Your law is within my heart.
We wrapped up our 9th year at Lads to Leaders in Nashville with only Caleb the Caboose in tow. We missed Abbey's junior and senior years because of COVID, so for our return, the cheese stood alone… and got all the attention! I'm not sure that he particularly enjoyed that, but he got it whether he liked it or not.
It was tough getting back into a Lads routine.
Still, Caleb worked hard — often with me sitting on him or with him fussing and procrastinating — and came home with some awards for his effort and (forced) diligence, although he and we know that his reward is in what he learned, more on that below. He medaled in everything he participated in: his big bling is first in speech (here is a video of his speech), he also got 3rd in song leading, first in his blog entry, and was a top 10 scorer in Bible Bowl. His Bible Bowl Team won second, and his puppet team won first. He was most jazzed about the puppet team's win.
According to its website, Lads to Leaders is a non-profit organization designed to develop youth into Christian leaders. I love the slogan, "You don't have to teach them to be leaders in the church. Their L2L experience makes them WANT to be." That is so perfect and true. The result of the program is kids that desire to know God, that hunger for Truth, and who WANT to be workers in the church! And, honestly, who don't know any different. I've never had any dedicated Lads parents who went through ahead of us say they regretted participating or that participation did anything but help to grow confidence in their child for the Lord's work.
The event, however, can rankle some who, for the most part, have never tried to learn about it or know what really happens for it and at it. A lot of uninformed noses turn up with opinions and assumptions.
One popular contention is the award format. But how different is that from giving the kids stickers or candy for coming to church class or learning their Bible verses? It's not. The Lads kids are not getting an award for studying the Bible. They are getting an award for working hard and performing above average at a skill they learned and, frankly, sometimes just for showing up. The award has nothing to do with the subject, which happens to be Bible studies.
"I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8
It's "Reward versus Award." The trophy is the "award" for the effort, while the practicing, the learning, the skill, the knowledge gained is the reward. Yes, you will see some excited kids (and parents) about these trophies. They worked hard! Often studying when other friends are getting together; dragging extra books on vacations to spend time in study; missing out on school events or activities because of preparation or practice. As a parent and Lads volunteer, I am just as excited as they are when they win a trophy. I have witnessed the hard work. I've seen these kids with their heads buried in Bible Bowl binders. I've been in the classroom as they have adjusted their points in debate preparation. I've heard Caleb upstairs in his room practicing leading his song before bed. I love to see our young people accomplish goals, so I do get excited about the award. I get more excited when I see the result of the reward, like when Caleb says, "Hey! I know a verse for that, I learned it in Bible Bowl"; or when Abbey says, "There's a verse we talked about in Pearls class at Lads that I'm going to correlate with my subject for a paper," or when Hg says "Would you look closer at Luke 20:35-36 with me." That's their reward, And it will be their reward for the rest of their lives because it was/is written on their hearts due to whatever motivation was behind it.
So, yeah, they are excited to get a medal or a sticker, a piece of candy, a pat on the back, whatever kind of positive feedback they've get. And I'm excited for them — because getting a medal is just fun.