Dialogue: A conversation with Kristen and Katie Bay
“And yes, she loves reminding me that she is older,” Kristen said of her twin, “but it is OK because I don’t mind being the baby of the family.”
The 17-year-olds graduate this month from Christian Home and Bible School in Mount Dora, Fla. Both were cheerleaders and athletes on the school’s track and field team. (Katie can throw a discus 100 feet, 2 inches.
Kristen’s personal best is 97 feet, 2 inches.) Both serve as representatives in student government. Kristen is senior class president and Katie is vice president.
This fall they move to Searcy, Ark., where they will study at Harding University. They’ll join their 21-year-old sister, Sarah, who graduates from Harding in December.
The twins are active in the youth ministry of the Orange Avenue Church of Christ in Eustis, Fla. Their father, Jeff Bay, serves as an elder. When asked if they have a favorite preacher, both named Joe Roberts, Orange Avenue’s senior minister. They also enjoy messages from Lonnie Johnson, the church’s youth minster, and Wiley Lowe, youth and family minister for the Holly Hills, Fla., Church of Christ, who speaks at events across Florida. Katie’s favorite hymn is “Lord, Reign in Me.” Kristen’s is “In Christ Alone.”
Sharing schools, activities and faith in addition to physical features can be a source of strength — and occasionally tension — for the twins. “It’s so easy for us to get on each other’s nerves,” Katie said. “It’s really hard when you are around someone 24-7.”
At the same time, having a twin sister is “sort of like having a built-in best friend,” Kristen said, “because she is always there for me if I need her.”
Katie agreed: “It’s really cool to have someone that knows you — probably better than you know yourself.”
Why are you a Christian?
Kristen: I am a Christian because I have seen the way that God works through people and in their lives. I believe that his way is the best and only way.
Katie: I am a Christian because I truly believe in Jesus and that his way is the only way to get to heaven. I have seen the amazing things God has done in my life, and I know there is no other way it would be possible.
What are people your age looking for in religion?
Katie: Young people are looking for something that is there when everything else fails. People go through a lot of trials in younger years, and sometimes the only way to get through the challenges is by knowing that someone is there for you. I also think that teens want a place where they can fit in, with people who are accepting.
Kristen: When you become a Christian, you are born into a new family. God is always there for you, and you also have a new physical family. You have a youth group full of friends and a church that is full of loving people.
On a different note, I also believe that young people are looking for a religion that will fit them. They want something that will allow them to be who they want and also do what they want. This sometimes involves them not accepting a certain religion because they think it is too much to handle. When everything else is busy and hectic, they just want something that is easy.
How do you express your faith?
Kristen: My faith is mainly expressed through worship and service projects.
I love singing in worship. My dad always says that the sound of the whole church singing is the closest we will get to heaven on earth.
I believe that is true. Nothing is better than hearing a group of people showing their love of God through singing.
I also get a chance to participate in many service projects and mission trips with my youth group. I believe that God calls us to action, and this is one of the ways that, as Christians, we respond. I believe that you also learn a lot about yourself and your faith through service.
Katie: I express my faith mostly through mission trips and service projects. I really like to be involved and help share my faith that way. I feel like mission trips are great opportunities that allow you to be concerned with the faith of others. You really get a chance to let people see your faith at work.
I think it makes more of an impact on people if you are actually doing what you teach. It’s easier to express your faith if you are doing something.
Are your non-Christian friends interested in becoming Christians?
Kristen: It is hard to persuade our non-Christian friends to become Christians because most non-Christians do not want to deal with the challenges that come with being a young Christian. It is something that at times is not easy. Sometimes being a Christian is looked at as work.
Katie: A lot of teens just want to party and not take anything too seriously now. They think that because they are young they have a lot of time to get their lives in order. They don’t want to worry about it right now.
I think that fitting in is the main problem for teens, and that sometimes means doing things that do not fit one’s moral code.
I also think that some non-Christians misunderstand the idea of going to church. They view the church as judgmental and don’t want to take the time to find out otherwise. To some people it is a chore to attend church more than once a week.
Do you know teens who have left Churches of Christ? If so, why and where did they go?
Kristen: Sometimes friends who get interested in coming to church and being with our youth group slowly lose interest. I think they probably just want to test the water. Trying something without a commitment gives them a chance to figure out things while they are younger. It allows them to see the different aspects of the church.
Another reason is that sometimes teens just get involved with church for the social aspect. When they have no ties in the beginning, then they have no problem leaving.
Katie: I think that teens who grow up in the church and then decide to leave make that decision because they felt forced to attend church by their parents. It could possibly be a forced faith and not what that individual wants.
When it is finally their decision, they may want to rebel by not going. Also, they may not have their own faith. They may just rely on their parents’ faith. Thus, when they leave their parents, they just fall away from church altogether.
How can we hold on to Christian teens and keep them from leaving the church?
Kristen: Sometimes adults try too hard to force their views and religion on teens. Don’t get me wrong, we need and want support from adults who have life experience. I just think there needs to be a balance between the two.
Katie: I think that the church in general needs to be aware of how vital it is to really pay attention to and help teens that are in the early stages of their Christianity.
There are a lot of teen Christians who don’t have the support of their parents but truly want to be a part of the church. It is really difficult when they don’t have that influence. So having someone who knows how to relate and communicate to teenagers is very important.
Teens need someone they can feel comfortable with and can trust to be on their side. One example of that type person is a youth minister. It’s really important to build that relationship with someone in the church.
What are the greatest discouragements to your Christian friends?
Katie: Non-believers, or people of the world, are a huge discouragement.
Once Christians start hanging out with the wrong people, they are heavily influenced by the world. This can be a huge stumbling block and discouragement to Christians.
Being a Christian and standing up for what one believes in is not always considered the cool thing to do. People are so quick to judge that sometimes it’s hard to express your faith without feeling out of place. I have seen a lot of friends struggle with expressing their faith in their day-to-day life.
Also, I have seen a lot of people get sucked into the things of the world.
Kristen: I think not having enough encouragement can also be a discouragement. Teen Christians face so many hard decisions and struggle with a lot of things that adults might not think about.
It takes a lot to overcome the temptations of the world. Sometimes things like that are really easily overlooked.
It seems like the one time you mess up is bigger than all the other times you have overcome. That can be a huge discouragement to anyone, but especially to young Christian teens.