A conversation with Harold Shank
Harold Shank, who grew up in an “unchurched” home in…
‘Down the street from where you live are houses filled with broken people. People bent, bruised and broken by life walk the streets of every city.”
Harold Shank writes those words in the intro to “Listen and Make Room: Joining God in Welcoming Children.” Some of the most broken, mistreated, overlooked and voiceless people, he writes, are children. And he would know.
For more than 50 years, Shank has worked in ministry and with leadership programs across the country including Network 1:27, a children and family outreach program associated with Churches of Christ. He has seen children in almost every situation, which has spurred his mission to promote Christian childcare.
His book is divided into five sections, each with eight to 10 short chapters that end with a paragraph called “Continuities” that explains how that chapter fits into the section and asks a few questions.
This book brought tears to my eyes and awareness to my heart. Readers will absolutely be compelled to take action. And it’s not hard to take action, Shank says, if we start planting seeds of faith in children and teens.
“I don’t understand why we don’t have long lines of people waiting to teach children in Bible class,” said Shank, an elder of the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. “They are souls waiting for seed, hearts waiting for water.
“If we do not plant and do not water, the results are serious. If we don’t build, the movie industry will. If we don’t harvest, the secular songwriters will. If we don’t plant, their friends will.” And society plants weeds.
This book brought tears to my eyes and awareness to my heart.
“Too many children grow into adults that engage in violence and crime, vice and promiscuity, drugs and alcohol, and in far too many cases, live lives of quiet desperation,” Shank writes. Taking care of at-risk children is not a “backdoor ministry,” he adds, “it’s central to the mission of the church.”
Listening and making room for the vulnerable of this world doesn’t have to be harder than it is. Yes, it includes listening to abused and abandoned children, but it also includes listening to those in our own church.
Shank lists women who were champions for children: Mary Crozier taught Sunday school at Norval Park Church of Christ in Zanesville, Ohio, for 48 years. Joyce McBride taught hundreds of 4-year olds at Memorial Road before her death in 2015. Mildred Stutzman taught sixth- graders at the East Pike Church of Christ in Indiana, Pa., and invited Shank to church when he was a kid.
“All of these are regular people: farmers, wives, homemakers and factory workers. But they involved children, and they made a difference,” Shank writes.
There is not a single person or a single sin or a single problem beyond the power of God in Jesus Christ. Who was a champion for you when you were young? Are you willing to listen to the voices of the world’s most vulnerable? Are you willing to work with God and others to make room?
Shank has a way of retelling Bible stories and shining fresh light on them, making this book a great resource for preachers and teachers. It’s full of rich sermon illustrations and topics. It would also make a great class or small group topic.
LAURA AKINS is Features Editor for The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected].
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