Young People Ask . . .
Christian Meetings—Why Go to Them?
“My parents made me go to church,” says Christiaan, a young man in the country of Suriname. “I always wished for a soaker on Sunday mornings, so that I could stay home. But,” he adds with a smile, “it seemed to rain only from Monday to Saturday.”
“In no time I had my fill of church services. When I saw a chance to quit, I grabbed it.”
CHRISTIAAN is hardly an exception. Clergymen around the world bemoan the lack of interest youths have in religious services. Says Simote Vea, a cleric from the Pacific island of Tonga: “The number of young people attending churches . . . is decreasing.”
Why, though, are the mainline churches failing to attract young people? Lorine Tevi, staff member of the World Council of Churches, admits: “The most critical need is education . . . The churches have to learn that theological education must speak to all.”
“That’s right,” agrees Christiaan. “Many young people long for clear-cut Bible education. However, instead of filling that need, the church gets stuck on old rituals.” Annie, age 13, adds: “Church is lots of singing but little learning.” Eighteen-year-old Barbara similarly lamented the lack of education in church. “One day,” she recalls, “the pastor gave me line drawings of Jesus. He told me to color them. That was the service!”
Little wonder, then, that many youths are disillusioned with church services. Does this mean, though, that all religious meetings are a waste of time? To the contrary, the youths here quoted all began attending religious meetings again! The reason? They discovered what the magazine U.S. Catholic reported some years ago: “Any Kingdom Hall offers more . . . education in a month than most Catholic parishes do all year.”
Kingdom Halls—Refreshingly Different
Kingdom Halls? Yes, these are the meeting places of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the distributors of this magazine. A survey conducted in the country of Suriname showed that about one out of every three persons attending meetings there is between the ages of 12 and 20! The same is true in many other lands—large numbers of youths are attending meetings at Kingdom Halls.
Christiaan explains why the meetings there attracted him: “I was impressed to see how often the Bible was used. Everything said was well documented from it. The meetings were like school!” Indeed, the Kingdom Hall has a course of five weekly meetings that train Christians in reading, teaching, and applying the Bible. You will find that the meetings there are refreshingly different from church services.
Still, many youths may be turned off at the idea of any kind of school. Even some youths raised by Christian parents may lose appreciation for Christian meetings, complaining that they are ‘boring,’ ‘too long,’ or that doing something else—like watching television—would be more interesting. Why, then, should a young person take away time from recreation and schoolwork to attend Christian meetings?
Meetings—A Tool to Remain “Healthy in Faith”
The apostle Paul once stated that “without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.” (Hebrews 11:6) He thus urged Christians to remain “healthy in faith.” (Titus 2:2) Is this counsel appropriate for young people today? Indeed it is! One 15-year-old girl puts it this way: “Sometimes I think young people have the hardest time in life. We are around people who commit fornication, do drugs, and drink.” Can you fight these potent influences by ‘isolating yourself’ from fellow Christians? (Proverbs 18:1) Hardly.
Christian meetings therefore fill a vital need. They help you to remain “healthy in faith”! Said Tertullian, a second-century believer: “We assemble to read our sacred writings . . . with the sacred words we nourish our faith.” Likewise today, meetings at the Kingdom Hall can ‘nourish your faith’ and fortify you. No wonder, then, that Christians are commanded: “Let us be firm and unswerving in the confession of our hope, . . . not staying away from our meetings, as some do.”—Hebrews 10:23-25, The New English Bible.
Meetings—Enjoyable and Appealing
In this hi-tech age, however, many youths demand not simply to be taught but to be entertained. And admittedly, meetings at the Kingdom Hall are not elaborate stage productions. This does not mean, though, that the program is dull and uninteresting. Consider: What makes a meal enjoyable? Is it not the nutritious and varied food, the pleasant company around the table, and the relaxed atmosphere? Well, Christian meetings certainly meet these criteria for enjoyment.
Nutritious and Varied: Five meetings serve to provide a balanced spiritual diet—ranging from counsel about family life to a study of prophecies. Variety? Well, talks and group discussions are often alternated with interviews and lively sketches. Fifteen-year-old Janet recalls her first meeting: “Halfway through the meeting I told my mother, ‘Let’s go home.’ I was tired of sitting. But then old ones and young ones began taking turns speaking from the platform. I liked it and stayed till the end.”
Pleasant Company: After attending her first meeting, a young girl named Carolina, from Nicaragua, said: ‘The young members impressed me. They were friendly and respectful.’ Yes, at the Kingdom Hall you can find ‘good and pleasant’ fellowship. (Psalm 133:1) Sixteen-year-old Anita thus says: “In the Kingdom Hall, I found real friends.”
Relaxed Atmosphere: “Sometimes I worry about a problem all day,” says Simeon, age 14. “But in the Kingdom Hall, I forget about it. I feel peace inside.” Christian meetings reflect God’s spirit of joy and peace. (Philippians 4:4-7) And contrary to the ornate design and hushed, artificial aura of many churches, Kingdom Halls are simple in design and promote a relaxed atmosphere. Says young Barbara: “In the Kingdom Hall, I feel at home.”
A Place of Learning
Far more important than atmosphere, however, is what you learn by attending a meeting at the Kingdom Hall. To illustrate, consider just one of the five meetings, the Theocratic Ministry School. It was established in 1943 to train Christians in the art of public speaking. It is an international school, established in all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses the world over, and it offers equal-opportunity education. Students receive the same training whether they are boys or girls, black or white, rich or poor—for free!
The main textbook is the Bible. Qualified instructors teach students how to gather and develop Biblical information and then present it in a conversational manner. The book entitled Theocratic Ministry School Guidebooka is also used in connection with the school. Its 38 studies cover such topics as “Working Up an Outline,” “Sense Stress and Modulation,” and they teach proper diction, pronunciation, and composition. When a youth named Terri presented this book to her Speech Class instructor, he told the other students: “After five weeks of class, she finally gives me a book on how to conduct a speech class properly!”
Imagine being able to get up in front of a group and teach the Bible—skillfully, competently! This is just one of the benefits that can come to you if you attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Add to that the fine association you’ll enjoy there, and you can easily see why regular meeting attendance is so vital to the feeding of your faith in God and his Son. “He that exercises faith,” Jesus reminds us, “has everlasting life.”—John 3:36.
We hope, then, that this brief discussion has whetted your appetite to begin attending meetings if you have not yet begun doing so. What, though, if you are already attending? Then the question is, Are you getting as much out of these meetings as you should? A future issue will discuss this.
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Picture on page 21]
Meetings at the Kingdom Hall provide opportunities for young people to participate actively