Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 26, 1959
NUMBER 29, PAGE 9a-11b

Are Church-Sponsored Youth Meetings The Answer?

Jesse M. Kelley, Blytheville, Arkansas

Dear Brother Kelley:

We, as Christian parents, are very concerned with a teen-age problem, since it concerns not only our own teen-age daughter but hundreds of our younger boys and girls who are members of the church. So much time and space is being spent in bulletins all over the country regarding church cooperation, we wonder if other very important matters are not being neglected. The one of the most interest to us at present is the problem of our youngsters dating and marrying out of the church.

Our daughter opened our eyes to this problem by dating a Catholic boy the past two years. She understood the situation from the beginning, was very broad-minded and concerned, and finally broke this otherwise pleasant relationship with one of the nicest boys we have ever known. She blames no one for the unhappy experience; however, she found that she was greatly attached to him. While discussing this experience, she asked me why we did not have fellowship youth meetings for the congregations close so the boys and girls of other congregations could be together and make acquaintances of other Christians. She wondered why we are so concerned in the youngsters marrying in the church yet provide no means of meeting them. Can you answer this? I honestly couldn't, because, as you know, many times congregations have twenty teen-age girls and two teen-age boys. If we don't provide enough Christians for them they will not sit home when they become dating age. Therefore, because of our failure, they turn to the denominational boys and girls and Catholics.

Why is it wrong to have youth meetings? If they are so wrong, surely you have some suggestion in mind. Don't you believe if we do not give our boys and girls Christian companions to choose from, our rate of Christian marriages will diminish? Where would be the proper place to throw these people together? Not at our worship because each person is to be in his own congregation for the Lord's worship on Sunday and our weekly Wednesday night classes. Maybe you just pray they won't become too seriously involved until they enter a Christian college where they will be with mostly members of the church. Well, even then, if we choose one college, one preacher will tell us how he thinks it is terrible and morally corrupt, and he had rather send his child to a state school. Another will find fault with the school because of its president, and another against another school because they fought church cooperation. If it seems complex to us, just imagine our daughter's mind being torn by all these things she reads in the church bulletins. Honestly, we see but little hope for those youngsters who are not firmly grounded in the truth.

We are not trying to put fire to a fuse, but would like to have this question answered as plainly as possible for the parents' and all teen-agers' benefit. If you can present a solution, we would be most grateful to you.

Very truly yours, P. S. Please consider my name as confidential and do not use it if you should see fit to reprint parts of this letter. It could prove very embarrassing for our daughter and her Catholic friend.

October 6, 1959 Dear Sister_____________

I have your letter of September 28, and have read it carefully. I greatly appreciate what you had to say and the spirit in which you write. I fully realize that the problem you are concerned with is a very real one, and is sometimes perplexing to those of us who have teen-age children. I will be frank to admit that at times, we, too, feel somewhat helpless and inadequate in our endeavor to guide our own teen-agers into paths which we feel will be for their good in both this life and that which is to come. I am not sure that I have the answers to our mutual problems along this line — in fact I am quite sure that I do not have all of them. So it would seem ridiculous to try to advise you as to how to meet your problem when I am not sure that I know how best to meet my own. As to how we may best apply the principle "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" in contemplation of their relationship to others in their own sphere is a question that is difficult to answer. It may be that you could give me some advice along that line that I could use to a good advantage. Therefore, in this letter I will confine my remarks to a consideration of the relationship of the church to our children as it concerns the problem.

First, however, let me say that I quite agree with you concerning so much time and space being spent in bulletins on the cooperation controversy. No doubt, other equally important problems are being neglected in favor of this one problem of cooperation. All of us are prone to get a little out of balance at times, and most of us do on some things.

Now, to a consideration of your questions. Your daughter's question when she wondered "why we are so concerned in the youngsters marrying in the church yet provide no means of meeting" other Christians of the same age, is a good one. We might add that it is one that is not confined to any one community, but wherever the church is found today this question is one that is on the minds of both young and old. It would appear from your daughter's questions as well as what you had to say about it, that both of you are thinking in the direction of the church, and wondering why the church doesn't do more about it than it is now doing. But actually, Sister________ , is this not an indictment of parents instead of the church? As parents of our children, is it not OUR responsibility to provide association, recreation, and the proper social relationship for our children? Is this a responsibility of the church of Jesus Christ? Is the church designed for, and was it ever intended that she function in the field of human and social relations? The church, by her influence and the fact that she propagates the gospel of Christ, can regulate and determine the social relations of her members only insofar as the gospel which she teaches is espoused and adhered to by those individuals. But there is no indication anywhere that she is to be a functioning unit in the field of social relations, planning and otherwise determining the social relations and activities of her members. And the reason is simple: The church simply was not designed for such.

Notwithstanding this, however, the regulating and determining influence of the local church is vividly portrayed in the decision and conduct of your own daughter. You said, "She understood the situation from the beginning . . . and finally broke this otherwise pleasant relationship with one of the nicest boys we have ever known." What a wonderful commentary on the character and conviction of a young lady! Where did she acquire the conscience and convictions that determined her wonderful conduct in this affair? There is only one answer; it is rooted in the church of God and the gospel which that divine institution holds forth to the world. There is no other answer. True, she had the understanding guidance of parents who cared and probably availed themselves of every opportunity to mold her thinking in harmony with the teaching of God's word, but it was the determining influence of the church and that for which it stands that regulated her conduct in this. So instead of the church 'not doing its duty" in this respect, it is forcefully illustrated in the conduct and decision of your daughter that it has accomplished what it was designed to do in such cases — that of influencing conduct in keeping with the high principles of Christianity in the lives of its members.

You ask, "Why is it wrong to have youth meetings?" I do not think it is wrong to have youth meetings. Numerous times over the years I personally have arranged such meetings in my own home, or in the park or some other suitable place. I think it is wonderful for young people of mutual interest and persuasion to get together in a pleasant association and fellowship. But I do not believe the church is responsible for the arrangement and guidance of such youth meetings. That is our responsibility as parents of our children. You said yourself concerning the "place" for such meetings, "Not at our worship because each person is to be in his own congregation for the Lord's worship on Sunday and our weekly Wednesday night classes." So you, yourself, have ruled out the worship on Sunday and our weekly Wednesday night classes as the places and time to bring such people together, and rightly so. But tell me, when is the church to come together for any purpose other than to worship? Are there assemblies designed for something other than worship? Is there any apostolic admonition to any church to make arrangements or lay plans for anything other than the teaching of the word of God in edifying itself in love and pointing the way of salvation to the sinner? Merely to ask these questions is to arrive at the divine will on our subject.

In first Corinthians 7, Paul admonishes the wives of husbands who were not Christians. Among other things, his admonition sets forth the fact that these women had married "out of the church". Paul did not encourage that, and certainly he would wish that it should be otherwise; but the fact remains that people almost two thousand years ago were faced with the same problems of "marrying out of the church" as we are faced with today. But Paul did not suggest that the church in Corinth begin to function in the field of social relations to alleviate this problem. Here would have been a good place to give us a divine pattern for such church activity in the field of social relations had it been the will of God. If Paul was not guided by the Holy Spirit to do so here, woe be to me or anyone else today to do so.

Many people seemingly fail to realize that the church and the message which it holds forth to the world is concerned only with the souls of men, and those souls' abode in the world to come. The problems of this present world are not dealt with except as they relate to the salvation of souls in contemplation of their final abode. With reference to the very life giving bread we eat Jesus said, "Take no thought for the morrow". Why? That the soul may "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33,34.) Surely the same principle would hold true in contemplation of social relations. The "kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 17:14.) If the kingdom of God which is the church is not designed for "meat" and "drink", things which pertain to the necessities of physical living, by what line of logic or reasoning can we conclude that it is designed for, and is to be concerned with, the social relations of its members in being a functioning unit that plans and directs social activities? No, this is not the work, nor the responsibility of the divine institution designed for the keeping of men's souls; but rather it is the responsibility of parents who bring children into the world and are admonished to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord".

I could sincerely wish that all our youngsters had instilled in them the same degree of conviction and conscience which your daughter so wonderfully exemplified when she made the decision she did. But alas, it is not so. And it is not a failure or shortcoming of the church, but rather of parents who are not sufficiently interested in their charges to give time and planning to their welfare.

I hope a letter so lengthy as this has not bored you, and that you will think clearly and considerately about the things set forth. If you wish further correspondence on our subject I will be happy to oblige.

Sincerely yours in Him, Jesse M. Kelley