Not About Trophies

IMG_1658What if I could tell you about a tool that has proven to be a key factor in keeping young adults faithful to the church after they leave home, go to college and launch families and careers? I think you should be interested.

When our son, Caleb, was nine years old, we attended our first Lads to Leaders convention. We knew little about the program and less about the convention, but we arrived at the Opryland hotel in Nashville, Tennessee about twenty minutes prior to the time Caleb was scheduled to participate in Oral Bible Reading, one of many non-competitive programs offered to young children. We had no clue how large the hotel was (and this was in the pre-Delta years), how complicated it would be to navigate the parking. gardens, hallways, and ballrooms of this place and how much would eventually be involved in what was to become, from this small beginning, a relatively large part of our lives.

Because, you see, we did not fully know, at the time, how large was the job—the job of keeping our children engaged and involved in the work of the Lord, while keeping their middle school and high school and college “garments” unspotted from the world. We did not fully appreciate how complicated it would be to navigate the corridors of their childhood and adolescent years while keeping their direction heavenward. We surely had no idea about how much would be involved, when all has been said and done, in raising kids for the Lord.

We had already learned, though, that no program, no eldership, no youth minister or youth group could have even a fraction of the influence that we, as parents could wield in the lives of Caleb and Hannah. Lads to Leaders cannot take children to heaven. Only parents, by the grace of God, get to influence children by direct imprint. They are primary shapers. No other person or program is even a close second.

Having said all of that, though, I need to tell you this. A study has shown that about 85% of children who are heavily involved in Lads to Leaders for a period of ten years while growing up, have remained faithful to the church into adulthood. While I did not conduct this survey and I do not know all about how the data was collected, I know about my own personal data. Both of my children were very heavily involved in the program for more than ten years. During those years we memorized hundreds of verses as a family as we focused on the annual goal of the Centurion of Scripture program. We learned to look for opportunities to serve as we seriously worked to be “Good Samaritans.”  Our children learned how to write and deliver scripture-filled speeches to appropriate groups and they did it, not only at convention, but in various venues all through the year. They are still speaking regularly.They tried their hands at various art projects that lend themselves to teaching children or benevolence or illustrating spiritual concepts. They documented progress in scrapbooks that we will always treasure. They learned to use mass media venues to teach the Word and they immersed themselves in study in preparation for Bible Bowl competitions. They studied topically for topical Bible tests (The Pearls Project) and our daughter went to read the Word regularly to an elderly lady who lived on our street. They learned to direct a cappella songs and, in all of this, they learned about the role of women in worship and how important it is that women remain silent in worship settings, submitting to the authority of men.

Peripheral blessings of the Lads to Leaders program have been many as the years have gone by. We were blessed to be able to produce four editions of  Hannah’s Hundred; Bible verses set to a-cappella music to help kids (and adults) memorize the Word (you can find them here). Our children were invited to speak for lots of different groups, including political and pro-life organizations as well as churches and youth groups.Both of our kids put together new programs for Lads to Leaders and presented them to the board of directors for incorporation nationally. They had the opportunity to write study books for teens in conjunction with these programs. Glenn and I have been blessed to develop the Keepers and Providers programs for Lads and watch our congregation’s children be excited to learn the skills that make homes better for Him. These are opportunities and blessings that came our way through our involvement with Lads to Leaders. Other families have been blessed in other ways.

The Lads to Leaders  program is not magic. It cannot come into your church and “rescue” the kids who are spiritually malnourished at the hands of parents who are worldly and unconcerned about the future of the church or the salvation of their families. But, for those who are seeking first the kingdom, it can be a great tool for making Matthew 6:33 very practical in the family. It IS what you make it at home.

Some have postulated that kids who grow up in Lads are only meeting the challenges and doing the work for the sake of applause and trophies. However, statistics are proving that trophies and conventions are merely the motivational tools in early years that keep kids growing, training and tasting the satisfaction that comes from leading in service to the Lord. I personally know scores of kids who have gone through the program and emerged with skills that they use daily as they serve our Master with humble hearts. Once again, the focus and attitudes with which kids emerge depends almost entirely on the focus and attitudes of  parents. That’s just the way the spiritual economy works. We get out of our kids what we, as parents, put into them. Lads just makes the organization, goal-setting and keeping on track a lot easier for parents who already have the dedication required to raise truly successful children. (The definition for true success is “living your life and going to heaven.”)

On that day 22 years ago, when we first walked into that room full of third-graders reading the Bible in front of that friendly audience, we had no clue how large the footprint of Lads would be on our family dynamic. But we are glad for that day.

For more information about how your congregation or your family can get involved, contact ben@lads2eaders.com. You can visit their website at www.lads2leaders.com.

One More Day!

home+page+collage+2Deadline for registration extended!

It’s not often that I advertise for any organization other than the church of our Lord, but Lads to Leaders, an organized tool to help our young people grow into leaders for that church is where I make an exception for the exceptional.

I do not know whether or not my own kids would be teaching and preaching and working in the kingdom had it not been for Lads to Leaders. I believe they would. I would like to hope that the years of home training and of just doing the Lord’s work in our family as they were growing up would have impacted their decisions to work as adults in a positive way, even without the tool that LADS is. But I do know this: There are some things that they are NOT nervous today about doing that would be very difficult without the regimented training we did in preparation for LADS conventions. There are some areas of leadership that come naturally for them today as a result of “learning the ropes” in LADS that did not come as naturally for their parents who grew up without the LADS benefit. There are about 5000 Bible verses that we collectively learned that we would likely have not been organized enough to master without the program that kept us on track. I know we would have done whatever we knew to keep our kids faithful, but we are glad that Lads was a part of “what we knew” at the time Caleb and Hannah were growing up. The program just helped us set goals and achieve them.

Let me clearly say that I know we were not perfect parents. I also know that, even now, to our deepest sorrow, our children could leave the faith. But, if they do, I believe it will be in spite of the “edge” that our family’s participation in Lads gave them. We “tripped” upon Lads when Caleb was eight years old and we moved to Jasper, Alabama where they were beginning a Lads program at the Sixth Avenue church. From that point on, no matter where we were living, we were very intentional about being sure we started a program or joined in an already existing one. It was always worth the effort.

If you think your congregation might be able to send a delegation this year to check out the benefits, call the Lads office today. If you want to go as an individual family, there’s still time if you call today. In fact, your children can still participate in events this year, if you call today. The best part about going this year, even if you just observe, is this: Your kids will leave the convention THIS year ALL excited about the events they plan to do throughout the NEXT year for His glory in the kingdom. That’s worth the effort of a last minute plan! Go here for the information you need: www.lads2leaders.com. You could be glad about this last minute decision for a very long time.

Sister to Sister: Unabashedly Domestically Inclined

apronmatchingThe Biblical Term

It’s the word that’s translated “keepers at home” or “workers at home” in Titus 2:4. It’s “oikouros”. It means “a stayer at home, i.e. domestically inclined (a “good housekeeper”):–keeper at home.” It’s polarizing in our feminist culture. It’s often explosive even in Bible classes. But whatever it is, it is the Spirit’s label for the calling that’s part of a larger picture of women who are following sound doctrine (vs. 1) and who are living so as to discourage blasphemy of that Spirit (vs. 5). Whatever “oikouros” is, it’s in an important list and, if we are God’s women, we must be able to say that it describes our lives. It is almost too much to say aloud among women today, but God’s women must be “stayers at home, domestically inclined, keepers at home.” It is not ours to manipulate the term. It is ours to make sure we comply.

The New Lads to Leaders Program

The Lads to Leaders program is a great tool for putting leadership skills in our young people. I have long been a proponent and my confidence in the program has grown as our own children identified and developed the gifts that would make them most useful as adults in the body. You can read a Lads alumnus’ short synopsis of the program’s value at http://www.calebcolley.com/lads-leaders-spiritual-growth/.

While I would be hesitant to ever criticize a program that has so richly blessed our own family and motivated godly leadership in literally thousands of young people, I’ve always thought there has been a missing component in the lineup of events and categories of participation…

…Until now. The Lads to Leaders schedule of events and rule book now includes a program called Keepers–short for Keepers at Home. Based on the admonition of Titus 2:3-5 for older women to teach younger women in the body to be “keepers at home”, the program involves our young girls learning to cook, sew, iron, administer first aid, clean house, and much more. It focuses on skills that our girls will no longer learn in a home economics class, but things, nonetheless, that are most important to a home’s economy. Best of all, it’s based on the Titus 2 model. This hands-on mentoring by godly older women will foster friendships that will benefit both those who are teaching the skills and those being mentored. It’s a win/win.

I wish this portion of the program had been a part of my daughter’s Lads to Leaders experience. It would have reinforced much of what I was attempting to teach her at home. I am glad it is available for many of your daughters and for the grand-daughters (yes, I am trusting!) who will one day bake cookies in my kitchen! I can get pretty excited just thinking about that! I am unabashedly thankful to be a keeper at home.
You can read about the program at http://www.lads-to-leaders.org/Keepers%20guidelines.pdf.

We started our Keepers program last Wednesday in a room full of girls who have beautiful hearts for Him. May the Word never be blasphemed as we work to put it into the hearts of our kids. May the homes our daughters one day keep be safe havens for husbands and children who, if trends continue, will desperately need refuge from a society that is ever more intolerant of Christianity.

Blessings of Keeping

Keeping scrapbooks and photos and memories,
Keeping late hours as seamstress and maid,
Keeping up with appointments, schoolwork and chores,
Keeping guard when someone is afraid.

Keeping food in the pantry and gas in the car,
Keeping warranties, coupons, receipts,
Keeping bouquets of dandelions, locks of blonde hair,
Keeping score when the children compete.

Keeping tabs on where everyone’s going,
Being sure that my cell phone is near.
Keeping sleeping bags stashed in my closet
For those friends who always end up here.

But mostly just keeping on keeping on,
For life’s about sowing and reaping,
When one day my home finds a place at his throne
I’ll praise him for blessings of keeping.

CCSig

A Great Event and How to Spot a Sanctified Person – Part 3

Caleb with James WatkinsGreat events have consequences that reach a future generation. The greatest events have consequences that reach into eternity. Our family and many other families in the United States part of the kingdom of Christ just completed such an event. This weekend, thousands of children participated in scores of events that extracted their talents and skills for development for God’s glory. It is certainly possible for parents to be diligently and successfully developing leadership skills for the furtherance of the gospel without the Lads program. After all, it’s been done for thousands of years. But I am so very thankful for this tool. Our family has reaped rich rewards from this sound and effective program. Caleb and Hannah will quickly tell you that the Lads to Leaders program pushed them to be all they could be as children, teens and, now, adults in His service. Glenn and I really do believe they are more effective soul winners, writers, and workers for Him as a result of Lads. Our family owes a debt of gratitude to those who developed and maintain this massive instrument for the cause.
WH Lads

This weekend Christians witnessed a young man from a home where the parents are neglectful and ungodly give a speech that showed his dedication to the cause. They watched him lead a song with zeal. No blood family members were there to watch him, but we were there–his family in the Lord. Christians made sure he had the clothes he needed. Christians made sure he had the money he needed for food. Christians transported him and made sure he had a nice place to sleep. Christians coached him and rehearsed with him. But, to tell the truth, I think the tool, Lads to Leaders, was a large catalyst for his growth and development this weekend. The tool is what gives us deadlines and organization in so many good works with young people. This young man just may grow up to be a faithful and productive member of the Lord’s body. He may grow up to lead others to the kingdom. He may grow up to preach the gospel! One day he could even lead his parents to the Lord.

Lads

I watched another young man who has very little support in his home congregation just blossom this weekend in his very first Lads experience. People in his home church had discouraged his good efforts. They had complained when he came to the gospel meeting in his ball uniform. This young man came to Lads with a group of folks in his area. He gave an excellent speech without a single note. He led his song with near perfect pitch, tempo and volume. He went home a more confident servant. He will be a blessing wherever he goes.

I could continue. But may I just encourage you to investigate the Lads to Leaders program if you do not participate? It’s just one of those greatest events…the events that outreach, outrun and far out-reward life on this earth!

Lads to Leaders

From Jennifer Webster: First Time Lads Mom. She’s one of many who’ve made similar comments on that first “life altering” Lads trip.

We worshipped with several thousand other Christians this morning. We are now making our way back through rainy Nashville and reflecting on Lads as we go. Two words for Lads to Leaders concerning our children: life altering! After begging to skip speech and song leading, Parker and Emma participated in both. Parker won 1st place in speech and 2nd place in song leading. Emma won 2nd place in speech. I am firmly convinced that if it weren’t for Lads neither of them would have realized and developed these vital skills. It is a program like no other. Thanks be to God for this program and the encouragement it gives young people and the leaders it is helping to develop for the church.

lads

How to Spot a Sanctified Person–Part Three

16.  A sanctified person is thoroughly righteous (Dan. 6:4). Righteousness is not choosing to do right in certain areas of life. Righteousness is pervasive. It eats us up as the people of God. It affects every decision and activity. We acknowledge him in all our ways. He is life’s path director. He is the master planner of you and me (Proverbs 3:3-6).

17.  Even a sanctified person’s enemies know about her God (6:5). God’s just so obvious in that person’s life that He cannot be overlooked, even by those who may hate the sanctified person. In fact, enemies may use a sanctified person’s devotion to get her in trouble. That’s a pretty solid sanctification sign!

18.  Sanctified people do not change religious practices when devotion brings danger (6:10). Holy people know where they are going when this short life is over. So the most important practices, those of devotion, remain constant even when they may cause conflict with the world.

19.  Sanctified people often endear themselves to authorities (6:14). That’s because they are respectful. A holy person has a great work ethic.

20.  Sanctified people humbly confess their sins (9:20). Sanctified people are holy, but not sinless. They recognize their need for mercy and are penitent. They are filled with godly sorrow when confronted with sin in their lives.

21.  Sanctified people set their hearts to understand the things of God (10:12). Do you know someone who is constantly in the Word? Maybe this person studies the Bible topically, using concordances and lexicons. Maybe you know someone who asks questions in Bible class and studies ahead for Bible discussions. You may know a sanctified person!

22.  Sanctified people discipline themselves. I know Christians who are very quick to recognize their own spiritual ineptitudes and are working like crazy to correct them. I know women, for instance, who have learned to keep their mouths shut in situations where gossip or angry words may be a temptation. I know women who discipline themselves to get into the Word daily before their young children get out of bed. (For some, this is very early!) I know women who plan hospitality like most women plan a work week. I know women who are disciplined in their Bible time each day with their children . I am blessed to know some sanctified women who are self-controlled and militant in the service of the Most Holy God!

How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone?

This weekend we celebrated a family tradition we’ve prioritized for the past twenty years. It’s a huge gathering of Christians in Nashville’s Opryland Hotel called Lads to Leaders. Lads to Leaders is a wonderful tool used by families and congregations of God’s people to deepen commitment to God and sharpen skills of service. It’s a way to help cement goals of faith in our kids. It can never replace faith-filled families, but, for us, it was an invaluable resource. We worked on projects for Lads all throughout the year and then we made the trek to Nashville on Easter weekend each year for the encouragement of national enthusiasm about spiritual things. I’m convinced that this yearly work-a-thon contributed substantially to the service that, by His grace, is now a natural part of Caleb’s and Hannah’s adult lives

This year’s convention theme was “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes.” I love the dissection of that phrase. We’ll means were unified at the job as His people. Work means that, while we recognize we cannot earn salvation, we also recognize we cannot have it without compliance with commands and effort on our parts. Till says we’re in it for the long haul. Jesus is the center of activity. Finally, comes is representative of the eternal goal of work in the kingdom. It’s the next miracle workers await.

I heard more than a dozen speeches about that phrase. One speaker quoted a well-known atheist, Jillette Penn, and the quote is haunting me a bit:

“If you really believe in God, how much do you have to hate someone to not to tell them about the love of God.  How much do you have to hate someone to not tell them that one day they will live in either heaven or hell.”
From the mouth of an unbeliever, the words are pretty potent–shaming and motivating this believer to strive harder, watch more soberly, reflect Him more glaringly and do what anyone who really believes the Book and loves others cannot be deterred from doing. I believe. I love. I will speak.

A Tool for Growing Leaders

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.