Pastor Makes Students a Priority, Sees Dozens Come to Christ
Eyebrows raise and questions quickly rise to the surface whenever Pastor Dan Preciado or his wife Jan of Kailua Assembly of God (KAG) on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, start talking about their ministry to the local public high school.
Last year, the church made all kinds of inroads with the school administration, coaches, and students that have been so surprising they have other pastors in the area asking, “How do you do it?”
For the Preciados, the answer is two-fold: Responding to the call of God and building relationships.
“When we first came here in November of 2013, we didn’t create a multi-paragraph mission statement to base our church’s ministry on,” Dan says. “Instead we base our ministry on what God has called us to do — reach the military base [located about two miles from the church], reach the community, and reach the school. That’s it.”
Preciado says that in following God’s direction, doors to the school have unexpectedly opened. Yet, even with those open doors, they’ve been very careful to go through proper channels and do things in the proper way in order for those doors to remain open to them.
Last year, Preciado and KAG offered to host an “Encouragement and Blessing Service” for the JV and varsity football teams, which was followed by a potluck meal. More than 60 players, faculty, and parents attended. What’s more, 25 players chose to give their lives to Christ that evening!
Preciado says the results of the service were unexpected, but very exciting. The coaches and players even asked him to come speak to them and pray for them before every game. He does admit that at first he was surprised that he didn’t see even a small uptick in attendance at their youth meetings, but that didn’t stop him from forging new and stronger relationships with school leaders and students.
“After praying in the locker room one day,” Preciado says, “God clearly told me, ‘Dan, if you think I opened this door for you to fill your church with football players and families, that’s not the case — I opened this door for you to lead people to Christ.’”
In January 2016, Preciado says that he decided to bring on youth leaders at the church. A week later, he was contacted by the Youth For Christ representative who, unknown to Preciado, had been hosting a student-led Bible study made up of 20 students at the school, which included 15 football players! He told Preciado that he could sure use some help mentoring them. Preciado readily accepted.
“God knew what He was doing,” Preciado says. “He knew we weren’t ready to mentor all those kids, but now [with the addition of youth leaders] we are.”
As Preciado’s presence on campus, standing in his driveway by the bus stop, and on the practice field became “normal,” more students began to approach him, sometimes just to talk about everyday things, other times to talk about problems they were struggling with.
“This summer, I would to go the practice fields and watch and pray,” Preciado says. “I didn't approach anyone, but players would frequently come up to me to talk. One of the players came to me one day and said, ‘You know, Pastor, when you’re around, the atmosphere is different . . . if you can come around more often, that would be really great.’”
“As Pentecostals, we see a clear example from Acts 6 when a social need was met with a Spirit-empowered solution,” says Heath Adamson, senior director of National Youth Ministries. “What would happen if all AG churches brought solutions to challenges associated with needed school supplies, the school milk program, after school tutoring, teacher appreciation day, serving at concession stands during football games, and simply let their light shine?”
In May, KAG youth leaders organized a year-end school party for the entire school on the church campus. About 100 students and faculty attended. The party included games, food, live bands, gifts, and a message. “As a result, 17 students made a decision for Christ,” Preciado says. “We plan on making this an annual event.”
On Aug. 10, Preciado and KAG again hosted an Encouragement and Blessing Service and potluck meal for the JV and varsity football teams. “We had 163 people there this time, and only 30 of them were from the church to help serve,” Preciado says. “This year, we also invited the cheerleaders and their families as well. Forty people, including a few parents, came forward to accept Christ!”
Preciado says KAG will now host the Monday Youth For Christ Bible study as the former leader is taking an extended overseas mission trip. Also, Jan is now meeting with the cheerleaders.
“The new cheerleading coach is a Christian,” Jan says. “I spoke to her at the Aug. 10 service and asked if it would be okay if I just stopped by and let the girls know that I’m there for them and praying for them. As cheerleaders, they’re great encouragers, but at the same time, they need encouragers too.”
Jan says the new coach was happy to accept her offer.
“This has been on my heart for a long time as we were reaching the boys through the football team, but I kept asking myself, what about the girls?” Jan says. “Now I’ll be there for them if they need somebody to pray with them, talk to somebody about something they’re dealing with, or if they need encouragement or guidance. It’s not about getting them to come to our church, it’s about letting them know how valuable they are, helping them get to know Jesus and that He loves them.”
“It’s inspiring to see how God is using the Preciados and Kailua Assembly of God to share Christ with students and their community," Adamson says. “Today’s students are searching for the genuine and, as Dan and Jan discovered, are embracing Christ when the gospel is clearly presented to them. “That’s why we are excited about the second year of our initiative called Our Schools Matter. Our Schools Matter offers free downloadable resources — for pastors and for students — designed to help local churches engage and serve their local schools, just like Kailua AG has, and mobilize their students to have conversations to share the gospel.”
Both Dan and Jan say that the feedback from students, coaches, and school administration has been nothing but positive and supportive. And when the couple looks at the freedoms they’ve been granted, they see God’s hand in it all.
“The school is the most strategic mission field for today’s adolescent,” Adamson says. “It is my prayer that churches all across our Fellowship will follow God’s leading as the Preciados have, get engaged, meet a need, and show and share the gospel.”
“God opened the door and we walked through the door,” Dan says simply. “And in a short time, we’re going to put it out there for anybody who has not been baptized, to get it done.”If everyone responds to the invitation, KAG could end up hosting its largest baptismal service ever. Luckily for the Preciados, a large and convenient baptismal tank — the Pacific Ocean — is close at hand.