You have worked hard for the entire week, and now it’s finally here: the Sabbath. You and your family drive to services and arrive at the place where you will spend the next couple of hours listening to instruction from the Bible. You walk in the door, set down your belongings at your seat—and then what?
Whom do you go talk to?
If you’re like most other teens, you probably make a beeline to your friends and start talking to them. And after services, maybe you go right back to them. Perhaps you have a “teen corner” or a place where the young people tend to congregate.
I know I did that when I was a teen, especially as a younger teen. I had a lot of friends at services, and we usually spent the entire Sabbath talking only to each other—not branching out to anyone else.
But when I was about 15, something changed. Our teen coordinator gave a teen Bible study about talking to the seniors and spreading out after Services to talk to people other than our little group of friends. Then, he announced a new teen program: We would be divided into groups, and each group would be assigned to a local senior. We would be responsible for talking to that senior between our monthly teen Bible study meetings. The teen coordinator would announce a question that we could bring up in conversation with our senior, and we would share what we talked about at the next study.
At first, this was kind of scary. The lovely lady that my group was assigned to was one whom I had never really talked to before. I didn’t feel very comfortable with just walking up to her and starting a conversation. The first time, it was difficult to force myself to walk up to her and say hello. I have struggled with the problem of shyness since I was a very small child, so I have never liked walking up to strangers and introducing myself. I was plagued with doubts: What if I say something dumb? What if it’s awkward? What if we have nothing to talk about?
But as soon as I walked up to her and initiated the conversation, it simply flowed. She was such a positive and bubbly lady, and she soon had me laughing at some of her stories. I think we talked for over an hour that first time, and I learned a lot about her. She had plenty of stories to share, and she was also interested in me—what I was doing at school, what I liked to do for fun, if I had applied for Philadelphia Youth Camp, etc. After that, it was so much easier to go over to her and say hello every Sabbath. After a while, I began to count her as one of my valued friends.
If our teen coordinator had never started this program, I might have never built that friendship with this lovely lady. I might have missed out on a wonderful opportunity.
That program made me stop and think: How many other people in my home congregation (which, granted, is rather large) did I also not know? I had attended this congregation my entire life, but there were still people whose names I couldn’t remember, or whom I had never had a real conversation with.
After that experience, I made it a personal goal to try to talk to those other people whom I didn’t usually see. Yes, it was easier to just stick with my teen friends. But as I grew a little older, I realized the value of reaching out to the elderly, to widows, to singles, to married couples, and even to children. They all provide a wonderful opportunity for us to give through fellowship—and, by developing those relationships, we can gain a great deal as well.
It has helped me personally so much to get outside of my comfort zone and approach every Sabbath with an outreach mind-set.
Let me explain what I mean.
At Herbert W. Armstrong College, I was part of two student outreaches to outlying congregations—one to Arkansas and one to Texas. On those outreaches, I was struck by the outreach mentality that the AC students exemplified. It was wonderful to see students talking to elderly members, couples, families and children, all sharing stories and fellowshipping with so much energy. Everyone had smiles on their faces as they met us, talked to us, and learned about everything that was going on at headquarters and AC; they shared their life stories with us.
That is the kind of approach I’m talking about. An outreach is about reaching out—about going up to that person you don’t know, introducing yourself, and learning about him or her—your true family. Or, walking up to that person in your congregation whom you never talk to and striking up a conversation. It can be really hard at first. I know. I used to hate introducing myself to people, and it is still hard for me. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Often, all it takes to initiate a conversation is introducing yourself and saying, “How was your week?”
On an outreach, everyone makes a special effort to spread around and get to know everyone—not just to stick around his particular friends. There were so many AC students on those outreaches, and we could have easily just talked to each other and left the congregation alone. But that was not what happened.
On an outreach, people also make a special effort to talk to those who are unable to come to them—those who are too old or infirm to move around much.
I met a wonderful lady at the Feast in Osoyoos, British Columbia, who was bound to a wheelchair. I almost literally stumbled over her while walking past her seat in the back of the hall, and that little incident sparked an animated conversation. We chatted for a while, and every day after that, she always had a wave, a smile and a kind word to share. She attended the Feast in Edmond, and we had a lovely conversation. She said that she really appreciated being noticed, for as she said, the people in wheelchairs and those who are not strong enough to stand up for long on their own are often relegated to a back corner where they don’t get to talk to anyone. They sometimes get neglected because people just forget about them.
How many people like that do we come into contact with every week at services? Or on holy days—or at the Feast?
On an outreach, we try to reach out to the brethren and get to know them better. It’s a special time to get to know the members in a field congregation. But what about those in our home congregation? Do we reach out to them as well?
The members of God’s Church are our family. These are the people we are destined to spend eternity with. Shouldn’t we get to know them now so we can focus in the future on teaching and loving and getting to know all people who have ever lived?
What better chance could we ask for?
This opportunity doesn’t come rarely—it happens every week! And the great thing is, while we make their Sabbaths more enjoyable by giving them a good conversation, we will simultaneously be enhancing our own Sabbath experience as well.
Try it this weekend. When you and your family go to services, don’t just make a beeline toward your teenage friends and sit off in the corner somewhere. Go up to an elderly person, a couple or a single, and strike up a conversation. Then, make it a personal goal to keep that outreach mind-set going every Sabbath—to go into the Sabbath with the goal of meeting at least one new person or, if you attend a smaller congregation, talking to a few people whom you don’t see during the week. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk to our friends on the Sabbath, but if we spend the entire Sabbath simply around the people we are comfortable with, we are wasting an opportunity to grow and serve.
If we approach every Sabbath with an outreach mind-set, we will soon get to know our whole Family. This is something we each have to make an individual commitment to do. It may not be easy, but it is so worth it.
Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity. Make every Sabbath an outreach. Reach out to your true Family—and watch your happiness and your family ties grow.