The legal and illegal drug pushers of the United States know that a person’s habits of use are usually formed by the time they are 17. So most of their advertising, in spite of their claims, targets teens and younger.
We as pastors and church leaders need to counter balance the billions of dollars spent in misinformation by trying to influence the young people in our circle of influence. Here are several ways-
1. Mention the dangers of use in talks at school, church, youth groups, etc. (the General Conference Health Department offers some helpful information and links at http://www.health20-20.org/; see also the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at http://www.tobaccofreekids.org)
2. Encourage schools (and church youth groups) to sponsor activities such as Red Ribbon week, temperance speeches, essays, posters, jingles, etc.
3. Make a simple Temperance Pledge Card and challenge young people (or your entire congregation) to sign it and keep it in their wallet. Because someone challenged my grandfather to do this in 1912, when he was 9 years old, many years later my father, and then I, had the privilege of growing up in a home free from alcohol, tobacco & narcotics.
4. Become familiar with Adventist tools available to combat intemperance such as Listen & Winner magazines http://www.listenmagazine.org/, Vibrant Life (http://www.vibrantlife.com/), Narcotics Education, Inc. (1-800-548-8700), etc.
5. Encourage your Pathfinder club to get their “Temperance” Honor (see http://www.pathfindersonline.org/pdf/ayhonors/temperance.pdf for requirements).
6. Promise your own children $1,000 on their twentieth birthday if they have never used alcohol, tobacco or narcotics. Believe it or not we did this with our children years ago, letting them know there was one more good reason to never touch the stuff. As of July 26, 2005 we are $1,000 poorer, as our oldest son, Jacob, reached his 20th birthday. But we’re thrilled that the money we saved over the years will be his to spend because he’s learning to make good temperance choices.
While we speak out against the dangers we must also work to provide activities where young people, along with caring adult mentors, can have fun and share their growing faith.
“Intemperance is a foe against which all need to be guarded. The rapid increase of this terrible evil should arouse every lover of his race to warfare against it. The practice of giving instruction on temperance topics in the schools is a move in the right direction. Instruction in this line should be given in every school and in every home. The youth and children should understand the effect of alcohol, tobacco, and other like poisons in breaking down the body, beclouding the mind, and sensualizing the soul. It should be made plain that no one who uses these things can long possess the full strength of his physical, mental, or moral faculties. “But in order to reach the root of intemperance we must go deeper than the use of alcohol or tobacco. Idleness, lack of aim, or evil associations, may be the predisposing cause.” Education p. 202