In this interview, National Youth Director Josh Wellborn talks to Mark Hylton, student ministries pastor at Victory Church in Lakeland, Florida. Hylton shares his heart for Fine Arts and how he’s built his discipleship model around Fine Arts.
Hylton is a product of Fine Arts which is the main reason he is so passionate about the ministry. From sixth grade through twelfth grade, he participated in the ministry with his youth group. He said there was a competitive aspect (although it is not a competition), but more than that he benefitted from the community.
“I wasn't always…the church kid,” he said. “But if I were to be 100 percent completely honest, Fine Arts was that thing that kept me involved and engaged in the local church.”
Hylton remembered that students in his youth group were encouraged to not only discover, develop, and deploy their ministry gifts, but to look for those giftings in other people just as Jesus did. However, participation in Fine Arts wasn’t contingent on whether they were a believer or not—it was about providing a space for students to belong before they knew how to behave.
Wellborn asked Hylton how youth pastors and leaders can cultivate a heart of Fine Arts in students despite the fact that the national event is canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hylton first validated the disappointment and heartbreak many students are experiencing with the announcement. Then he turned to the question his ministry is asking during this season, and that’s how they can continue to disciple students.
Aside from continuing to prepare for PenFlorida’s digital district festival (where Hylton’s church is), they want to host a Fine Arts night. No evaluators, no scores—just a place where friends and family can connect with students presenting their ministry gifts. This opportunity to engage is important to Hylton, because he knows many people have come to know Jesus because a student discovered, developed, and deployed their gifts.
They also focus on the leaders. He said leaders lead beyond the Fine Arts season—they continue to pastor their students throughout the year. One of the first things his leaders did when the crisis hit was contact students and let them know they were seen and loved, and that it wasn’t the end of their ministry.
“A lot of people, they remember how something started and they remember how something ended,” Hylton said. “I want the way that they remember our student Ministry…[to be] that they were loved, that they were valued, that they were discipled, and that they were cared for.”
This is an unconventional season that calls for unconventional methods to continue the discipleship journey. Wellborn asked if Hylton had any ideas or encouragement for youth pastors who want to offer students a platform beyond the local church.
Gen Z loves to publish, so Hylton said providing opportunities for students to publish is very important. That could be during a youth service, where family and friends who aren’t saved are invited to church to see students present on a stage. Or it could be a main Sunday service. Hylton noted sometimes there is a generational disconnect in churches, so this can bring the entire congregation together as students use their gifts for the Lord.
“I just think it needs to be a culture created in the local church to let students use their giftings so that they’re excited about the church.”
To close out, Hylton prayed over youth pastors, leaders, and students during this unconventional time; for creative ways to reach others, that they would not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9), and that hearts and minds would be open to receiving what He has for them. At the end of this season of sowing, we believe there will be a harvest—what the enemy meant for evil, God will turn it for good.