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Youth Training Ground

Experiences with kids helps church planter in fruitful launch.

Long before 42-year-old Shane A. Hawkins knew he would become a church planter, the Lord began to train him for the task.

At age 19, he started attending a small church in Pekin, Illinois, with his then-girlfriend (now-wife) Amy. He became an assistant in a Sunday School class of five students. By 21, Hawkins was the church’s youth director and that small class had bloomed into a youth group of 80 students.

As a part-time youth pastor, Hawkins continued his day job working as a road construction foreman. When the opportunity to become full-time youth director at his home church, North Parkway Assembly of God in Pekin presented itself, Hawkins left concrete work behind. After seven years as youth director, Shane and Amy sensed the Lord calling them to plant a church.

Close friends and family members prayed with the couple. Phil B. Schneider, superintendent of the Illinois District Council, offered support as well.

Hawkins returned to his previous construction job and continues to be bivocational during summers while he pastors City Church in Pekin, which launched in 2015. Shane and Amy, now parents of five boys from 4 to 15, work together at the church. In October 2016, City Church purchased the building where Hawkins had invested 11 years earlier in youth ministry. Less than two years later, attendance is 240 and growing.

City Church has a strong evangelistic approach, which features creative community outreach and ministry projects — ranging from raising money helping to provide prom dresses for high schoolers to serving food at the Salvation Army. Because football is popular in Pekin, adherents have volunteered to operate the grill for the concessions at local games.

Isaac Carrington has been friends with Hawkins since high school and serves as the church’s financial coordinator. He attributes much of the growth of City Church to community involvement. Carrington says many attendees have never been part of a church before.

“It is a complete 180 — not overnight — but it is amazing to see lives change from beginning to end,” Carrington says.

Hawkins teaches biblical basics by telling stories, using practical terms that are helpful today.

“You don’t have to believe to belong,” Hawkins says. “You can be part of our family and in time you will have an experience with God and believe what we believe.”

Guyla Armstrong

Following over 30 years in the events industry, Guyla Armstrong worked for Assemblies of God World Missions for a decade. As a freelance writer, she wrote for Pentecostal Evangel early in her career and has written dozens of articles for AG News. Guyla and her husband, Jon, attend Praise Assembly in Springfield, Missouri.