Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
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Date Night With God

by The Rev. Laurie Garramone-Rohr, Coordinator for Christian Ed
(With special thanks to Marian, Haley, Aisling, Josh, James, Alex, Christian and Megan.)

It’s Sunday night at the Rohr house, and it’s our turn. Every other week we go to the Sive’s house for the same reason. It’s already been a busy day: church all morning, picking up the house in the afternoon, getting the dinner ready. I didn’t get the usual ‘clergy nap’ and I didn’t even pick up the newspaper because I knew I’d never have time to read it. It bothers me to receive a fresh newspaper and not to have time to read it, but I can live with that.

I look around and the house is pretty clean, the fireplace is going and the kitchen smells like homemade macaroni and cheese and apple crisp. At 5:30 the cars start to arrive, and the kids begin to walk in the front door. It’s time for bible study.

We gather first for a meal—that was part of the original vision that Marian Sive and I had—we didn’t want the kids to sacrifice a good meal at home, and we didn’t want to serve pizza every week, so the meal is important. I’ve found is that preparing the meal is important to me in the same way that cooking for my family is important. I want the kids to like the food and I want them to be well-fed. I like eating with them and listening to their conversation. They talk about homework a lot, and they make fun of each other a little, and usually, they eat a lot of food.

Then it’s time to begin bible study and the kids settle in. They range in age from 14 to 17, and they feel comfortable with each other and with Marian and me. We take turns leading the group each week as well, so we share the work as well as we can. I think the comfort is why they come, to be honest. They aren’t worried about impressing each other or being popular in this group. They’ve worked out a kind of community that I envy, even as a grownup!

For this bible study we’re beginning at the beginning—Genesis. We’re doing a program called “The Essential 100” which is a survey of the bible that covers all the major aspects and stories in both the New and Old Testaments in 100 readings (www.scriptureunion.com) This is a harder study because Marian and I have to plan the lessons ourselves, and we’re not sure how it’s going to work. Youth Specialties and Group Publishing have lots of different bible studies for teens, but they can be expensive so we’re trying this. We want to try and give the teens a survey of the whole bible because this may be our only chance—it may be their only chance!

The more I hear their conversations, the more I realize how hard it is to grow up these days. Peer pressure is incredible. Homework takes up enormous amounts of their time, and they sometimes feel resentful. The bible study brings up stories about choices they’ve made, friends that are going down the wrong path, dresses and dates for the prom, and upcoming soccer practices (who knew soccer practice could be at 9:30 pm?) Alcohol and drugs manage to come up almost every time, and we listen to the challenges and sometimes the failures of choosing to be a Christian kid in a mostly non-Christian world.

We end every week with prayer and dessert at 7:00, then everyone heads out by 7:30. It’s not a big bible study. Sometimes we have only four kids, sometimes six. But the effects of this bible study change my life for the rest of the week. The honesty, sincerity and devotion of the teens who sit in my living room provide a living witness to the struggle of faith. I can’t tell you what the students get out of it. Maybe it’s the food, I’m sure part of it is the friendship they share. What they might not realize is that it’s also date night with God. They are slowly creating a pattern of study and prayer that is shaping their hearts, and I can see the way it changes them.

I’m telling this story because I believe the best ministry is being done in small groups, whether in a men’s ministry group, a Daughters of the King prayer meeting or a teen bible study. Think small—don’t worry about beginning something that has only two or three people. Our group has real difficulty holding regular meetings, mostly because of my schedule, but Marian continues to give more and to sacrifice when that happens. I am always grateful because we believe God’s got an appointment with our teenagers and he’s asked us to set up the meeting space. Every time we show up we realize He’s already waiting for us, so it’s important to be there.

In the next few months, Bishop Love would like us to make some recommendations for bible studies you can do with your church, your family and your neighbors—even your teens! Be prepared to work, to give up the newspaper some days, to make a meal or share a dessert. Something will change in order to fit this in. I called it ‘date night with God’, but you can have ‘coffee with God’, ‘lunch with God’, or a ‘walking club with God’. I know of one pastor who has a lectionary bible study every week, but the requirement is that they play catch the whole time, and they always bring extra mitts to lend out to new people. Pray, be creative, invite people over for supper, meet at a local coffee house, but make time for a weekly ‘date’ of prayer and bible study with a small group. And don’t worry about the cost; Jesus picked up the tab for this date a long time ago.

Children's Chapel booklet

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