One of the books I read from my parents’ library while I was in California was Dream Big, a biography of an influential Christian educator named Henrietta Mears.
Mears was a single woman who organized and led a large Sunday school program in California during the thirties and forties. She saw the need for teachers to understand child development. She was passionate about teaching Bible-saturated lessons to children and college students. She was a relentless soul winner. And she was committed to reproducing herself, and teaching others how to do the same.
I found it motivating as I consider ways I pass on a close walk with God to my children. Thankfully, Dream Big spends a great deal of time on her approach and methods for engaging high school and college age students in the church.
Mears doesn’t really “fit” in a camp: She was unmarried. She was a Baptist who was hired by a large Presbyterian church to run their Sunday school program. She had a great confidence in the word of God, and yet was comfortable in intellectual circles. She taught male and female college students, but did not preach from the pulpit.
There is much to admire and emulate in her life. She had a walk with God that was marked by the fruit of the Spirit. I was challenged by her direct urgency in teaching young people God’s Word. She recognized the need to reproduce herself. I loved reading how she encouraged young people to attempt great things for God. I appreciated hearing how she undertook the responsibility of a Sunday school class. She prayed for her students. She visited them. She went looking for more, and invited them to join the class. As we’ve moved according to the military, we’ve encountered a great number of churches that rotate teachers. It makes it so that nobody feels overwhelmed by the commitment, but it also dilutes the responsibility. I’m not sure that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
I was challenged as I consider the need for my own children to know what the Bible is all about. I was challenged by Mears’s initiative in making sure that students understood the process of reading and understanding the Bible. Her example causes me to want to ask more questions as I teach my children, to consider whether I’m teaching answers more than teaching them how to find answers. Teaching the process has the advantage because I cannot predict the needs in my children’s future, but the Holy Spirit has that job under control.
Finally, I am interested to consider the role that single adult Christians fill in our churches today. Mears took the initiative to reproduce herself and surround herself with other believers. She took seriously the advantages her single status offered her, and she was determined to make the best use of her time. She wasn’t waiting for the married Christians to invite her into the places of ministry. On the other hand, married Christians would do well to cultivate single disciples, and deliberately draw the single Christians into church life as a valuable member of church leadership. We need single heroes for Christ as well as married heroes!
If you’re of a mind to read it, you can purchase the book on Amazon here. Looks like they may be making the book into kindle format. That would be great!