When I was young, we attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Lake of the Ozarks, which had many theme-park-inspired features: sea planes, bumper cars, gigantic arcades, roller coasters, go-karts, the largest mini-golf courses I’ve seen anywhere on Earth—even an old-time vintage photo shop. It was easy to get preteen and teenaged Worldwide Church of God attendees excited.
After years of attending the fall holy days there with over 10,000 of God’s people, it was quite an adjustment as a young person to attend Philadelphia Church of God (pcg) sites in places like Oklahoma City or Denver. Just a few months before the Feast of Tabernacles in 1994, I remember asking our minister why Colorado Springs had been chosen as a Feast site. His answer stuck with me: “We are going where God has placed His name.”
It wasn’t just a throwaway line either—I got the full explanation that day. Abraham didn’t question God’s instruction to leave his home and go. The scripture simply says that God told him to go (Genesis 12:1) and he went (verse 4). Hebrews 11:8 adds that Abraham didn’t even know where he was going.
We don’t pick our Feast sites ourselves—God personally places His name on each one (Deuteronomy 14:23). Deuteronomy 16:15 adds the Feast will be kept “in the place which the Lord shall choose.” He chooses the site and places His name there. We should remember that as we flip through our Feast planners. The allure cannot be where the most magnificent waterfall or most pristine beach is. We have to be mindful of the fact that God has placed His name at each of the Feast locations. With that in mind, consider where we can be of the best service to Him.
I have a special challenge this year: getting two young children excited about attending the Feast of Tabernacles in our hometown, and preparing them to set a fantastic example, both for God’s Family and for those in the community who encounter them during the holy days. This begins with helping my children understand that God has selected this Feast site. Attending where God’s house is located does help to make that more real, but if you are attending in any of the other Feast sites remember it has been personally selected by God to provide you with the greatest Feast of Tabernacles you have ever had! If your children understand that their Father in heaven personally planned this Feast for them, how could they not be excited?
In The God Family Vision, Pastor General Gerald Flurry writes: “If we do our part as parents, generally speaking we will have great young people who yearn to be taught about the God Family vision and what it means to their future. What other vision will cause them to stand up to this evil world? This vision makes it real in their minds. How heartbreaking it is when you see parents who will not dedicate their children to God and will not teach them the God Family vision.”
There is no better opportunity to establish the God Family vision in our children than the Feast of Tabernacles. If they understand that God has planned this event—that you will be attending the Feast where God has placed His name—that is a perfect starting point for preparing them to behave like God’s royalty.
Royal Conduct at Services
Once our little princes and princesses arrive at the Feast of Tabernacles, there is no question as to whether they will be noticed. We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), and your children are just like that city on a hill: Everyone is going to see them, and they can’t be hid! It reminds me of a well-planned fireworks display—you can’t ignore it.
The main thing that establishes a World Tomorrow environment at the Feast of Tabernacles is the presence of God’s people, and our children are no exception. None of the items on the list posted at the start of this article really relates to the World Tomorrow. Those things simply made the trip to the Feast at Lake of the Ozarks more exciting in a physical way. The last few Feast sites I have attended featured none of those things. Similarly, many aspects of the World Tomorrow simply cannot be enacted today because we are still in Satan’s world. Your child won’t be able to pose with a lion and scratch the big fellow’s chin.
One thing we can do—beyond providing the nicest environment we can afford and participating in quality, family-oriented entertainment—is to teach our children to behave like citizens of the World Tomorrow.
Before the Feast begins, practice what your children should do when they greet an adult, and remind your princes and princesses that the people they will be meeting are also God’s royalty. Teach him to smile. Show him how to extend his right hand to the person to shake hands, shake the person’s hand for a reasonable length of time (about one to three seconds), and say something to the effect of: “My name is Peter Piper, and I’m from Omaha, Nebraska,” using the child’s actual name and hometown. If a child has not practiced this simple courtesy, he will probably be too inhibited to do it well at the Feast—or not inhibited enough. Some children have to be told not to climb onto people’s laps!
Many of the things that make a child’s light shine at the Feast are standard practice for services, but any change in environment can cause a child’s behavior to change for the worse. Remind your children that they are in the location where God has placed His name, so they will need to maintain the same high standards at the Feast that they observe in weekly Sabbath services: taking notes, keeping quiet, and being respectful of those around them, both during the service and during fellowship time. If your child is 12 or younger, he should be under your direct supervision at all times, not running loose around the hall.
Encourage your children to pay special attention to their clothing. A young man’s shirt should be tucked in with the tie pulled taut; his hair should be neat; and his face should be clean; not smeared with post-service cookies. A young girl should sit like a lady, with her skirt covering the knees. She too should have brushed her hair and look not simply presentable, but like royalty among God’s people. We can dress and prepare them at the hotel, but they must be taught to do their part to maintain the royal standard throughout the rest of the day.
Ambassadors in the Community
The Worldwide Church of God had one significant advantage in its ability to impact the community: numbers. With over 10,000 attendees in Lake of the Ozarks, the community went to considerable trouble to welcome us. Signs welcoming God’s people were prominently posted in front of every hotel, restaurants would import beef pepperoni especially for us, and there was a sense that something special was in town—and there was. God’s Feast of Tabernacles had arrived, invigorating the local economy and permeating to the community with an excitement it surely lacked the rest of the year. Many who were raised in God’s Church—like my wife who attended the Feast in Big Sandy—can tell similar stories about the Church’s profound impact on the community. This impact is representative of the difference the saints will make in the Kingdom of God.
With the power of numbers greatly reduced for the pcg, it is up to you to establish a Millennial environment for your family—and a Millennial example for the community. Your family might be the only representation of God’s Family that some community members see this year! You are ambassadors to those people of God’s way of life.
People frequently comment on how well behaved children in God’s Church are. This is a fantastic way we can benefit the community, and a pleasant surprise that will be remembered because of the stark contrast children left to themselves often display. Don’t allow your children to make a mess or a scene in a restaurant. Teach your children to be quiet in the hallways of your hotel, respecting the other Church members and guests in the facility. How will people describe our princes and princesses after we return home? If we prepare them now, we can be confident of good reports.
God’s Family Feast
This is God’s Family Feast. We want to especially help our children view their time at the Feast as family togetherness. There is nothing wrong with going to a water park or walking through a mall, but that isn’t what your children should be most anticipating. Even before the Feast, help them anticipate the Church-sponsored activities where they will be with all of God’s Family. Especially point them toward Family Day as a great representation of the coming World Tomorrow. Remind them about the Behind the Work films you have seen in previous years so they will be excited to watch the one this year.
Give them the bigger picture as well by showing them the image of a small child, a lion and a lamb together in peace as depicted in Isaiah 11, and explain that this isn’t just a movie or a storybook. This is reality—reality that will unfold in their lifetimes!
You and your children will spend a great deal of the Feast in services, and that too is cause for anticipation. We receive more messages from God’s apostle and the ministry at the Feast of Tabernacles than at any other time of the year. We will have the opportunity to hear live special music, which can be a rarity for many of our scattered brethren.
Talk to your children about the opportunities you will have to serve at the Feast, whether it is as an usher, in a choir, in used clothing, in handicapped aid—any way you are planning to serve God’s Family—and help them see how they can serve God’s Family as well.
If we prepare our children now, we can know that when they walk up to the opening night service, they will be overjoyed that they are attending God’s Family Feast. They won’t just see another hotel; they will see the World Tomorrow, having been fully prepared to attend God’s Feast at the place where God has placed His name.