This past week I was reminded on two separate occasions of the importance of investing resources into the lives of the children and teens of our church. The first was when I received a picture of Janelle Rosenbarger, a senior at Benton Central High School who runs on the cross country team there. She and one of her friends frequently pray together at cross country meets, and ask girls from other teams to join them. This picture (shown above) shows a large group of student-athletes from Benton Central, Seeger, and Central Catholic circled up and praying.
The second reminder came on the front page of this Sunday’s Journal and Courier in an article entitled Faith: On the Field and Off.
The subtitle was a marvelous summary of Faith Christian School’s approach to athletics, “IHSAA membership a big step, but path hasn’t changed.” Several Faith students were quoted in the article including Maggie Wetzel who said, “I think athletics is another way to show people how we are striving to be more like Christ, and it is also a way to show people that we’re not hiding ourselves away in this little Christian school.” Exactly. There are several lessons that come from rejoicing in young people like this who are willing to take such vocal stands for Jesus in our community.
Do not underestimate what teens are willing to do for God.
Sometimes I wonder if churches believe today’s teens are not willing to make serious commitments to Christ. That wrong belief could lead to an approach to youth ministry that is focused on entertainment and shallow doses of biblical truth. These illustrations would suggest that some of today’s teens are ready to embrace a godly lifestyle and speak openly for Him. Another Faith student, John Spykman, was quoted in Sunday’s paper as saying; “The education we receive is Christ-centered, and all the teachers care, which I know is also prevalent in public schools. Here we have teachers who would say, ‘Hey, how’s it going? What’s going on in your life? How’s your family?’ You develop closer relationships because of the class size and the teachers. We all share that we’re in the common bond of Christ.”
Encourage parents, teachers and coaches as they work with today’s youth.
Young people like Janelle, Maggie, and John do not happen automatically. God uses parents and other faithful, sacrificial adults to teach and model truth. We should regularly pray for their efforts and encourage them in every way we can. Faith Church and Christian School has hundreds and hundreds of adults who are directly working with young people in a mission centered fashion. One example is Tom Bennett, Faith’s Athletic Director. He was quoted in the paper as saying, “The agenda I just went through with my fall coaches, we hardly talked about (winning), because I know our coaches understand how to have on-field, on-court success. The biggest thing I’ve talked to our coaches about is, do you have a pro-active spiritual plan?” Adults like that are a gift from the Lord.
Be thankful for secular entities that are open to promoting godliness in teens.
I am thankful for public schools that will allow students to pray openly with one another. We should applaud their openness and tolerance of religious activity on the part of their students. We should be equally thankful for local media outlets who would publish an article like the one on Sunday’s front page. The writer, Nathan Baird, carefully listened to our students and staff and told the story honestly and forthrightly. In the process, Christ was exalted by a group of teens willing to use the platform of sports to make a difference.
Junior Mariel Netherton’s quote was used to conclude the article. She said, “We want to win. We want to be competitive. We want to have good programs and stuff. But it’s only for this life. From our perspective, we have eternity in mind, so that takes precedence. We want to be competitive; we want to honor God in that way, to try our hardest. But we also want to be a witness, because that’s what really counts. That’s what really matters in the end.”
Can you believe it? Teenagers thinking about life with “eternity in mind.” There’s something worth investing in.