Many things have been on my mind this past week, and I’ve been doing some remembering, especially of the church in which I grew up.
It was a relatively small church, but it was full of people who loved children. There were all kinds of older members who always doted on kids. There were all kinds of younger adults who were always serving through Vacation Bible School and church camp. And there were all kinds of young people who had lots of fun together and enjoyed talking about the Bible together.
There was also a collection of special people who gave themselves to teaching dynamic Bible classes throughout both my childhood and teenage years. They continue to impact my spiritual life today.
Last Monday morning I woke-up to the tragic news that one of my Bible class teachers had died unexpectedly. Jim Turner served as a teenage Bible class teacher, but he was more than just someone who showed up to teach a class. He was a friend, a mentor, and an encourager. He and I could talk about anything, and that’s not an easy thing for an adult to pull off with a teenage boy. He invited me to play basketball with him and his friends. When he was building a new house, he asked me to help him with the work. When my family and I went through some difficult times, he was always there to lift us up and give us a hug.
Beyond all of these things, Jim was an example to me. When he was young man, I watched him walk faithfully through his own difficult times. As a Bible class teacher to teens, he was transparent about the spiritual struggles of his teenage years, and he did so with grace and wisdom. When I looked at Jim, I knew it was possible for me to navigate life’s ups and downs as a young man and come out on the other side spiritually victorious.
Hebrews 13:7 speaks of people who teach God’s word through both their words and their actions. It says, “Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Jim’s example was worth considering and imitating. Several years have passed since I last talked with Jim, but I look forward to seeing him again.
Churches today need more men and women like Jim – people who give themselves to children and provide examples worth imitating. Children and teens today need role models like Jim who show that faithfulness as a young adult is possible. Parents need mentors for their children like Jim who support and encourage them.
As an adult looking back on my childhood, I am confident that I would not be the man I am today had it not been for so many adults like Jim who taught, mentored, and loved me.
To the dismay of his disciples, Jesus once famously said, “Let the little children come to me.” Thank God for adults who demonstrate a Christ-like desire for children. Let’s bless our churches by making children a priority. We and generations to come will be blessed if we do so.