Contender's Letter to Parents

This book is written to be a child-rearing aid for parents as much as it is an instrument for self-improvement or skill-building for young men. The aim of this program is really threefold.

The Lord Jesus Christ — Most importantly, this program is oriented to emphasize the reality of God, and the vital significance of one’s very own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If a young man comes away from Contenders for the Faith with nothing else (which is hardly likely), it is our personal prayer that he will have at least this relationship to guide him on his journey through this world to that eternal city.

There are merit awards offered strictly for practical effort in spiritual areas, emphasizing to the young person that such skills are just as important as any other area of development. Young men sometimes need to be regularly reminded that this is an integral part of their endeavors, and more importantly, of life itself.

Also, Scripture and godly thoughts or concepts are incorporated wherever possible as an integral part of the practical skills learned. This helps you as a parent to make Jesus an integral part of your son’s life.

Practical Skills — There are all those practical skills that do not fall under the “three Rs.” Some are real necessities. Others can be lived without, but will be sorely missed. This program provides the parent with a helpful itinerary with which to address those things—things about which a son should know something before he must face the world to make his own way. The program also provides a challenging, yet encouraging, method to tackle each skill while enjoying the process. By supporting the young man in this process, as a parent you are accomplishing this second most important thing. You wish to help him become a competent adult.

The structure, incentive, groundwork, and much of the detail work are already provided. It can be a colossal undertaking to teach these things “from scratch.” It is likely better for you to spend your precious time where it will count most—by lending your greater maturity, understanding, and experience where necessary.

Family — Finally, this program will impress upon a young man something that, though important to you as a parent, is quickly becoming lost in our society, and even in churches throughout the land. That is the importance of the family unit. If there is no strength inside the home, there will be none outside of it. A faith that is not strong in the home will fail without.

The skills in this book are designed in such a way that many of them can be nearly learned by the young man without any help from others. But do not miss out as a parent on the opportunity to be part of that learning process whenever possible. The old adage, “The family that prays together stays together,” is not really the whole story. For a family to truly pray “together,” it must be a family that does most things together. It will be a family that is striving together to reach the same goals—each helping the others along the way. Young people must feel a part of your team if you wish them to really pray “with” you. So do not hesitate to jump in and build your family through helping your children learn good things. Those who do will one day see the blessings come back an hundredfold.

You will find that many of the skill requirements in this book will be aimed directly at helping parents build family unity, even in the mundane everyday tasks of life. Family, Home Care, Stewardship, Man of the House, and many other skills offer incentives for young people to develop a healthy view of proper performance of duties and chores. They learn to see these things as an avenue of growing up and becoming responsible, rather than simply as drudgery. These valuable qualities will soon overflow into the arenas of church, career, etc.

These “tools” are designed to help parents. Parents, PLEASE read the instructions for a study along with your son. Only then will you know what traits and responsibilities he is learning along with the skill—how to do your part—how to encourage him to your family’s best advantage—how to build upon what he is learning—how to help him be a man through what he is learning. When used in this way, these studies will be an invaluable help far beyond the skills learned. They will be an invaluable help in rearing a man. They will be an invaluable help in your own day-to-day family life. They will also help build a lifelong family unity based on an eternal, more important relationship, and consistently create points of joy in your parenting experience.

There are so many important ingredients to help with that. For instance, does your son love to do projects or things with his hands, but has little interest in reading? It is not uncommon for a young man to feel this way. Of course, you are happy to see his interest in practical and mechanical things, but you would like to see him read also. That is exactly why you will find that for many of the skills, he is required to read a book about the subject. Reading becomes more interesting when we are soon to do what we are reading about. Also, young men who do not read for the joy of reading often learn in this way that reading is valuable to them. It is a way of learning about many of the things in which they are truly interested.

If these three goals are your goals as a parent, then join the tens of thousands of other parents that are using this program to attain them. It makes no difference whether you use it in a large group such as a church, a smaller group such as a homeschool support group, a single family, or even with just one child. Building the lives of our children is imperative, and, as with any other task, a workable plan, some helpful instructions, and the right tools make all the difference in the world.

Does a dad need to be proficient in all these areas in order to help his son develop skills? Absolutely not! As was already mentioned, you will notice that one requirement is the same for many skills. That is to read a book on the subject. While the son reads the book, if Dad is unfamiliar with the project, he can skim it also. In many cases this is all that Dad will need to get up to speed. He will then be able to help his son in his endeavors. In any larger group setting, there will very likely be someone who is already up to speed.

Just as it is important for you to teach God’s Word and precepts to your son, it is also vital to teach him practical things. You will never regret teaching your son to cut a board or hammer a nail. He is likely wishing and waiting to build (all by himself) some clumsy little project that is, at this moment, very important to him. I still remember with fondness the time that my dad noticed me with his hand saw and a piece of wood. “Look here,” he said, “I might as well teach you how to use that thing properly.” In two or three minutes he was gone—but I remember to this day.

When your son is working on a skill, he will need you to run him to the library to get a book on the subject. You may as well join him in some of the fun. When he earns an award, he will need you to verify that he fulfilled the requirements. If your son wants to learn a skill that is not in your repertoire, learn it together! You will never regret it! (And you might have just as much fun as he does.)

Dads, do not miss the opportunity to do the one special job that God gives to us dads. Our sons do not need a better quality of life, bigger houses, better cars, nicer clothes, or more toys—they need us—our instruction, our guidance, and our interest. God said to teach them in the morning, at night, and whenever walking throughout the day. Give God His glory, and give your sons the dad God meant them to have.

Sincerely,

   Jeff Zakula

The following poem has been an inspiration to me as a parent, in formulating the Contenders program, and as I view young people in the generations that follow me on this earth. There are several generations in my family now, and beyond that, the fields are surely white unto harvest. In a spiritual sense, this poem urges me on. The time that I have left to continue building bridges is becoming short, and whatever I can do to provide a safe journey through a dangerous foreign land is of paramount importance. The physical is much like the spiritual. We cannot pass on what we have, but we can show those behind us how to find it and use it. I pray this poem inspires you as much as it does me whenever I read it.  


The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway    
Came at the evening cold and gray,   
To a chasm vast and wide and steep,   
With waters rolling cold and deep.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;  
The sullen stream had no fears for him,
But he turned when safe on the other side,   
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here.   
Your journey will end with the ending day,  
You never again will pass this way.   
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you this bridge at eventide?”  
The builder lifted his old gray head.  
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,

    “There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.  
The chasm that was as nought to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim—  
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”  

Will A. Dromgoole  


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