Word of Life offers a constructive outlet
With back to school time, many parents are looking for good, wholesome activities their children and teens can get involved with; activities that will not only keep their kids out of trouble, but teach them and guide them as well.
For about 25 years, Word of Life has been a source of great encouragement for many parents and grandparents as they have watched their kids grow up through the Olympian and Teen programmes offered at several churches and schools across the island.
According to Ed Lightbourne, who is the Local Church Ministry Coordinator for Word of Life, the greatest benefit to parents for their children attending the Word of Life Bible Clubs “is giving our young people a good moral foundation that is based on the Word of God”.
Clubs are designed to be fun, while at the same time, a chance to help kids learn about the truths of God’s Word.
“We give them an outlet to get rid of all that energy, but we also do that to earn the right to share the Word of God,” Mr. Lightbourne said.
Times have changed, though, and children with them, presenting a new set of challenges in youth ministry challenges that are seen, broadly speaking, nearly everywhere with a general degradation of morality, a lack of a sense of community and concern for others amongst today’s young people.
“Across the board even in the church clubs, we’re seeing unchurched kids that don’t have that foundation. We’re dealing with a generation of young people that are not being sent to church like we were Sundays have shifted from a holy day to a holiday.”
Parental involvement is key in helping young people develop the moral and Biblical foundation that will make them successful in life.
“One of the sad realities parents think it’s good for children, but not for them,” Mr. Lightbourne shared. “They think it’s good for when you’re young, but when you get older you get away from it. That’s a set-up for failure.”
The Olympian Clubs programme currently runs as a part of the children’s ministry in six different churches, with about 200 children in clubs across the island. Designed for primary-aged children, children enjoy games and Bible study, and are encouraged to have a daily Quiet Time in the Bible, as well as memorize scripture and learn how to minister to others through Christian service opportunities.
The Teen Clubs, which are designed for middle and high school students, are currently running in three local churches, as well six schools. The school clubs may differ slightly from the church clubs, however, fun and Bible study are always an integral part, and young people are also encouraged to memorise scripture, have a daily Quiet Time and be involved in Christian service.
Parents can also become involved by following their children through a series of coordinated Quiet Time Diaries, allowing families to study the same passage of scripture, while using materials and notes appropriate to the age and ability of their child.
One of the key components to the success of clubs in the lives of young people in the development of personal relationships between leaders and young people.
“It is not just sit and listen. There has to be dialogue you have to give me an avenue to share. If you don’t, I’m not going to come,” Mr. Lightbourne explained, as to why kids like coming to the clubs.
“The attraction is first of all that people are involved in their life.”
Unlike some other ministries, Word of Life Clubs are run almost completely by the local churches they are held in, but with the full support of Word of Life missionaries, who help equip and train church volunteers to do effective youth ministry in their own churches.
School clubs run slightly differently, as they are run by one of the members of the Word of Life team of missionaries, but there is always a teacher from the school involved as an on-site connection with the teens involved.
Also unique is that Word of Life Bermuda consists of an almost entirely Bermudian team. Mark Hall, the national director for Bermuda, as well as Regional Director for Word of Life in the Caribbean, grew up in Southampton, and has been serving with his wife, Pam, since 1991. Ed Lightbourne joined the team with wife Soccoro in 1998. They are assisted by local missionaries Paul and Heidi (Madeiros) Heffernan, Sarah Ward and Annamarie Perry, as well as a team of local staff, including Carla Pedro and Gail Correia.
Seeing how Clubs influence kids once they are grown is a great blessing for all involved, and can be seen clearly in that Heidi, Sarah and Annamarie all grew up in the Word of Life Clubs, as did Stacey (Madeiros) Finchum and Nicola (Mello) Gray, who are now missionaries with Word of Life in Alabama and Texas.
“We do see is individuals who have grown up in understanding God’s word and have applied the truths to their particular life situation yes there is that rate of people that stray away from the faith when they become more settled, married with children, they really come back.”