Reaching out in the halls of public schools

school_hallways

This is the first installment of a two-part story. Read part two.

A tale of two brothers: Benjamin’s Story

Recently I had a phone conversation with Benjamin.* I had heard through the grapevine that he had been very active in reaching out to fellow students in public school, using one of our books, The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. Benjamin graciously agreed to share his story and how God used those years in his life and in the lives of others.

Benjamin began by telling of how he’d grown up in a Christian family. He’d been taught through the Bible’s message chronologically as a boy and understood God’s overarching plan of salvation. When he entered sixth grade, he was excited to participate in the school’s Bible club. However, as the months went by, it seemed that most of the older students who were responsible for club’s leadership lost interest and it began to fizzle as the year drew to a close. The following year, Benjamin and a couple cousins offered to take on some leadership roles within the club. Discussing where to start, Benjamin remembered a book sitting on his parents’ bookshelf–The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. Though most of those in the club were from Christian backgrounds, he knew that many lacked the foundations so important to a thriving walk with the Lord.

Benjamin related, “I knew most kids didn’t understand that the Bible was one big story.”

So Benjamin and his cousins agreed that a study of the Bible using The Stranger was a good place to start. They initially gave away 15 books, encouraging club participants to read a portion in advance of each meeting, in addition to their use during the study.

Though a few students objected to the basic nature of the material he was teaching, most students appreciated the simplicity of the message, especially as things began to connect together near the end of the book. As time went on, their small numbers grew to about 30 students. Benjamin could see that God’s Word was having an effect–the faith of his fellow students was becoming more solidified and the Bible was making more sense to them.

Fast forward two years: Benjamin now found himself in high school. There, the small Bible club was also struggling and the leadership was inconsistent, but Benjamin decided to attend faithfully and be supportive of the club. Then, when the following school year rolled around, he and a friend took over the leadership of the group. It didn’t take long before they had launched into a study of The Stranger. By the time Benjamin was a senior, the group had grown to 100 students and they were meeting in the school’s auditorium. Because so many new students were joining the group, Benjamin and his friend decided to use The Stranger each year, moving through the content as quickly as they could so no one would lose the overarching context of the material.

Not everyone chose to attend, feeling that the material was too basic for them. As Benjamin expressed, “It wasn’t the most popular thing to go through the Bible from start to finish. The popular thing was to talk about current happenings, show music videos and have a worship band. The study wasn’t the biggest recruiting tool. We could have done it a different way and gotten more people, but I think we did it the right way.”

And it proved to be a real help to many. Benjamin estimates that over the period of the four years he taught in high school, the majority who attended were from a Christian background. Others were brand new believers. About 10-15% of attendees were not believers when they first joined the group.

Benjamin told me, “Many felt that this was new material for them; they realized that there was much more to the Bible than they had previously understood. They wanted more books they could pass on to friends.”

Those involved in leading the study were simply doing what Paul had instructed Timothy to do: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV)

When I asked Benjamin how the teachers had responded to the Bible clubs, he shared that he definitely experienced opposition. Some teachers felt that he was too forward when he publicized the club. Those who were atheists took personal offence to his message and treated him accordingly.

On the other hand, Benjamin experienced great support from teachers who were believers who encouraged him in his role in the club. One teacher even convinced her church to take up an offering to purchase a number of Strangers for use in the club.

Some of the opposition came from fellow students, often stemming from preconceived misunderstandings of the Bible’s message. Some thought that Benjamin hated them because of their lifestyle or because of their religious background. It was a challenge for him. Though he tried to demonstrate love to his fellow students, many chose to reject him because of what he stood for.

Presently Benjamin is attending Bible school with the goal of being in full-time ministry. As he looks back, he can see how the Lord blessed his outreach to his fellow students. (Of those, seven followed him to Bible school).

Though he sees things he would do differently if he had the chance to do it again, Benjamin said, “Even when I made mistakes, God was still faithful. Even when my heart wasn’t in the right place, he still used me.”

We praise the Lord for Benjamin’s obedience to him and how God will bless the steps we take to reach out to others in his name.

(*Name changed as per GoodSeed policy.)

Photo credit: “School Bokeh” by Ryan McGilchrist is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

 

 

Author: Naomi Johnstone

Naomi is a staff writer and proofreader for the international office, wife to Troy and mother of three.