Remember those long, lazy summer days spent lying on the beach, slurping a root-beer float, or hanging out at the drive-in movie? What about all those hours spent in the car on the way to grandma's house? Or the time you packed your bags and headed off to summer camp?
More than nine million American kids will go to camp this summer. But a lot more than that won't. This summer millions of kids will stay home while their parents work. Some will watch soap operas, some will sleep all day, others may get a part-time job . . . but countless young people will have time on their hands which they don't know how to occupy.
Possibly, summer is here and your kids are still at home. They didn't pack up their gear and head to the Rocky Mountains for a river rafting camp or fly off to Europe on a mission trip. Maybe they didn't get their paperwork in on time or they simply didn't have the resources to support a special summer endeavor. As June turns into July and the novelty of couch potatoism wears off, you may begin to hear complaints like, "Mom, I'm bored," emanating from your kids' pouting lips. What can they do to fill all those summer hours with something meaningful and memorable?
To most young people, summer means two things: No more school and lots of fun. But even that prescription doesn't fill the empty spaces when everybody else is out of town. However, for Christian parents looking for avenues to reach young people with the Gospel, summertime limbo may be just the thing you've been waiting for. By simply opening your home to teenagers, you can seize the perfect opportunity to share Christ with them.
Here are three essential ingredients in the recipe for hosting a successful back yard Bible club:
Make it fun.
Trips to ball games, museums, or amusement parks serve as an effective way for parents to break the ice and get to know teens on a personal level. By demonstrating your willingness to engage in activities young people enjoy, you can build trust in your parent-teenager relationship.
After you've built a foundation for a stable relationship with your group of young people, invite them to your home. "We want a place to relax, hang out, play games, eat food and a time of openly discussing issues and topics of our day," says a homebound teenage girl.
You can't go to the ballpark everyday and Yankee Stadium isn't exactly conducive to Bible study, but the environment in your home should be no less enjoyable and relaxing than an adventurous outing.
Make it meaningful.
While a back yard Bible club should be lively and entertaining, don't substitute insignificant ventures for substantial interaction with your guests. Today's consumer-savvy teens see right through cheerfully packaged Bible pitches. Young people are hungry for authenticity and meaning in life.
Bible studies, service projects, weekend events like visits to soup kitchens and nursing homes are great ways to put the Gospel into action and demonstrate the Christian life to others.
Make it relative.
"Society and educators have learned how important it is to teach on the kids' level and they've learned that kids can't simply get spoon-fed; they've got to get involved in the learning process. Active things and then quiet things. You take the natural curiosity of the child and you make a spiritual application to it," says youth leader Sondra Saunders.
Derwood Bible Church in Maryland boasts an exceptional turnout at "The Main Event," a Saturday night program designed by high school students. Other churches are following suit with teen-friendly summer programs like "Get Hooked on Jesus," "StarQuest: A Galactic Good News Adventure," "Bible Boot Camp," and "Cruisin' With Christ."
Allowing your teens to determine the topics you will discuss or what books of the Bible to study will actually take some of the pressure off you. By simply offering your home as a gathering place and serving as a coach or guidance counselor, you can give them the freedom they need to study the Bible in a way that is meaningful to their lives. When they ask questions you will have ample opportunities to share your faith with them.
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness," (1 Tim. 4:12a) Paul advised Timothy. If your teens or their friends are home this summer, pray about whether the Lord would have you respond to their needs by opening your home for a back yard Bible club. You might learn a lot more then they do from the experience.
- Tonya Stoneman, staff writer
Copyright © 1997 January IN TOUCH magazine
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