Volume 11, Number 1, July-August 2007

Teaching Young People

by Norman Edwards

When we think of teaching young people, we almost immediately think “school”, “college” or “university”. But if we search many Bible translations for these words, we will not find much—because the Bible does not teach that system of education. There are hundreds of references to the biblical method of educating young people, but some of them were literally “lost in translation”. We have found them!

The obvious biblical commands for parents to teach their children has fortunately never been lost. Hence we can see Christian parents teaching their children throughout history, as well as a burgeoning Christian home-schooling movement.

Bible References to Schools and Colleges

The Bible contains no description of a school or college, and certainly no command to build them or attend them. The only place where most Bible translations contain the word school is in Acts 19:9:

[Paul] departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.

The reason he used it is given in verses 8 and 9—he had to depart from the synagogue because some people there were speaking evil of him. Paul used houses, market places and other places to preach the Gospel. While this went on for two years (v. 10), it was just Paul preaching—there is no indication that Christians were teaching young people there.

In Galatians 3:24-25, the King James Version (KJV) compares the law to a “schoolmaster”, but the Greek word translated “schoolmaster”, paidagogos, is well understood to mean a servant or guardian that wealthy Greek and Roman families employed to protect their boys and make sure they behaved—not a man in a classroom teaching students. In any case, this says nothing about God’s people sending children to school.

Only the King James Version and a few other translations contain the word “college”. Huldah the prophetess is said to dwell “in the college” (2Kngs 22:14; 2Chr 34:22). Most other translations say “in the second quarter” as the Hebrew word here is mishneh, which literally means the “second place”. The KJV translators were probably confused because the same word, Mishneh (or Mishna), is the name of a very important Jewish book written in the third century A.D. It was called “second place” book because it contained the “oral law”, which was considered second in importance to the written law, the Holy Scriptures. Because of the close association of the word “mishneh” with “teaching” the KJV translators assumed that this mishneh was a place of teaching, or college. However, the literal meaning of “second place” is a much better translation as this Hebrew word was not associated with teaching until hundreds of years after the book of Kings was written.

It is a mistake to say that the Bible does not teach the use of schools because “they weren’t invented yet”. The Romans, Greeks and some civilizations prior had classroom education. Little technology is required to build classrooms the size of an ordinary house, to provide teachers and to require young people to attend.

It is important to realize that the Bible does not condemn classroom education. But it is more important to realize that the Bible explains how teaching should occur.

Are we using the methods that God gave us?

     —NSE

The missing part regards what to do when children need education beyond what there parents can give them. Whether you are a geneticist or someone who has just worked with a lot of young people, you know that many children are not born with the same interests and abilities as their parents. For example, Dad was a farmer and mom a writer; but son likes electronics and daughter wants to be a musician.

Where do children learn things that their parents cannot teach them? The biblical answer is “apprenticeship”—learning while working with someone who is a “master”. Let us read in detail what the Bible says about parental teaching and apprenticeship.

God Commands Parents to Teach their Children

What does the Bible say about teaching young people?

“that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged … And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut 6:2,6-7).

These verses show that the commandments of God should be taught to young people by parents who do them and who have them in their hearts. Parents who are consistent with rewards and punishments can mold almost any desired behavior into very young children. When children reach the teen years, they begin to watch their parents to see if they are doing what they are teaching. When parents do not do what they teach, young people usually rebel against their teaching.

This does not mean that teens are always right in their “watching” or that all teenage rebellion is justified. However, parents just often do not realize how much their example overshadows their words. The young person’s rebellion may show up as open hostility or as an unexpected departure from home. When parents effectively repress the rebellion, the result in the young people is often depression, severe illness and occasional suicide.

While parents may think, “I keep the commandments”, it is amazing how many excuses they have:

•    “Of course I cannot get along with my husband/wife, because he/she always does…”

•    “I know I should go talk to that fellow-believer with whom I am upset, but I just know that they won’t listen or change.”

•    “If my life were not so difficult, I would not need to eat so much, drink so much or take so many pills.”

•    “The work and entertainment that I do on the Sabbath is more important than what my children want to do.”

•    “The reasons I give my boss for missing work are at least partly true.”

•    “I would help to preach the Gospel, feed the poor and do the other things taught in the New Testament, but I just don’t have time.”

Yes, young people can be overly judgmental, but far too often a substantial portion of their criticisms are right. Young people can be hypocritical too—their criticism can be right, but they can have the same problems in their lives as well. But each age-group will find it works much better to ask God to help them change themselves, not to try to change the other. When a parent is not doing what they teach, but insists that their children do it, frustration is usually the result for all involved.

This does not mean that a parent must be perfect in order to teach the Bible to their children. Parents who acknowledge where they fall short to their children, and who are actively seeking to overcome these sins through the power of the Spirit, usually will be as effective as the parent who has already overcome the sins.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deut 6:7).

Teaching the Bible should not be done only at some “study time”. It should be applied in an ongoing way during daily activities. This is good for both the teacher and the student! This writer knows of Christian children that once complained to their parents “we think the Bible is good, but do you have to bring it into everything we do?” The answer is “Yes, God wants that.” The parents are commended to teach and the children are commanded to listen:

My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother (Prov 1:8).

There are many other scriptures where the Eternal commands parents to teach their children His ways.

“And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say,…” (Ex 12:26-27).

“Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children’” (Deut 4:9-10).

“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut 11:18-19).

And He said to them: “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law.” (Deut 32:46).

For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children. That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God. (Pslm 78:5-8).

The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day; The father shall make known Your truth to the children (Isa 38:19).

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4).

Group Teaching Not Eliminated

The above list of verses is not complete, but should be enough to see that the Eternal places the primary responsibility of teaching young people on parents. These commands do not prevent the need for people to learn as a group. God also commands men, women and children to hear his law together:

And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law” (Deut 31:10).

Group teachings help each member realize that they all are brethren, striving together to follow the same God and the same laws. But group teaching once every seven years cannot replace the daily responsibility of parents and grandparents. One cannot leave the responsibility of teaching to “the church” or “the government”. When God brought back some of his people to restore Jerusalem and the temple, it was “all the people” who “gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel” (Ezra 8:2).

The Biblical Apprentice

How do young people make the transition from a child of their parent to a fully functioning member of society? If a series of part time jobs, high school, college and the related social systems are not the best way, then what is?

The most important concept of teaching young people has been lost in nearly all modern Bible translations. It may seem a bit bold to claim that a major solution to a problem affecting all societies has been lost in most Bible Translations, but this writer would like to challenge the reader to finish this article, and if necessary read the complete word study, and then see if he/she does not agree.

This lost concept is that of the “apprentice” or “trainee”, which is bound up in the meaning of two Hebrew and two Greek words and not adequately conveyed by any Bible translation known to this writer. There are two words in each language because each language has one for male and one for female apprentices. You do not have to know these Hebrew and Greek words to understand the concept, but it is helpful to learn them since we do not have any single English word that means exactly the same thing. The words are:

Hebrew & Greek Words for “Apprentice”

Word

Pronounced

Strong’s

Used

Language/sex

na`ar

nah-are

5288

238

Hebrew, male

na`arah

nah-are-ah

5291

62

Hebrew, female

pais

pah-eece

3916

19

Greek, male

paidiske

pah-ee-dis’-kay

3814

13

Greek, female

The “Used” column, above, shows that these words occur 300 times in the Old Testament Hebrew and 32 Times in the New Testament Greek. That is a lot to study! These words are translated in many different ways: “young man”, “young woman”, “servant”, “maidservant”, “child”, “boy”, “lad”, etc. Most lexicons, unfortunately, deal with them in just that way: they say these Hebrew/Greek words simply have all those varied meanings. The lexicons agree that there are no adjectives, prefixes or suffixes that would tell the reader which meaning is intended in a particular case. We can tell by the context that these words are used sometimes for little children and other times for men who fight in battles or who slay a calf and prepare it for eating. Sometimes they are used for family members, and sometimes not. They can apply to servants, they can apply to king’s sons. So why would the Bible so frequently contain a word that could have so many meanings when there are other specific Hebrew words that clearly denote each of these things? (See the nearby box.)

Similar and contrasting words to Hebrew Na`ar and Na`arah

Strong’s

Word

Definition

#5288

na`ar

“male apprentice or trainee”

#113

adown

“master” or “lord”

#120

adam

“mankind”, also the name of the first man

#376

iysh

“man”, but often includes all people

#582

enowsh

“man” or “a male human”

#970

bachur

“unmarried young man”

#1121

ben

“son”

#2145

zakar

“male”, humans or animals

#2205

zaqen

“elder” or “older man”—opposite of na`ar

#2945

taph

“children” or “little ones”

#3206

yeled

“boy” or “child”

#5271

na`uwr

“youth” or “early life”

#5650

ebed

“servant”, assumed male

#8334

sharath

“minister”

 

 

 

#5291

na`arah

“female apprentice or trainee”

#490

almanah

“widow”

#519

amah

“female servant”

#802

ish-shah

“woman” or “wife” (like #376, iysh)

#1323

bath

“daughter” (like #1121, ben)

#1330

bethula

“unmarried young woman” (like #970, bachur)

#3207

yaldah

“girl” (like #3206, yeled)

#3618

kallah

“bride”

#5347

neqebah

“female’ (humans or animals)

#5757

almah

“virgin”

#8198

shiphchah

“handmaid”

(Some of the male words, above, such as zaqen, “elder” are occasionally used to apply to women)

The Bible’s writers used these four Hebrew and Greek words, rather than other similar ones, because they imply a person who is learning—who is being educated. They would be better translated “apprentice” or “trainee” than in the many ways they are rendered. In ancient times, everyone recognized that there were people whose social status in life was one of an “apprentice” to a “master”—they were people who were learning, but also expected to be working at the same time.

This is quite different to the concepts that we have today. Today, if one is a “student”, then one is expected to be primarily learning—a “student” may or may not have part time work—and it will often not be related to their field of study. Also, if one is a full-time “employee” or “worker”, then one is expected to be working and receiving pay—and is generally not involved in any learning.

The reason that these four words are used in so many different contexts is because a young person can be learning from a mentor whether he is a king, a servant, a son or a soldier. The important part, is that there status in life is one of learning while they are doing. A young man learning his father’s trade or a woman learning to be a wife are apprentices to their father or mother. But he or she could also be an apprentice for the same purpose—or another purpose—to someone else.

These four words, na`ar, na`arah, pais and paidiske neither imply nor preclude some kind of formal apprenticeship arrangement. They would apply to a formal arrangement, but also to a young person learning from a parent. Certain trades have had very specific definitions of what a person had to do to be an ” and what was necessary for someone else to be their “master”. The Bible never mentions any requirements for becoming a “master” or an “apprentice” or how one graduates from the apprentice status. Sometimes it is obvious. When a king assumes the throne, he is no longer a na`ar. When a wife in training marries, she is no longer a na`arah. A person in business may gradually lose their apprentice status. There is no need to develop a complex, exhaustive definition of the biblical apprentice. Rather, the general concept needs to be applied in everyday life.

What this writer hopes is that both parents and young people will come to realize that the Bible teaches young people to spend some number of years in situations where they can both learn from a mentor and do useful work at the same time. It would be best for these mentors to be fellow-believers, teaching both physical and spiritual lessons together. However, in some cases, a young Christian may need to have an unbeliever as a mentor to learn certain kinds of work, and then have other believers as spiritual mentors.

“Apprentice” Was Understood Historically

Centuries ago, apprenticeship was much more common. Apprentices were expected to both work and learn at the same time, but these concepts are now used much less in western society. The King James Version translators, in the 1500s and 1600s, did their work without the benefit of much of the Jewish learning of their day—most Christians and Jews did not get along well at that time. If the translators had access to Jewish learning, they might have known that Rashi, the foremost Jewish commentator on the Old Testament, writing in the late 1000s A.D., explains that na`ar indeed does mean “apprentice” or “trainee”. Extensive detail is available in the article “NaAR Means TRAINEE “ from Rashi-is-Simple, by Dr. Hendel President, © 1999-present, RashiYomi Inc., at http://www.rashiyomi.com/lad-1.htm.

Also, in describing events of nearly 3000 years ago, Historian James B. Prichard cited an ancient Egyptian account of the arrival of Na-arim (plural of na`ar) troops that saved Ramses in a battle, (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, p256.) “The arrival of the Nearin[na’arim]-troops of Pharaoh—life, prosperity, health!—from the land of Amurru” [land of Amorites—where ancient Israel was at the time]. These were younger, less experienced soldiers that fought and won the victory. A similar victory by the Israelite na`arim is documented in 1 Kings 20:17-20.

This writer did find a partial understanding of the meaning of na`ar in some reference works (Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Old Testament and the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament). The explanation was not under the na`ar entry, but under the entry for zaqen (Strong’s #2205), “elder”. There it stated that zaqen was the opposite of na`ar. While the “elder” versus “younger” meaning is valid, the “master” versus “apprentice” is more accurate.

Bible Evidence Is Overwhelming

Even without this history, the meaning of the Hebrew na`ar and na`arah, and the Greek pais and paidiske can be determined by studying the many uses of them in the Bible. This writer looked at all 332 of them. The complete word study, Bible Words Meaning “Apprentice” or “Trainee”, is available by mail or in the Literature List on the Servants’ News web site. Fortunately, the Bible contains many passages where these Hebrew and Greek words are used, and where there is much additional description of the person called a na`ar, na`arah, etc. From this, we can learn what the words mean. Since na`ar, the Hebrew word for male apprentices, accounts for 238 of these references, most examples in this article are about this word.

In every case, we can see that na`ar is used for a person who is some kind of “apprentice”, and we can often see who the “master” of the na`ar is. While apprenticeship is always implied, the word implies little about other characteristics. It can refer to a family member or someone who is not a family member. It can refer to a baby, or someone who is middle aged. It can refer to a person of lowly social estate—a slave, or to Jesus Christ himself, in his capacity of an “apprentice” to the Father.

Let us take a walk through the Bible and look at numerous examples.

Na`ar is used for both Abraham’s sons and his servants—both apprenticed to him (Gen 14:24, 18:7, 22:3,5,12, 19). It is also used for both the sons and servants of the Shunammite woman (2Kngs 4:19, 22, 24, 29-32, 35) and Job’s sons and servants (Job 1:15-17, 19).

It is used to refer to servants of both Israelites and other nations: Pharaoh’s daughter’s servants (Ex 2:6), Balaam’s servants (Num 22:22), Saul’s servants (1Sam 9:3, 5, 7-8, 10, 22, 27; 10:14; 16:18), an Assyrian King’s servants (2Kngs 19:6) and King Ahasuerus’ servants (Esth 2:2; 3:13; 6:3, 5).

Na`ar can be used for the very young, such as kings when they are born, because they are already “kings in training” (2Sam 12:16). Samuel was a na`ar when he began training to be a priest at age three (1Sam 1:22 , 24-25, 27; 2:11) The same word was used for Joshua, Moses’ apprentice, when he was probably around 40 years old (Ex 33:11).

The expression “old and young” is found in many Bible verses, as a way of referring to everybody (Gen 19:4; Ex 10:9; Deut 28:50; Josh 6:21; Pslm 37:25; 148:12; Isa 20:4; Jer 51:22; Lam 2:21, see also Prov 22:6). A better translation would be: “elders (hebrew zaqen) and apprentices (hebrew na`ar)” or “masters and apprentices”. When apprentices do not respect elders, it is a sign of national degeneration: “The people will be oppressed,… The na`ar [‘apprentice’] will be insolent toward the zaqen [‘elder’]” Isa 3:5).

Military men are frequently called na`ar—probably to remind them that they are under others more experienced than they (Gen 14:24; Jdgs 8:14; 9:54, 1Sam 14:1,6; 30:17; 2Sam 2:14; 18:15; 4:12; 1Chr 12:28). The word is used for David’s and Abigail’s servants—some were soldiers and some were not, but na`ar nicely describes both (1Sam 21:2, 4-5; 25:5, 8-9, 12, 14, 19, 25, 27; 26:22).

Similarly, na`arah is frequently used for young single women who are “wives in training” (Gen 24:14, 16, 28, 55, 57; Deut 22:15-16, 19-21, 23-29, Jdg 21:12)

In Genesis 34, Dinah’s family refers to her as the “daughter of Jacob” or the “sister” of her brothers, but Shechem, who “forced” her and then was seeking to marry her, refers to her as a na`arah (v. 12)—emphasizing her “wife in training” aspect rather than her family status. Of note, Shechem is often referred to as “son of Hamor”, but is also called an apprentice, na`ar in verse 19.

The prophet Elijah also had apprentices (2Kngs 4:12, 25, 38; 5:20, 22; 6:15, 17; 8:4; 9:4).

A person can both be a na`ar and have a na`ar at the same time. David’s sons were his “apprentices” (2Sam 13:32; 14:21), but his sons also had their own apprentices (2Sam 13:17, 28-29; 17:18). Similarly, Rebekah is identified as a na`arah, a wife in training (Gen 24:14, 16, 28, 55, 57), yet she has na`arah of her own—her handmaids (Gen 24:61).

Apprenticeship Concept Sheds New Light on Some Verses

There are scriptures that are much more understandable when we see the true meaning of na`ar. Solomon calls himself a lesser na`ar—he was not physically a “little child” upon assuming the throne (1Kngs 3:7); He knew he needed training and wisdom, so he asked God for it and received it. His father David also referred to him as his trainee (na`ar) when Solomon first began to rule (1Chr 22:5; 29:1), but no one else would call him that.

A famous verse from David’s Psalm 119 takes on more meaning when we see that it contains na`ar: “How can a young man [na`ar] cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Pslm 119:9). This verse is not written just to “young men,” but to anyone who wants to be an apprentice to God—and of course the solution is reading His word.

Here are some proverbs that can be better understood knowing na`ar means “apprentice”:

“To give prudence to the simple, To the na`ar knowledge and discretion” (Prov 1:4)

“Even a na`ar is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right” (Prov 20:11)

“Train up a na`ar in the way he should go, And when he is old [zaqen—contrasting word for “a master” or “an elder”] he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6)

The following three verses are normally applied to children, but their usage is broader:

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a na`ar; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Prov 22:15).

“Do not withhold correction from a na`ar, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die” (Prov 23:13).

“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a na`ar left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Prov 29:15).

“She [the ‘virtuous woman’] also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household [family], And a portion for her maidservants [na`arah—daughters or female servants who are wives in training—they would not have their own husbands and households yet]” (Prov 31:15).

Here are examples of notable people in the New Testament who are called male or female apprentices (pais or paidiske in Greek):

•    the servant of the Roman Centurion who was sick (Matt 8:6,8,13; Luke 7:7)

•    Herod’ servants (Matt 14:2)

•    the people who angered the chief priests by crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt 21:5)

•    a “servant girl” that accused Peter of being with Jesus when Jesus was captured (Matt 26:69; Mark 14:66, 69; Luke 22:56; John 18:17)

•    Jairus’ daughter, age 12 (Luke 8:42), who died and was healed by Jesus (Luke 8:51, 54)

•    the “menservants” and “maidservants” beaten by the bad servants of Christ (Luke 12:45)

•    Rhoda, the servant who answered Peter’s knock, but was so excited she forgot to open the door (Acts 16:16)

•    Eutychus, the young man who fell down three stories after falling asleep listening to Paul (Acts 20:12)

Na`ar of God

Both the nation of Israel (Luke 1:54) and king David (Luke 1:69, Acts 4:25) are referred to as apprentices (pais) of God.

They were to learn His ways, to practice them and to teach them to others. A person is always a “trainee” to God, even though they may be a teacher to others. Even Christ himself is a na`ar of God:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child [na`ar] shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings” (Isa 7:14-16).

The Greek equivalent, pais is also used for Christ in the New Testament when Jesus was age 12 (Luke 2:43) and when he began his ministry at about 30 (Matt 18:12, see Luke 3:23 for age), and during his ministry (Acts 3:13, 26; Acts 4:27, 30).

But just because one is in training, whether it be to God or some other leader, one is not absolved from responsibility and taking necessary action. Jeremiah tried to use his apprentice status as an excuse. See what happened: “Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a na`ar.’ But the LORD said to me: ‘Do not say, “I am a na`ar,” For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.’” (Jer 1:6-7).

Using the Apprentice Concept Today

Understanding this Bible teaching on apprenticeship is only the first step in using it to help our young people. Implementation of the concept requires more steps:

•    Older people need to learn to become good mentors.

•    Younger people need to learn to become good apprentices.

•    Both groups need to learn to stay with the concept when the world and their friends may be pushing them toward other systems.

•    A way needs to be devised whereby potential apprentices and mentors can find each other.

•    And ultimately, our society needs to recognize learning that takes place in this way, as opposed to only recognizing education in the form of a scholastic degree.

While the task is large, it is better to begin to re-blaze this little-used road to success than to travel the well-worn roads that lead young people away from God.

Yes, there are times when young people no longer want to listen to their parents. God has set in motion a process whereby each generation sifts through the knowledge of the past—keeping what is good and rejecting what is bad. If guided by God, that process can work well. If guided by Satan, as often happens, the good is often lost and the evil is kept instead.

As children age, it is best that parents point them to other mentors, friends, books, videos and music from which they can learn. Parents must learn to think about what would interest their child, not what would interest them. One child may be interested in creation science videos, another in the life stories of Christian athletes, and another in great Christians of the past. Still others may be inspired by good Christian fiction, and some may be interested in active Christian service. Find and cultivate these interests.

Even with those good things, one cannot stop teens and young adults from absorbing what is in their environment, but it is amazing how much control of the environment parents can exert if they so desire. Sending young people to Christian camps or boarding schools frequently has an amazing effect. Young people meet new friends and interesting adults. Suddenly, the Bible is not something that only parents try to enforce, but something that their friends study and use.

But why do we recommend Christian schools if the Bible does not promote the practice of an “all learning and no doing” school? The reason is that while Christian boarding schools may use standard educational techniques in the classroom, Christian mentoring takes place most of the rest of the time. A lot of good mentoring takes place in the student’s school jobs, dorm life, sports, music, drama, recreation and other programs. The sometimes less-credentialed staff assigned to “watch the kids” are often dedicated Christians who care about the young people and who set good examples. This writer has spoken with both students and staff of Christian schools who have agreed that it was the non-classroom hours that made the biggest difference in the lives of the students or we could say, the “apprentices”.

Sons of the Prophets

There is nothing wrong with believers setting up an organized method of mentoring other believers. This is apparently what Elijah and Elisha did with the “sons of the prophets” mentioned in the first 10 chapters of 2 Kings (2Ki 2:3,5,7,15; 4:1,38; 5:22; 6:1; 9:1). They lived and worked together. Both Gehazi (2Ki 4:12; 5:20; 8:4) and several other un-named “sons of the prophets” (2Ki 4:38; 5:22-23; 6:15, 17; 9:4) are each called a na`ar. These were Elijah’s and Elisha’s apprentices.

This concept of the “sons of the prophets” is continued in the book of Acts in the new Testament:

“Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:24-26).

Beside learning from the prophets and being sent out to do various prophetic work, these “sons of the prophets” also worked together as a community to take care of their physical needs:

Apprenticeship: How To Implement It

It is unlikely that classroom educational institutions will suddenly phase out themselves in favor of apprenticeship-type education. A more gradual implementation can occur in this manner:

1.  People need to be made aware of the Bible teaching on apprenticeship so they appreciate its value. The must come to realize that a person does not have to be in “school” to be accomplishing important life learning.

2.  Parents and young people need to seek out the apprenticeship-like opportunities that are available now.

3.  Mature believers need to do what they can to create apprenticeship opportunities for young people, both on an individual and organizational basis.

 

And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us.  “Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go” (2Ki 6:1-2).

These men did not say, “We are prophet students, we don’t build buildings”. They did what was necessary to accomplish the tasks at hand. While other mentors might have shown the apprentices how to avoid losing an axe head in the water (2Ki 6:5) or how to avoid poisonous gourds (2Ki 4:39), Elisha showed them a way to solve the problems—through miracles of God.

This concept did not occur only at one time or place. The prophet Samuel worked with “sons of the prophets” at Naioth and Ramah (1Sam 19:19-20). During Elisha’s time, there are groups at Bethel, Jericho and Gilgal (2Ki 2:3,5,15; 4:38). Living and working together, in an environment where mentorship and apprenticeship naturally occur, continued in the book of Acts:

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all (Acts 4:32-33).

Much More to Learn, Much More to Do

This article cannot possibly cover all that needs to be learned and done to implement these biblical methods of teaching young people. We hope to have future articles to cover those subjects, and we hope to have help implementing them.

For parents and young people suffering difficulties at home, who need a solution now, there are alternatives. These are not mentorship programs, but schools where a certain amount of good mentoring goes on. There are numerous Seventh Day Adventist and evangelical Christian boarding high schools and colleges. Some of them have very dedicated people who will do a good job of mentoring the young people who go there. They avoid the secular humanism and general godlessness of the secular world, but they do tend to convert young people to Seventh Day Adventists or evangelical Christians. Even though most independent Sabbatarians would be quick to point out the doctrinal errors of these groups, they provide a much better start in life than atheism.

Take Action Now!

Do you have a teenage child who needs help now? Do what it takes to provide an environment with positive mentoring!. You may need to change churches, change jobs, or move to a city where there will be good influences on your child. You may consider sending them to Spring Vale Academy (989-725-2391 www.springvale.us) or another Christian school—even in the middle of a school year!

       Yes, these solutions may cost thousands of dollars and greatly diminish your career and financial position. The house, the cars and all other physical things perish. Successful children produce genealogies that can go on forever—each person having the potential for eternal life!  —NSE

The one Sabbatarian boarding high school in the U.S.A. that is not Seventh Day Adventist is Spring Vale Academy (4150 S M-52, Owosso, Michigan 48867; www.springvale.us 989-725-2391). This writer has had three sons attend there, and both he and his spouse have served there in various capacities. Again, the institution is not based upon the biblical principles in this article, but this writer has seen the mentoring that goes on there produce wonderful results.

The only post-secondary seventh day Christian mentorship programs known to this writer are PABC (989-738-7774, PABC@PortAustin.net) and LITESMinistries (660-783-9544, lites.cog7.org)

The world needs hundreds—eventually thousands of places to mentor young people—to provide physical and spiritual teaching while expecting the young person to be responsible for themselves and to produce something of value. There is little chance of exceeding the need in the near future.

While this writer admits that the concepts presented in this article are not commonly taught, he also believes that they are not some minimal teaching of the Bible, but that there are hundreds of verses commanding or supporting the concept. It is easy to say, “that is not practical for today”, “we presently use a different system”, or “our secular education is bad, but I prepared my children to handle it”. While there may be some truth to all these statements, the overwhelming evidence from young Sabbatarian Christians is that this world’s educational systems take our young people away from the Sabbath, from any church and often from God.

This is a trend that needs to be reversed. It can be.

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). &

 

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