Several adults in addition to mom and dad made a big difference in my life growing up. No one is more important than a child’s parents to their well being, but other adults play an important role. Bob and Dorothy Morris were our next-door neighbors from the time I was nine, they both taught school with dad, and our families worshipped and served together at Cumberland Baptist. They were in our house a lot and we in theirs. They are in many of my childhood memories. They were like second parents to my sisters and me. Any time I see them now, they always encourage me a ton.
Orville Collier was my Sunday School teacher in my late elementary and middle school years. Later through high school and college, he still encouraged me every time I saw him. I knew he cared about me, and was always glad to see me. When we travel home we always attend worship with mom and dad. Orville is still there and every time, every time, he finds me and tells me he loves me and appreciates me. In a sense, he’s still serving as my Sunday School teacher.
When I was elementary age, Bruce Ayers was not yet a believer. But he and my dad were friends, and dad taught Bruce and I to play golf together. Once or twice Bruce and I played a round just the two of us. I don’t know if he remembers this, I don’t think I’m making it up, but I remember him telling dad that the first sermon I preached, when I was 15, along with playing golf with me, had something to do with him accepting Christ. That was hard for me to believe then and still seems amazing. My point is that Bruce was another adult in my life that continues to encourage me now. Every time we’re home, I look forward to seeing Bruce and riding along as he and dad drive around the county, which they do every Saturday morning, talking about everything and nothing.
My Uncle Bob passed away almost two years ago now. He was the postmaster in our town when I was growing up and knew everybody. He was an excellent Sunday School teacher and lay preacher. Uncle Bob always told lots of jokes whether he was preaching or not. Most of them were appropriate. I remember an occasion when he came to our house, because I was so disturbed about whether or not I was really a Christian and he talked me through a passage of scripture to encourage me. I also remember a time when I was in from college and he saw that a policeman had pulled me over. The reason: my license plates were over a year expired. Uncle Bob convinced the police officer that he knew me and that I wasn’t a threat to society.
In the book Sticky Faith, Kara Powell and Chap Clark talk about the role of adults in addition to parents in developing faith that will endure in a young person. They explain that ministries often shoot for a 1:5 ratio of adults to students. But they challenge that churches should turn that on its head and instead aim at 5 adults for every student. Can you imagine the difference it would make if every child in your neighborhood, every child in the schools around where you live, every teenager that steps through our building, had five adults who knew their name, spoke to them, encouraged them, loved them, and took a real interest in their life? I bet that sort of connection would have made a real difference in the heart breaking stories in recent days of 12 year olds jumping off of towers or shooting teachers and themselves in the school yard.
I’ve introduced you to my five above. God has blessed me with the privilege of speaking into a handful of young people over the years. There are young people near you for whom you can serve this greatly needed function. This kind of ministry has never been more important.