A Tool for Growing Leaders

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Last weekend, Glenn and I had the opportunity to participate, yet again, in one of the most encouraging events of our annual travels. This is our 18th year to attend the Lads to Leaders convention. There are now conventions in a half dozen locations around the US, with about 18,000 Christians participating. We were in Nashville, TN with about 100 of our West Huntsville members accompanying us.

Glenn got to watch our little pre-school boys lead singing in a very comfortable and encouraging environment. These tiny boys dressed in their Sunday best read from God’s Word in a reverent, but reassuring room full of adults. Two of our preschoolers had memorized the 100th Psalm to use as their Bible reading, since they are not old enough yet to read.

I heard my nephew Enoch, who is eight, present a strongly Biblical message, making an analogy about the WWII honor flight that his granddad enjoyed and the way we become a part of the honored crew who will take flight with Christ in the clouds one day. I heard Job talk about the folly of believing in organic evolution from the simple, yet profound viewpoint of a seven year old. I watched teenagers debate the Biblical definition of family and the sinfulness of homosexuality. I literally watched them grow in their faith in that experience. 

I heard our young girls present strongly Biblical speeches about priorities and victorious living in Christ. I heard God’s plan of salvation come from the mouths of these young people over and again. I heard moral teaching that sometimes we adults shrink from teaching because of its unpopularity. I saw Bible bowl teams get very excited about knowing the book of Hebrews inside and out. I saw mentally handicapped children and adults being encouraged and embraced by peers for their efforts for Him. I just saw so many very encouraging things.

But I see a lot of what goes into the foundation of this program. Since Glenn is serving on its Board of Directors, I see the painstaking efforts of faithful men to insure the soundness of every detail of every event. I see them collectively traveling thousands of miles throughout the year to sit down together and make sure this tool of tremendous proportions is kept Biblically, ethically, and financially sound and accountable to God and man. I hear about those meetings and those struggles to involve and influence as many young people as they can from as many congregations as possible in faithful doctrine, practice and leadership skills and yet never sacrifice the program’s faithful adherence to the Scriptures. I know that they are determined to keep the worship that occurs on Sunday morning of the event precisely what was prescribed 200 years ago for the believers in the first century. Sometimes there are those who are critical of their decisions; perhaps a decision to exclude all males from any room in which young ladies will be leading singing, debating or speaking; perhaps a decision to eliminate clapping from the worship assembly; perhaps a public statement about modest dress required at the convention. But I, for one, am thankful that there is a spirit of accountability for the details of the program and a sense of thorough responsibility to God for its goals and the methods of achieving them. I am thankful for the sacrifices of these men and, in fact, all of the volunteers that make the program accessible to families as they look for instruments to put faith in their children.

Lads is a lot of fun. It was fun to teach our children when they were small that winning a Bible Bowl competition was just a way to get closer to the real prize. Giving an award winning speech was just a way to hone skills for the eternal work of teaching and/or preaching His Word to those who need a Savior. Achieving the Good Samaritan award was just practice for living our whole lives seeking the good of others and living as servants. Being a centurion of Scripture was putting 100 verses in our hearts so that their truths would be reflected in our decisions and in our victories over the devil.

I know that, sadly, not all of the young participants will be faithful as adults. It takes a lot more than a Lads to Leaders/Leaderettes program to make faithful Christian adults. Don’t count on a yearly convention to put Christ at the center of your childrens’ thought processes and thus, eventually their adult lives…But, as the parents of two adult children, Glenn and I are most thankful for the program’s profound impact on Caleb and Hannah. They both speak to large groups on many occasions throughout each year on behalf of the One who is the Giver of all good gifts. We think this kind of teaching is within their comfort zones largely because of very early training in this program.  Lads has been a good gift; a tremendous aid as they developed the talents that they now use in hopes of helping people toward heaven. We pray that they will always recognize the ultimate source of this and all good gifts and glorify Him in every choice and circumstance.

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