a prayer time before school if they were willing to get up and meet. Of course he said, "Yes."
"The Dairy Queen has been so accommodating, just a great partner for us," Wade said. "They open early for us and offer their full menu. The kids can order whatever they want, even ice cream for breakfast!"
The youth eat together and pray for each other. Wade or a student from the church's leadership team delivers a short devotional. After PBJ, church buses and individual cars take the kids to the various schools represented.
"We have middle school and high school kids from public schools, private schools and some who are homeschooled," Wade said. "We have (United) Methodist kids, other church kids and unchurched kids attending. We also have some youth leaders and parents who come."
The same type of event happens on Friday mornings at Chick-Fil-A in Milledgeville, Georgia, about 25 miles from Gray. About 40 kids and adults attend.
Some of the adults are church youth leaders, while others are just curious about what goes on at the gatherings.
"For some of the parents, they are just checking us out," Wade said. "And we love that! For some of the parents it is an introduction of what our youth ministry is. They can come sit in on the prayer breakfast and see who we are and what we do. It's a family atmosphere. We have about 95 percent kids and 5 percent adults."
Wade said Chick-Fil-A has been just as accommodating in Milledgeville as the Dairy Queen has in Gray. "Like Dairy Queen, they offer their entire menu to the kids."
The breakfast gatherings help students learn ministry leadership skills.
"We want them to learn how to lead and be prepared to go to college with these leadership skills," he said. "They do a great job. They really take ownership of the program. My goal is to work myself out of a job."
Wade thinks the fact that kids from different denominations get together to meet and pray before school is significant. In spite of some of the denominational differences, "they get it that our main goal is for them to understand they all work toward the same goal. They know that Jesus would get up early in the morning to go out and pray. They want to do the same thing," he said.
Polly House, editorial assistant for Interpreter, is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee.