Home First
Table of


By Pastor John M. Opperman

Ages 15 - 17
Ages 18 - 24

There are no rules by which we may mark the passage from early to later adolescence. Where middle adolescence is not reckoned as a distinct division, the last period of youth is generally regarded as beginning with the seventeenth birthday and extending to the twenty-fifth. While some would maintain that adult life should begin when the age of legal majority has been reached, rarely has youth fully matured mentally, socially, and spiritually until the age of twenty-five. There are reasons to believe that the divine plan was for a twelve-year period of adolescence to correspond to the twelve-year period of childhood. The young person in his or her late teens is far from being prepared for the fullness of adult life, so that we will find it important in our study of later adolescence to prolong this period as late as possible.

The transition between early and later adolescence is unobservable, but the characteristics are distinctive. The young person gives less attention than formerly to pets, collections, adventure stories, and active games. As a youth he/she was careless, but as a young man or woman he or she becomes fastidious. While the first part of adolescence was marked by collections, the last part is designated by selections. Expansion now gives way to concentration, and change to control. Later adolescence begins to select from among life’s possibilities and to concentrate its energies. Life begins to narrow, and to deepen.


The childhood is the period of the dominance of the senses.
Adolescence is the period of the dominance of the mind.

But not until the last years does the intellect come into its rightful rule. Even in early adolescence the senses are so keen and the emotions so strong as to be reckoned as an important controlling factor of the individual, but now at length the reasoning faculties attain supremacy. While the intellect in the fullness of life must always be associated with the emotions and the will, it is only in the later teens, when the reason is sufficiently matured to assume control that the individual enters into new realms of power.

As the following scriptures tell us,
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) and  “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 3:13)  As the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

A. Knowledge
God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)  The failures of youth are not due so much to lack of conviction as to lack of knowledge. Its cocksureness, alas, often brings conclusions with a speed and a complacency that is impossible where there is knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge is of the greatest consequence to the individual. It determines to a large extent the position that he will ultimately hold in life. Of the 15,433 American celebrities in Prof. John K. Leonard’s book, ‘Who’s Who in America,’ all but 30% are college men. Only one in one hundred of our Americans are college graduates, yet one-half of our congressmen, twenty out of twenty-nine Presidents, nine-tenths of the writers, and one half of our millionaires are college trained. Even in the commercial world the educated man is at a distinct advantage. The statistics of the United States Bureau of Education for one of our large cities revealed the fact that pupils remaining in the high school were able, under ordinary circumstances, to double their earning capacity within seven years after graduation.
B. Control
Acquisition of knowledge in itself does not guarantee success. Education is not the quest, but the conquest of knowledge. Knowledge is power only when it is conquered, harnessed, and set to work. Until a young person’s training has brought about the all-important conquest of body and mind, his or her education is a failure. Knowledge, then, will not serve us until it has been conquered – until we have conquered ourselves. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)  ‘WISDOM IS KNOWLEDGE APPLIED TO THE BEST ENDS.’


A. The breaking of home ties
The attachments that are formed during these years have a tendency to make youth oblivious to any other object. The fascination of some friend or the absorption of a first love may lead him or her to disregard the home folks. Others become possessed with the wanderlust, like fledglings eager to try their wings. The fact that many go away to school or give to their employment the interest and attention formerly given to the home has a tendency to weaken the old ties. The break is most complete when the young man or woman goes to a new community to accept a position among strangers. Many a young man has been lost to the church because his or her pastor or parent has not realized the importance of having him or her approached by Christian associations at the hour he or she most needed such friendships.
B. Awakening of altruism and patriotism
Too often the church fails to provide a program that will bring to life and control the heroic qualities of manhood and womanhood. If the church does not provide a militant program that will call for individual sacrifice and service, it is not likely to make its appeal to the young people in its midst.


These are the years when religious interests fluctuate. The new freedom into which youth enters when he or she severs the old ties of church and home is bound to manifest itself in his or her relation to spiritual things. Only the strongest habits established in earlier life can prevent the youth from at least being shaken by the temptations that now confront him or her. Many young men and women have seasons of actual irreligious feelings and tendencies.

The unsteadiness of spiritual interest and conviction is intensified by doubt and worldliness. An appeal to the will power of young men and women in moral and religious matters should not be in vain. Once let them realize that the appeal is to this power, which is relied upon to undertake and complete their project, and much has been done towards its accomplishment. We must have God’s anointing in appealing to the will power of young men and women in moral and Christian matters. This is a critical time in life when many are lost to the world. The Sunday school and church must be aware of the attractions that Satan places before them and only by the help of the Holy Spirit will we be able to counter them.


The Senior or Young People’s department of the Sunday school covers a period that is more than twice the length of any of the preceding departments. Large classes also take the place of the small groups of boys and girls, which it was found expedient to limit to a maximum of eight. While there may be many teachers who can care for eight pupils there are comparatively few who can teach large classes well. Senior teachers then should be chosen with care.

The teacher of the youth should see a big world to conquer. To feel the youthful interest and enthusiasm of the pupil who plans to enter a business career, or to practice law, or even to preach the Gospel, or any other occupation. The large class does not mean that individual instruction is no longer essential. Probably at no other period does the individual require as much attention. Each member needs personal guidance, encouragement and friendship.
A. Classrooms
In no other department are separate rooms more desirable. Chairs with an armrest for writing will appeal to the young student, and a blackboard and maps are indispensable for platform work. Here for the first time the lecture method of teaching is permissible, and maps and illustrations will be more needed than ever before. For the best results it would probably be wise to allow a certain amount of discussion to follow the presentation of the prepared lesson.
B. Self-government
Adults will guide rather than govern and as wise counselors encourage the young people to provide and promote their own programs.
C. Social Contacts
This is the time when social contacts are made, sometimes for life when young men and women are attracted to each other. It may be in the factory or on the farm or in the school or on the street, but happy are these people whose acquaintance is furthered in the shadow of the church. The church that is not afraid to sponsor a Christian centered social life for its youth is rendering a priceless service to God and country. In providing this kind of social contact the church is laying the foundation for Christian marriages and Christian homes with all their far-reaching influence for heredity and environment. The social committee is a most important agency in the organization of a senior class, and its service to church and community, although indirect, should be fully recognized and encouraged.
D. Class Activities
The organized class offers an unusual opportunity for the planning and promoting of various projects, such as:
1. Providing musical talent for the church choir
2. Conducting street meetings
3. Organizing and operating a mission Sunday school
4. Opening up a reading room for working boys
5. Providing a Thanksgiving dinner
6. Or a Christmas surprise for some neglected home
7. And financing innumerable missionary or charitable enterprises
Opportunities for service that can be rendered in the class, the school, or the church, should constantly be presented. The eagerness of our young people to serve and their willingness to work is remarkable. Once the interest is aroused, there is no limit to the time and energy that they are willing to expend. And that this energy may be expended in worthy achievement, it is perfectly legitimate for the church to recognize the organized class as its employment bureau. The church should keep them busy in all forms of the work of the Lord.
The first year could be most profitably spent in a study of doctrine. It is true that some doctrine must of necessity be taught before this period if the child is to accept Christ and unite with the church. But he or she is now better able to fully comprehend the truths that he or she earlier accepted in faith. Most of the material for these lessons should be taken from the Epistles, which until this time have been difficult to understand. They must be established in what the Bible says about the total doctrine (teaching) of the church to establish them in this critical time.
The second year should be devoted to a study of the poetical books. In thirty years of the uniform lessons not more than sixty-seven selections have been taken from the two hundred and forty-three poetical chapters of the Bible. The natural theology that abounds in Job and the Psalms is peculiarly fitting for the deepening love of nature that now characterizes the soul of adolescence. In like manner, the lessons of Proverbs are of great assistance at that time of life when youth is passing through his or her moral and spiritual struggles. Ecclesiastes was likewise written for this very hour of worldly allurement when material things loom large upon the horizon and spiritual needs are little appreciated.
The last year should be devoted to studies in the prophetical books. In his or her Bible proofs with which he or she familiarized themselves in earlier years, youth discovered that prophecy was one of the great outstanding evidences of the infallibility of God’s Word, and with the knowledge thus imparted, it will not be difficult to interest him or her in this vast unknown and unexplored portion of Scripture. As the youth discovers that God’s word is true and can be trusted, there are no agnostics, infidels, atheists, evolutionist or any other that can shake their faith in God and His Word.
After the Sunday school pupil leaves the high school it is difficult to provide a common course of study for students so widely separated in various pursuits of life. Electives may be submitted for advanced work, but the most practical and profitable plan will be the provision of a teacher training class. Not only are the future needs of the Sunday school guaranteed in this way, but also young people are definitely pledged to devote their lives to a very important ministry of the church.
F. Vocational Appeal
It is during the years of later adolescence that great life decisions will be made. If the burdens and responsibilities of life have not already been assumed, the choice of vocation will now be made. As a companion and counselor the teacher has opportunities to steady the heart and direct the mind towards a lofty aim. Not that any effort would be made to act for the individual. Even if a worthy work is selected, youth will fail in its pursuit unless he or she enters upon it with enthusiasm. But the positive attitude of the teacher to all manly or womanly tasks will lend its influence toward the decision of this question on a lofty plane.

To counteract the alluring opportunities for acquisition which the world offers, some one must point out the obligations that accompany possession, which is so highly publicized today. Young men and women must be cautioned that providence has a large part in production and that personal property is far more dependent upon God and society than the efforts of the individual. Production in the last analysis rests upon the soil, the sunshine, and the showers, while property values are largely dependent upon the presence of a population.
The contribution of the individual to production in most instances is not more than 5%, and he or she needs to be frequently reminded of nature’s provision. Recognition of the large part that both God and society contribute in the establishment of material values and a realization of the eternal spiritual values that are involved in the use and distribution of material possession, will greatly assist youth in the selection of a life work – Tithing – Offering. “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.” (Romans 14:7)  It must be pointed out that no man is an island; we are dependent one upon another and totally upon God for success. In stewardship it must be pointed out “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7). It is our responsibility as good stewards to pay God his tithes and give Him our offerings. So shall we be blessed.
While the world is suggesting avenues that lead to achievement, attention should be called to the great men and women of faith. The immortal names in God’s temple of fame are not enrolled in the Bible or engraved upon the pages of church history because of political conquests or scientific discoveries. The names of these humble heroes live when all others are forgotten because they contended for a divine cause and an incorruptible crown. Where expressions have been requested, young men of this age have aspired to be a Washington, a Lincoln, or an Edison, but very seldom have such men as Luther, Wesley, or Moody been elected as ideals. The apostle Paul would probably not secure a single vote in a referendum of high school students, but this might not be the case if our young people had been impressed with what Paul, under God, actually accomplished. Next to Christ, Paul is “the most influential figure in human history,” and in one theological library of this country there are more than two thousand volumes dealing with his life and letters.
All cannot go to the foreign field and all are not fitted for the pastorate, but few, if any, consecrated young men and women dare say that they are not called to the TEACHING MINISTRY. The many millions of teacherless boys and girls of America surely constitute a call to which no child of God can turn a deaf ear. The greatest benefit that the present Sunday school can confer upon its young people is the establishment of a teacher training class. And the greatest achievement that can crown the work of any teacher is the enlistment of all the members of his or her class in the teaching ministry.

Charles W. Brewbaker says: “One cannot be active in the exercise of leading, teaching, and training others without the blessing coming back upon himself. Personal growth, self-improvement, the widening of one’s usefulness in the world should in themselves be incentive worth while and a stimulus to greater usefulness and efficiency.”

No office has been more highly magnified in Scripture than that of the teacher. God has elevated the office of the teacher above any other ministry. All prophets were teachers, all apostles were teachers, and God said that all fathers should teach their children. Jesus Himself, was the Master Teacher. God has created a countless multitude of worlds – suns upon suns, system upon system, universe upon universe, immensity beyond all comprehension. Yet the inspired writer in endeavoring to magnify the reward of the teacher transcends all earthly comparisons and likens the brilliancy and permanence of his or her work to the greatest things of which the mind could conceive. Probably the highest appraisal of the teacher is in Daniel chapter 12 and verse 3, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”


Home First
Table of