A couple of weekends ago, my daughter Hannah and I were blessed to get to be part of a girls’ retreat in Tennessee. It was jam packed with devotionals, study sessions, questions and answer sessions, games, a scavenger hunt and even some hula-hooping. There were lots of cool t-shirts and goody bags. And there was a little sleeping.
I sometimes become discouraged when speaking to groups of teens. It’s often hard to get them to interact in a class situation. Sometimes they even appear bored, or worse, agitated by the discussion of Biblical themes. Not so with this group.
The theme of the retreat was “Pure on Purpose.” Difficult, but practical topics like dress, language, appropriate touching between boyfriends and girlfriends, dancing, and marriage/divorce/remarriage were among the things we discussed. The tone was serious and respectful. And the questions came and they came and then they came some more. Honest faces, searching for real truth from the Bible and hearts that were genuinely enthusiastic about making decisions now that will give them security in God-approved marriages later were the norm in that 48-hour seminar. I left with an overdue optimism, my soul restored.
Looking back, I largely credit one particular lady, for the tenor of that retreat. There was this one group of about seven girls in attendance. It was their Bible class teacher who brought them to the retreat. They obviously had a great deal of respect for her and it showed in the way they treated her and in the way they talked about their Bible class with other girls during our free times. This one woman had somehow, in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation” gotten hold of the hearts of these girls and nurtured a strong bond between them and, most importantly, between them and the Lord. She had turned them into leaders and the other girls in attendance definitely looked to these seven girls as the role models at this retreat. In this case, the cool girls were the spiritually-focused girls.
Asking questions about their class, I came up with my best guess about the reason for the maturity and pliability. It was that the teacher of this little Bible class for girls expected big things of them. They began telling me about the assignments for the Bible class; how they divided up the difficult topics like homosexuality, modesty, fornication, drug abuse, dancing and obsessive behaviors. Each girl was assigned a topic to research, from the Good Book and from external sources. She was to prepare a lesson to present to the class complete with a handout for each girl. The use of other visual aids like power point was optional, but it seemed that most of them prepared a power point. Each of these teen girls had already effectively conducted a seminar on her assigned topic. Look out ladies. You will be hearing from these girls. They will write. They will speak. They will influence women for the cause. And the facilitator for all of the forthcoming good is a Bible class teacher who saw potential and took on the responsibility of developing it.
When you talk with her, this teacher will tell you that these girls are exceptional; that she is the one who has been blessed by the privilege of teaching them. She is right. They are exceptional. But exceptional kids become the exceptions in a world of mediocrity-at-best, when someone expects more. While schools are dumbing down the programs in the ever elusive quest to build self-esteem—while government is writing checks for moms who continue to have babies out of wedlock—while lawyers are facilitating indolence in a society of people looking for the easy way out—and while many teen Bible classes are little more than “feel-good” story-telling times that require no preparation or participation—here is proof, once again, that raising the bar makes kids jump higher. It makes them happier. It makes them excited and purposeful about Christianity. Most importantly, it makes them heaven-bound. Teens want to be challenged!
At least one of the girls in this group is the daughter of an atheistic college professor. Did you get that? This girl faces persecution and discouragement at home on a daily basis. Her parents are not at all happy about this “Christianity thing.” But she is thriving on the support system available in the body of Christ and, more particularly, in this class. She will let you know quickly that her decision is a lifetime commitment with very practical ramifications and that looking back is not an option.
One teacher. One committed heart. Seven precious souls looking to her and finding the motivation to excel for Christ. Then fifty people in a room overlooking a lake in middle Tennessee looking to these seven girls. While we looked, we grew a little stronger, a little more determined to live in purity, and a little more appreciative of the life-changing power of the gospel. While we looked, our souls were restored.