Guidance in Children’s Work
A never increasing plea heard from Assemblies and Churches is “How can we keep our Teenagers interested in things spiritual?” Many gatherings of the Lord’s people find that upon reaching a certain age, their young people show a distinct disinterest in the life of the local assembly and in some instances endeavour to break with the fellowship. How can this problem be overcome? Is it possible in this day and age to not only hold them but even to attract new young people? There is no master formula that will give guaranteed results, but we would like to bring to your attention, briefly, how one large Eastern Assembly has successfully coped with this problem.
Bethany Chapel, Yonkers, N.Y., has long been known as the assembly with a heart for Youth. Visitors are amazed at the large percentage of young people present at all meetings. Young People are trained and encouraged to exercise their God-given and varied talents at various meetings. A query of one of the Adult Youth Directors brought forth the following: “Undertaking a work with youth is certainly not an easy task. There are times when your Christian patience will be taxed to the limit, and yet it is a most satisfying and rewarding work. Of course, not everyone is suited to lead Young People, and some very necessary and essential prerequisites are needed to create a healthy, spiritual state in a youth group. One feels that the prime need for an adult blessed with leadership, is a sincere love for youth. You will manifest it in your dealings with them and they will know instinctively whether it’s real or not. To desire to see them won to Christ and grow in grace and knowledge of spiritual values, is another required condition to leadership. The Youth Director must also have a knowledge of the Word and some measure of ability to lead and teach others. Patience and understanding of the young mind is needed for youth does not reason or think as an adult. We can’t measure youth by the yardstick of our own age. When minds and hearts are co-ordinated between the leader and youth, both will know it. All will know that you as the leader under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, are the one who will make the decisions that will benefit your group most.
Too few adults realize that many young people are capable and do make their mark in life during teenage. Hitler recognized the value of young people, so did Lenin, and modern dictators like Castro. Within youth lies great potential to be exploited either for good or for evil. The devil recognizes this and will take full advantage of it if we give him half a chance. But God also recognizes it! In fact, if we will place ourselves completely at His disposal and allow Him to guide and develop this potential, our lives can be a tremendous influence for good.
Several years ago, the elder brethren of Bethany Chapel concluded that God’s testimony in Yonkers, New York, area could only thrive and continue by training and encouraging the young people to show Christian leadership and love for Christ through self action. Under the guidance of brother Donald R. Parker, young men of the Assembly developed their God-given gifts that were dormant. Intensive and thorough Bible studies were undertaken; platform manners, song leading and leading in prayer, are a few of the subjects that were taught by well-qualified individuals.
This devotion to leadership training richly paid off, for today. Bethany Chapel has an excellent group of young men leading in all services. They in turn, are training the young folk in their various youth groups. A brief look at the various groups may be an aid and a stimulus to others to set up similar groups. We would point out that the surrounding chapel population area is by actual physical census, 90 to 95% of other than the Protestant Faith. Thus, under a formidable handicap, but with a vision to see boys and girls won to the Lord Jesus Christ, there was organized a Friday Night Young Club, entitled “The Grenadiers.”
From the very start, many young people came with their friends. Initially, each program varied considerably from week to week in order to ascertain what format would be best for the group as a whole. Through the whole hearted co-operation of 35 adults, who served as teachers, ten different Craft classes were set up and the children chose the type of class they wished to enter. With the viewpoint that the best is none too good for the Lord’s work, each feature of Grenadiers offers only the finest obtainable. The Lord has blessed Bethany Chapel with ten (10) first rate children’s speakers. Others are able Quiz leaders and song-leaders. Each has gladly contributed his talents to the work among the boys and girls so that it would be hard to determine what feature of the 11/2 hour program appeals most. A minimum age of eight years was set from the outset for acceptance into the Grenadiers, as handling of youngsters below this age presented too many problems. Each year has found the work growing both numerically and spiritually. An average of 32 boys and girls find the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour each season. Until a recent building expansion was undertaken, room was at a premium and attendance had to be limited.
The Grenadiers season is always brought to a conclusion in early May with an outdoor picnic. A variety of games, mouthwatering food and a message from God’s Word, ably presented by one of the youth leaders, entice all to attend.
An outgrowth of the Grenadiers was Teen-a-Diers, those in the 13 to 18 age group, who “graduated” from the younger organization. Under the leadership of one of the men who had a heart for the spiritual needs of these older youths, this new group was founded, assisted by three brethren. Their programs vary also from time to time. To mention just a few of their activities: Homoletics; hymn and chorus analization; Emmaus Bible School courses; a session entitled “Youth wants to Know” has proved particularly popular. Everyone freely participates in talking about the current problems encountered by young people today in relation to Chrstian living. Thought-provoking questions are interjected by the leaders during the rare moments of silence.
The many extra curricular activities are a source of encouragement and delight to the Teen-a-Diers. A Saturday might find them attending a Youth rally anywhere from the immediate New York Metropolitan area to as far afield as Boston or Chicago. How blessed it is to have leaders who are willing to give unstinted help and encouragement to Teenagers!