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10/1/97 Christian clubs need boost from public school teachers

LA MIRADA, Calif. (BP)–Five years after it began with a handful of students, the Christian club at La Mirada High School has outgrown its classroom meeting space and moved to the gymnasium.
Teacher and club co-advisor Terry Turner said more than 100 attend weekly meetings of “The Lighthouse” at the suburban Los Angeles school with approximately 2,000 students.
In addition, the school’s annual “See You at the Pole” prayer rallies draw hundreds of students, compared to a few dozen in the past.
“We’re just astounded,” said Turner of the enthusiasm that attracts participants from a variety of races and backgrounds. “It’s really a wonder to behold. We haven’t had any salvations, but recently we had two kids get up and give a testimony of how they came to the Lord.”
Nor is this excitement confined to La Mirada. Last spring officers from several area clubs in the area south of Los Angeles organized a rally with Christian bands and speakers.
Teachers are coming together, too. Each week Edward Lynn, a counselor at La Mirada, is among a group of Christian educators who meet at a restaurant for a before-school prayer breakfast.
“When I started working there (in 1984), 10 to 15 students met on the sly to pray and so forth,” Lynn said. “The students now are ambitious. They put up signs around campus inviting others to come. It seems to be going well.”
Teachers like Turner and Lynn play a vital role in the growing Christian influence in schools, noted Richard Ross, youth consultant for the Baptist Sunday School Board. And, according to Ross and other Southern Baptist representatives at this year’s National Network of Youth Ministries conference, these interdenominational clubs have become a highly effective way to reach teenagers with the gospel.
Most clubs, Ross added, need faculty sponsors who sense a call to help students publicly express their faith.
Last winter Ross observed the difference instructors can make during “True Love Waits Goes Campus,” the national event that promoted public displays of teen pledge cards promising to refrain from premarital sex.
“I went by two schools in the Nashville (Tenn.) area where students were doing displays and in both cases they had faculty out there cheering them on,” he said. “Teachers are of great help in organizing and encouragement.”
However, the instructors say it also takes committed students.
“The club officers plan all the meetings and bring in speakers,” said Turner, who is also active in youth work at his Presbyterian church. “We have some kids who really want to share their faith.”
Besides a mix of speakers, Bible studies and student-led worship, La Mirada’s club gets involved in service projects. Members have served food at a nearby homeless shelter and helped patients at an AIDS hospice. Last spring they took part in a 30-hour fund-raising fast to help feed the hungry.
“The kids are trying to reach out and find out who others are in Christ’s eyes,” Turner said. “It’s really touching.”
Student involvement was also a key to a teacher’s efforts to start a Christian group a year ago at Eastside High School near Gainesville, Fla.
Dalestine Carter wanted to organize a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter several years before. But she said it took awhile to find the right students to carry out the work.
“I think the Lord has handpicked them,” said Carter, a United Methodist. “They are bold and willing to step out. God is saying, ‘I need people I can use.'”
FCA has two different sessions during the week. Anywhere from six to 12 students meet each morning for prayer and up to 20 attend after-school meetings once a week.
Because the group is so young, it hasn’t started many outside activities, the advisor said. But despite its newness, the students are leading others to salvation, she said, recounting one student accepted Christ as Savior last winter after his brother witnessed to him. The new convert had been upset over his parents’ divorce, she said; broken homes are just one of many problems her pupils face.
Besides divorce, students struggle with drug and alcohol abuse and other problems, Carter said. Students’ profanity, hostility and bad attitudes are evidence of their anger and pain, the teacher said.
“Students are hurting so much,” Carter said. “They’re lost and need to know Jesus cares. If a question comes up, I don’t remain silent. I step out and do it. I don’t fear it anymore. I don’t know if it’s that student’s last chance. Being a soul-winner is most important.”
From Carter’s experience with the students, “These are exciting times to live in because God is at work. It’s beautiful to see him operate. I think the kids see it too. They’re grateful they can come and pray before school.”

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  • Ken Walker