Being a preacher’s kid, I was a regular attendee at church and Sunday school, as well as a forced attendee to some church activities other children were not subjected to. I’m not saying that was bad, it’s just how it was.
Each of us, at some point in our lives, made the decision to follow Christ, or not.
Now, before you turn away thinking I’m about to start proselytizing … fear not!!
My dad was a Lutheran preacher. The God I grew up with was a loving God, not a damning god (lower case purposely).
There were two major events in my teenage years, which helped shaped my relationship with God. One was an All Lutheran Youth Gathering in New Orleans, at which 25,000 kids from across the United States met in the newly constructed Superdome. The Hyatt Regency across the street was only about half completed, but was open for that event.
The other was going to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp in Colorado. It was a long bus ride from Baytown, but once we arrived, it was cool (literally and figuratively). I still have the Bible I received some 45 years ago, autographed by famous athletes who spoke to all us teenage athletes that week.
The point I’m making is there are events – good and bad - that change one’s life when it comes to his or her personal relationship with God.
Those two major events happened when I was in high school.
When I left home for college my relationship with God, sometimes forced upon me at home, was free to flourish, or fail.
I’d love to tell you that my church attendance in college equaled that of my attendance while living at home – but I’d be lying.
Luckily, for me anyway, I came out the other side with a degree, and my faith in God intact.
Like any Christian, my life has been filled with tests, joys, challenges, and my share of sinning, but looking back I can’t imagine tackling life on my own.
Like all parents, my wife and I had our challenges raising our kids.
Just as we were raised in a church - my wife was raised Catholic and I converted to Catholicism on Father Deane’s last Sunday in Rockport – our children were raised under the same roof (at home and church).
Our girls developed their own relationship with the Man upstairs, and brought those beliefs into their marriages with men who had similar beliefs.
I couldn’t be happier, but I know life will continue to throw sharp turns in out paths.
The whole reason for writing my column about this subject is Monday night I was asked to attend, for lack of a better word, a “foundational” meeting for Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Rockport.
I immediately jumped at the opportunity to go (when asked by my bookkeeper’s husband) because I still remember the impact FCA had on me during my teen years.
Our daughters were involved in our church’s youth group, as well as Young Life, and I know both groups were forces that helped mold them into who they are today.
We’ve supported our church, as well as Young Life in Rockport since it was revived here many years ago, but I agree with FCA Multi-Area Director Nathan Jones, the man who led Monday’s meeting – it’s time to revive FCA in Rockport.
He announced that Ricky Sparks is moving his family from Colorado to the Rockport-Fulton area to serve as the first fulltime Area Director for the Coastal Bend in FCA’s South Texas region.
If you don’t understand what that means, just know it’s huge.
Times have changed, and the participation in Young Life and FCA rises and falls, just like the tides outside our doors.
No longer can God (through organizations like Young Life and FCA) roam the halls of high schools like He did many years ago.
God was basically kicked out of public schools long ago, but He still roams the halls.
I might go to hell one day for saying this, but if we don’t get off our pompous tails and quit walling off our children based on “our” religion, then even more kids in coming generations will have absolutely no reason to be attracted to Christianity.
Once a kid hits puberty, Christianity had better be fun. There is a small window in every teenager’s life where the clay of his or her soul is most pliable. It’s about the same time peer pressure sets in.
The real question becomes, “Who wins?”
Will it be the kids having long-term fun in faith, or the kids having short-term fun in sin?
A kid who enjoys being with friends in his or her own church youth group, or with friends in groups such as Young Life or FCA, has a much better chance of developing a personal relationship with God … through the choices he or she makes, on his or her own.
I’m really excited about the prospect of a healthy FCA Huddle group forming again at the local high school level. It should be seen as competition for Young Life or any particular church youth group.
I pray that pastors at our churches encourage their youth to walk their journeys in faith sharing paths with friends from denominations other than their own, or friends with no faith at all.
I don’t know about your God, but mine is interested in me following Him. He’s not interested in what mode of transportation I’m using.
I’m praying for the growth of every one of our individual church youth groups, our local Young Life, and FCA.
A parent can be voted No. 1 in the world, but eventually the kid(s) leave(s) the safety of home.
As adults, we should recognize the challenges children face today are daunting, and giving them all the tools they need to succeed should be our top priority.
The tool that has meant more to me than any material object is my faith in God and a full understanding that I don’t walk through life alone.
The older I get, the better I understand.
Until next week, have a good week.
Mike Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.