Comments deserve hearty ‘Amen’

One of the reasons the Southern Baptist International Mission Board may be cutting its missionary force is Southern Baptists’ lack of support for missions education for its children over the past two decades.

GA&RA-LogoThat’s the sentiment of Wanda S. Lee, executive director of Southern Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union, based in Birmingham, Ala.

Lee was one of several Southern Baptist leaders  who expressed dismay at the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee meeting last week in Nashville about the IMB’s downsizing of 600-800 missionaries.

“We can lament the churches that haven’t given; we can lament many things. But one thing we have failed to do in our churches is to embrace the missions assignment of helping our children and our youth understand God’s field,” Lee said.


Lee observed that too many churches have abandoned Wednesday night missions activities in deference to youth sports.

Again, she is telling it like it is. I have seen this happen.

“We sacrificed our adults of 20 years ago,” she continued. “We sacrificed them when we said, ‘Well, I guess we can’t have RAs (Royal Ambassadors for boys) and GAs (Girls in Action) because kids have got to go play soccer.’ ”

Amen, again.

Lee is absolutely right when she says we have a generation of adults who do not know why they give. “They don’t give sacrificially because they don’t know the field. They don’t know the depth of lostness,” she observed.

I have maintained for a long time that our decreased emphasis on missions education would come back to haunt us and it is coming true. As Lee points out, we have a generation who did not learn about Southern Baptist missionaries and the Cooperative Program.

If your church has abandoned Southern Baptist missions education programs, bring those programs back. The future of Southern Baptist missionary efforts depends on an understanding who we are and why we do what we do through the Cooperative Program by upcoming generations.

Southern Baptist missions education is imperative to reaching a lost world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.


15 Responses to “Comments deserve hearty ‘Amen’”

  1. Kim Allen Says:

    I know as I write these thoughts I will receive some heat but if the truth cannot be expressed we have a major problem. I cannot say I disagree with the article because I have said the same things for years, but we continue to offer and push these ( RA, GA, Acteens, CIA, Mission Friends, Youth In Action) programs to a steadily declining population of children and youth due to the sports schedule and practices held on Wednesday evenings, which in my day of growing up there was not a coach alive who would schedule a practice or game on Wednesday evening in fear of the pastors and churches coming down on them. Parents today say they have to make the decision based on what’s best for their child, and if they want to play they cannot miss the practice or leave early to go to church because if they do they will not play that week. Right now we contend with football,basket ball, track, volley ball,fall softball, golf, soccer and the fact we do not offer the big one called ” Awanas” which draws children like bees to honey. I am not denouncing any of the above activities but the problem lies in the lack of spiritual maturity in making the best decision for the child, church, missions study , Southern Baptist programs, or outside the denomination material and programs. It is a sad day we have come to when we lay off missionaries and service employees, but the reality is the Word says this will happen and continue to happen within the confines of the Body of Christ the closer it gets to His coming. “And my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.(CSB) I am praying for a turn around will you join me?

  2. Greg Salyer Says:

    I don’t disagree with this article at all, but as a pastor of a church that continues to offer RA’s and GA’s – with almost none of our kids missing due to sports – I think we need to focus on another very serious issue. For years our RA and GA leaders have complained about the insufficient material provided for them. I took a look at it myself and found it extremely disappointing. It is very shallow, contains very little Scripture (often only one verse), and can be taught in ten minutes or less. I had my secretary call WMU to find out if there was something we were not getting, but we had everything available. We have had to supplement other material for years. From my viewpoint, it appears WMU has given up on RA’s and GA’s because they don’t give us anything to teach. Improve the curriculum and people may be willing to teach it again.

    • Irby Stanley Says:

      Greg, we experienced the same thing in our church. We reviewed the RA material and it was geared more towards girls. It was asking the leaders (men) to help the boys bake something. Come one WMU! We are trying to teach our boys to be men not house-husbands. Nothing against cooking, I help my wife do it. Also, today’s church leaders/teachers do not have the skill set to add to the lesson so they let the boys do more ‘recreation’ than anything.

    • Jeffery Sinnamon Says:

      I agree with brother Salyer. I am a pastor and continued to hear about the literature in R A and GA was lacking. We would be glad to bring it back to our church if the material was changed. I remember growing up in RAs and we had great material then but that was 28 years ago.

  3. Jerry Drace Says:

    The comments are well taken. We as a Convention have not only consistently declined in our reported professions of faith over the last several years, we are now pulling up by the roots the mission activites of our children. Today the average child in our churches can quote the names of the players on their favorite professional team while they would be hard pressed to name any missionaries from the past or in the present. As our Convention continues to promote church planting at the expense of time-tested and proven methods of evangelism, so our established churches continue to retreat in the area of mission activites to appease the siren call of the sports gods. Where does the real blame lie? In the pulpit. The shepherd who asks his sheep where they would like to graze needs to turn in his rod and his staff. Do we need new churches? Absolutely! Do we need new methods of reaching the lost? Absolutely! But not at the expense of removing our ancient landmarks. [End] Jerry Drace, Evangelist and Pastor

  4. Peggy Hooper Says:

    I agree that missions education has gone by the wayside. Our church went from GA’s and RA’s on Wednesday nights to CIA’s. Then that was cancelled in order to do Bible drills. Now we are doing Team Kids. We have never had Acteens. We have WMU with Women on Mission and Mission Friends. Missions education just doesn’t seem to have the importance it once had.

  5. Shernell Green Lowry Says:

    I was very disappointed in the new GA ministry, the memorization lacked real meat for the girls. I learned how to give scripture for showing the way of salvation. This is more important to me as I grow older we must lead our young people to the Lord but they get harden by the world. I miss the step plan, I was fortunate enough to have leaders who help lead us in scripture and mission studies. I was one of many young girls in our church who went on to make Queen Region.

  6. Pastor Mark Allen Deakins Says:

    Hey – this all started when the SBC decommissioned the Brotherhood organization. It would do the same to the WMU if they would allow it. Also for example, when the TBC did away with the Discipleship Training Dept. the fall away from mission training tipped over another cliff. It may never recover.

  7. roy warmath Says:

    Growing up as a Baptist in the 1930-40s, I well remember how much emphasis was placed on memorizing Bible scripture as an RA, in SS and in VBS.

    I well remember the Sword Drills-now called Bible Drills that were a big focus for us BYPU (Baptist Young Peoples Union-now called DTU) boys/girls. Winners at my church-Temple Baptist Church in Memphis Tennessee-were awarded with small gifts and dinners for all to celebrate together.

    I learned to recite the books of the Bible thru these important SBC programs-to memorize Bible verses that I still know today. I remember perfect attendance was emphasized in SS-with us boys/girls proudly wearing our pins with the attachable pendant bars.

    I remember the study courses that were held for us children/youths. Dedicated teachers made sure we received a Christ centered education at church.

    I do not hear of any Baptist churches in the area of west TN where we now live that are emphasizing these Bible drills, the perfect attendance program, scripture memory verse programs, etc. And that is truly sad.

  8. Janet Y. Piercy Says:

    I agree that we have left the teaching of our children missions and about the cooperative program. I do not agree that the only thing that this can be blamed on is sports. Many churches in our area have deleted GAs, RAs, and Mission Friends from their programs and replaced them with Awanas which does not teach about Southern Baptist missions and the cooperative program or for large group programs that are meant to be spectacular at the expense of the personal touch as found in the Mission programs. One person stated that their leadership did not have the skills to add to the suggested programs. Why do they not have those skills? Have we failed to have training programs to teach them skills or do not encourage them to attend training programs provided by state or associational WMU? Is it because we did away with Training Union (or what ever name you want to give it?) Most of the skills I have as a leader were the results of GAs, Training Union and leadership training conferences provided by my church, association and state WMU. Maybe some of our traditional programs were not all bad!
    Yvonne Piercy, Church WMU Director

    • Janet Y. Piercy Says:

      Why can’t we both meet needs in our communities and around the world. I agree that many churches are using most of their resources to send church members to the international fields for short term missions in lieu of supporting those called by God for career mission’s service. Look at the gifts of many churches to the cooperative program, Lottie Moon offering and North American Missions offering. I am proud to be a part of a church that serves in many ways in our local community, gives over 10% to the Cooperative program, gives over $120,000 to Lottie Moon Offering and over $50,000 to the North American Offering and almost $20,000 to the Golden Offering. The Lord has blessed and we have not gone bankrupt yet!

  9. Susan Wright, WMU Director, Clinton Baptist Association Says:

    Let’s not forget the abandonment of our missions organizations for canned programs that are not Baptist. WMU leaders were warned this would happen years ago by Katherine Bryan…..and so it has.

  10. Beverly Blackard Says:

    Have you considered individuals are taking a new direction in missions? Our church is constantly receiving requests from local and out-of-state individuals who are saving up to go on a week long mission trip outside of the USA. I have my opinion about some of the people who go. I can’t say if they were called by God to go on the trip, or if (forgive me for stepping on toes) they are taking a vacation. Mission work is HARD, and I fear every group that takes 10-20+ people on these trips are taking away from the vocational missionaries. Voc. missionaries stay on the field and disciple the locals. Vacationing missionaries go to the field for a week, come home and brag about their efforts, and seldom do follow-ups to see if the locals are staying faithful. The money spent for these trips could easily be sent to the faithful who were called by God to be vocational missionaries. My opinion only.

    Many churches are collecting funds for the multiple community opportunities for missions. When I was a child in the 1950’s-60’s I was in Sunbeams, G.A.’s, and Acteens. I learned about the missionaries. I am now the mission director at our church. The Southern Baptists taught me well. However, we didn’t have the safe houses, pregnancy centers, food pantries, church planting opportunities, Samaritan’s Purse, etc. that we have now. Most people prefer to contribute in their communities where they see the results.

    Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Our lost world is growing by leaps and bounds.

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