Twenty years later I joined a local chapter of the Florida Federation of Music Clubs and eventually attended one of their State Conventions. As I watched, listened and learned, all the pieces began to click into place.
FFMC is a group of “senior clubs.” Unlike a professional organization, parents of students and music lovers in the community are allowed to join, along with the independent music teachers, which greatly increases your volunteer pool as you try to spread the love and appreciation of music and support music education in your communities.
Each teacher in the local senior group was supposed to organize her students into a junior club. My teacher, whom I later discovered had been a State President of FFMC, did exactly that. Here is the genius of that plan—you are growing your own replacements, teaching them what the organization is about, making them as useful as possible in whatever capacity they can manage at their various ages.
Unfortunately, few teachers did anything more than put their students’ names on a roster so they could take advantage of the privileges of membership. Responsibility was never taught. And worse, the senior division, all the way to state level, did not use their younger members, even though they held “state elections.” My son Nathan, who was also my student, was elected state president of the junior division in his senior year of high school, but I had to suggest, recommend, and finally push for him and his fellow officers to be used as real members. No one had ever thought of that, which is probably why I did not at first recognize FFMC years later. No one had taught me the ropes. As a student I was a member in name only.
The same thing happens in the church. We look at our young people and call them “the future of the church,” and then sit back and assume that someday in that future they will “grow up in all things unto him” (Eph 4:15).
Here is the problem: We treat baptism like flea dip for our dogs. We get our children wet and say, "Whew! Got rid of all those sins, now they're safe." But Romans tells us that when we are baptized, we are raised to walk a new life. Something has changed. Do they know that? Can young children even articulate what needs to change about themselves?
Jesus says you don’t make a commitment to Him until you count the cost. Have we helped them count the cost of discipleship to the Lord?
Colossians tells us that we are raised from baptism to "walk with him." "Walk" means a lifetime not a moment. Are they old enough to even comprehend that sort of commitment?
1 Corinthians 12 says baptism makes them “members of the body” (I Cor 12:13). If they aren’t ready to be working members, committed servants who put others before themselves, then they aren’t ready to be baptized.
If all we teach them is that they must be baptized or they can't go to Heaven, all we have done is terrorize them, and shame on us. It is simple to indoctrinate a child well before he is able to count the cost of changing his life, make a lifetime commitment and actually begin serving. The New Testament knows nothing of junior members in the church; babes, yes, but even babes participate in on-the-job training, and most of the "babes" we see in the New Testament are physically adults. This is the point: Either they are members or they aren't according to Corinthians. Consider the following.
A working member does more than read the Scripture and pass the plates. For one thing, what about the young ladies? These young people may not have the deep knowledge and wisdom to participate in every aspect of the work, but they should all be able to serve the Lord’s body. Teach them how and expect it of them. Or else do not baptize them.
Take them visiting with you—the sick, the lonely widows, even the bereaved. If you don’t think your child can handle that, then think again about whether he was really mature enough to commit. Have them help clean the houses and do the yard work for those who no longer can. Keith had a stroke one year in the middle of leaf season. Half a dozen young high school men came to our home—a thirty mile drive—and raked all morning. Another group helped unpack when my mother moved, and another helped clean. They were thrilled to help, returning to me again and again with, “What should I do now?” These young people are obviously ready to serve.
Teach them to take responsibility for their own Bible study. That’s what a committed disciple does. Expect them to not only do their class lessons without being told, but to develop personal study habits. If you always have to remind them, are they really as devoted to the Lord as their baptism should have shown them to be? If you are making excuses, especially in regard to their age, then once again you may be admitting that all you did was scare your child to death, not make them dedicated disciples.
Take them to the extra Bible studies with you. I do run a Tuesday morning Bible class for the women, but I also hold one on the third Sunday afternoon of the month for those who have secular jobs or other daytime commitments—like high school and college. I have had teenagers as young as sixteen take part. They do their lessons and comment almost as freely as the older women.
Turning your baptized offspring into working members will also do this for you—if I expect to teach my child what it means to be a member of the Lord’s body, I need to be showing them how myself. Nothing made me a better Christian than having that red, wrinkled, squirming infant placed in my arms. The same thing should happen when your child becomes a babe in Christ.
And speaking of babies, do you know why we have adult infants in the church? Because we scared the innocent to death instead of teaching them early enough about conversion, service, and commitment. There may be no better way to ensure the demise of the body of Christ than turning it over to the coddled who were taught that baptism was only about escaping Hell.
Don’t call your young people by that unscriptural term, “the future of the church.” Either they are members of the body or they are not. Prepare them. As the old saying goes, the future is now.
For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1Cor 12:13
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved. Acts 2:44-47