Working With Young People
The Lord's church in Danville is richly blessed with spiritually minded teenagers. We have three teenage boys who lead singing as capably as any of our adults. One is preparing himself to preach the gospel. At the end of his senior year of high school, he will enter his second year in a summer training program. Our young ladies also are committed to the Lord, although they do not have the opportunity to serve publicly.
The young people at Danville have not developed accidentally. There are several things that have been done that I mention, not to brag about what we have done, but to help others who might be searching for ways to keep their teenagers interested in the Lord's work.
1. We have committed parents. Our teenagers all come from strong family units. The parents of every one of our teenagers have provided a stable family influence for the children. Two of our teenagers have come from homes that have experienced divorce. The spouses who are rearing the children are committed to the Lord. One has the resource of grandparents who are devoted Christians to give support; the other family is first generation Christians who have made a genuine commitment to the Lord. These families have worked hard to overcome the tragic effects of divorce and they are succeeding.
The parents are interested in the school work of their children, supporting them in whatever extra-curricular activities they choose to be involved. I do not know of any of our parents who unintentionally or intentionally has conveyed to his child that he is not wanted or loved. The parents are effectively communicating to their children that they love them, creating and building healthy self-esteem (see Tit. 2:4).
They also are committed to serving God in the local church. The families try to be present every time the doors of the church building are open. If they happen to be out of town, they make arrangements to worship while away on their trips. The church is the center of the family's life.
Many parents also conduct home Bible studies with their children. I can only speak directly of what my family has done with our children, but I know that other families also have home Bible studies. We would usually read a chapter of the Bible together and have a prayer before Jenny and Corey left for school. We did not rigidly do this; there were days that we missed because someone was running late. At other periods of time when the children were younger, we would read the Bible together before putting them in bed. One of the secondary benefits that we derived from this time together was to help our children develop their reading skills. When our children were in the early years of grade school, they drew a picture of something we had read from the day's Bible reading which we kept in a notebook that we used for review. These are precious memories that we have. I cannot doubt that these Bible studies helped shape my children for good.
Our society is gradually being forced to admit that the breakdown of the home is creating a generation of children who have no morals. Reluctantly the social engineers are talking about children conceived out of wedlock and homes torn apart by divorce that has left "fatherless homes." " Billions of dollars in federal programs have been spent to repair the damage created by broken homes. Our children at Danville have been richly blessed in having good stable home environments in which to mature.
2. We have opened our homes to their friends. The Danville teenagers enjoy associating with each other. Rarely is there a church service when some of them do not do something together. They may go to Wendy's to get a coke or a cup of coffee (after all, they want to act adult). Their social life is centered around the young people at church. They mostly go out as a group, rather than entering serious boyfriend/girlfriend relationships prematurely. The various families at church have welcomed the teenagers into their homes, many times with very little planning, because these are the kinds of friends we wish to encourage our children to associate with.
One of the things that Sandy and I have done is to open our homes to teenage Bible studies. While I was living in Bowling Green, I visited the Bible studies conducted in the homes of Joel Plunkett and J.R. Bronger who both were working in the Nashville, Tennessee area. I was deeply impressed with the impact for good these times created for the young people. When I moved to Danville, there were relatively few teenagers in the local congregation. To provide opportunities for our children to associate with other young people, we opened our home once a month to a Bible study. Of course, that meant that the heaviest burden of the work fell on my wife, Sandy. She c leaned the house, moved the furniture around, tolerated the spills on the carpet, and other things associated with having a house full of young people. Many times she would complain all the time she was getting ready for having them over. But, I remember very few times that we were not spiritually revived by the experience. We usually had 30-40 teenagers in our home from 7 to 11 p.m. on one Saturday night a month. On some occasions we have had over 60. Some-times we had to move all of the chairs out of the room and sit on the floor to have our Bible study. These inconveniences were minor in view of the good impact these Bible studies have had on our lives.
The order for the Bible study was to sing for about one hour and invite someone to speak to the group for 20-35 minutes. Sometimes we would use local preachers who would volunteer to come, at other times one of the young men would speak for us, and when all else failed, I was drafted. Following this, we took a break for refreshments, provided by the young people (the boys brought drinks, the girls brought snacks; if they didn't bring it, they didn't eat it). Then, they had a couple of hours to visit with one another. Many times while Sandy and I were visiting in the dining room with adults who brought their children, the children in the family room started singing again. They sang because they wanted to and liked it. The idea that young people must be kept in church by trips to amusement parks, entertaining speakers, and other claptrap is an insult to our young folks. Many of them have deeper spiritual commitments than do their parents. Sandy and I have been encouraged by the parents around Indianapolis who thanked us for opening our home to the young people.
3. Most of us have taught our children to date Christians. We have tried to encourage our children to date and marry someone who is committed to the Lord. Sometimes Sandy and I made a distinction between dating someone who has been baptized and dating someone who is committed to the Lord. Some who have been baptized have no interest in serving the Lord, so we have tried to encourage our children to look deeper than just determining whether or not someone had been baptized when choosing whom to date. I do not remember any of Danville's teenagers bringing a boyfriend or girlfriend who was an embarrassment to them. They have been attracted to and attract others who are trying to live right.
4. The congregation has given them opportunities to participate in the public worship. Our teenage boys who lead singing are part of the regular rotation of song leaders. All of the young men take part in Scripture reading, prayer, offering the invitation on Wednesday evening, and serving at the Lord's table. They have been given more frequent opportunities to participate because we are a relatively small congregation (80-90). About twice a year, we have a Sunday service in which everything is conducted by the young people: two of them will speak at each service, they will lead singing, make announcements, offer prayer, and serve at the Lord's table; the young ladies are responsible for preparing the communion. We have been encouraged by seeing their growth spiritually and challenged by the lessons they delivered.
The Danville church is not perfect; we have many weaknesses to overcome and we who are parents of these teenage children are most aware of our own weaknesses (our teenagers help us to see ourselves in a different light through mimicking us parents). However, this congregation has been truly blessed to have a group of teenagers who have brightened our worship and our homes. I want to express my appreciation to each of them personally: Rex and Beth Guyer, Bryan and Matt Miller, Megan Robbins, Jason and Derrick Hosfield, Jennifer Stotts, and Corey Willis. Four of them are graduating this year (Rex Guyer, Bryan Miller, Jason Hosfield, and Corey Willis). Two have already committed themselves to go to Florida College (Jason and Corey). May God bless each of you and thanks for the encouragement you have been to my life.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 7 p. 2