Father and son holding rod while sitting in boat and fishing

It was a beautiful late spring day in north Alabama, and I was taking my then four-year-old son fishing with me. He and I would go to a farm area not far from my house. I loved to fish, and my son loved to throw rocks in the water. I’ll grant you that isn’t usually a great recipe for catching fish, but we had a system worked out. I would travel around the bank fishing and keep moving in the same direction while he would throw rocks behind me – in the opposite direction of how I was casting my line.

This arrangement had worked well in the past, so that’s how it went. Believe it or not, I was able to catch some fish, but I wasn’t ready for what happened next. After about 15 minutes of fishing, I had one on the line that I could tell was a whopper! When I finally got it on the bank, I showed it to my son and we both just stared at the fish in amazement. I didn’t carry any scales with me that day, but I’m sure it was the biggest bass I’d ever caught! After looking at it for a few moments, it was time to release it back into the lake. As soon as it went out of sight, my son said, “Do it again, Dad!” I chuckled and told him I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to do that again.

My son is grown now, and we fondly recall stories of going fishing together although many of them aren’t as exciting as the day I just described. In fact, some days were downright frustrating. Our line would get tangled, we got our lures stuck in trees and unseen objects under the water, and even had some fish get off the hook. But we both learned some life lessons. Maybe the biggest one is that it was up to me and his mom to teach him (and later my daughter) things about life that are important. The most important lessons, of course, were about Jesus and how He loves us. Thankfully, my son and daughter came to know the Lord as their personal Savior, and I had the blessings of baptizing them and have watched them grow.

How are we doing about investing in the lives of the next generation? A few weeks ago, I began to do some checking. Alabama Baptists have faithfully given through the Cooperative Program for years. In fact, since the CP’s inception in 1925, more than $1.5 billion has been given by Alabama Baptists like you and me. That money has gone to invest in many ministries that help spread the love of Christ and fulfill the Great Commission here in Alabama and literally around the world.

Did you know that each year right at 23% of your CP giving is specifically used in reaching and discipling those who are considered the “next generation”? Collegiate and student ministries; college scholarships; discipling children, youth, and college students; foster care support; the University of Mobile; and the list goes on. That amount is even larger when you consider that almost every ministry that your CP giving supports blesses all ages, such as disaster relief, church planting, worship resources and church health, to name a few.

We can never invest too much in the next generation. In fact, we are called to train up and teach our children to follow Christ (Prov. 22:6; Deut. 6:5-9; Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21) The reality is that those in the next generation are the church of today. When we invest in the Great Commission, we are truly laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). Your church’s giving through the Cooperative Program is helping ensure the next generation knows the Lord. Thank you for your generosity!

State Missionary Jay Stewart serves as director of Cooperative Program & Church Financial Resources. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2283, or (334) 613-2283, jstewart@alsbom.org.

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