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New Horizons

Nurturing Our Daughters

Diane Olinger

I am the mother of two daughters, and I take very seriously my obligation to teach these precious ones about our Lord Jesus Christ and about being a Christian woman. So I was delighted when I discovered the Keepers at Home™ program, which provides an exciting and rewarding structure for teaching and preparing young women for their futures. (There is a parallel program for boys called Contenders for the Faith™.)

I first encountered Keepers Club when I was worshiping at Grace OPC in Columbus, Ohio. A club organized by Leslie Gaudio, a member there, meets at Grace Church once a month during the school year. My older daughter and I were privileged to participate in this club for a brief time before moving to the Philadelphia area in 2004. At those club meetings, we enjoyed the fellowship of other like-minded mothers and daughters, and learned new skills as varied as cake decorating and tying quilt knots.

After we moved, we found that we missed both the fellowship and the learning opportunities that the Columbus club had provided. So we decided to organize a Keepers Club here. We meet once a month at Calvary OPC in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

The Keepers theme verse is 1 Peter 2:21, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (NKJV). Girls are encouraged to walk in the steps of Christ, living lives of service to God, to their families, and to others. The goal of each club member is to become a competent and well-balanced Christian girl who is preparing now for her future as a Christian woman.

The Keepers handbook is very useful. It includes a brief section giving general information about the purpose and goals of the club. The remainder of the book gives instruction (no more than a page or two) and badge requirements for 104 activities and skills, divided into seven categories: biblical girlhood (e.g., Bible memory, prayer), creative skills (e.g., flower arrangement, photography), homemaking (e.g., baking, scheduling), knowledge and skills (e.g., music, teaching), nature (e.g., horses, wildflowers), others (e.g., child care, hospitality), and recreational activities (e.g., hiking, swimming). Girls are encouraged to earn badges in a variety of categories, and to earn a Bible memory badge and a Bible reading badge every year.

The Keepers program can be used in a variety of settings: at home by a mother and her daughters, at church with other mothers and daughters in the covenant community, as an outreach program, or as a complement to a homeschooling curriculum.

The club materials are intended to be nondenominational. What does this mean? For one thing, the materials are not catechetical. To earn awards in the biblical girlhood category, a girl is not required to learn or espouse an explicit system of doctrine. Rather, the badge requirements for biblical girlhood require the memorization of passages of Scripture (e.g., Matthew 5, the Ten Commandments) and the reading of sections of Scripture (e.g., the Minor Prophets, the Gospels and Acts).

Of course, no one could write a book with this many pages of instruction without displaying his or her perspective on Scripture, but I have not found this to be an obstacle in using the materials. In fact, the writers have self-consciously designed the program to be used by parents and leaders as they see fit. There is no central organization holding you to its doctrines or practices. You simply use the materials in the way that you believe will benefit your children. The Keepers materials are not a substitute for Sunday school, family devotions, catechism programs, or academic instruction-they are a supplement.

Both mothers and daughters attend our meetings. Meetings begin with a time for club business, discussions of upcoming meetings or events, and the awarding of any badges earned by the girls since the last meeting (each mother is the judge of whether her daughter has met the badge requirements). This is followed by a short devotional lesson by one of the mothers (we come up with this material ourselves; there is none prescribed in the handbook).

Then we are introduced to one of the many badge activities described in the handbook. Sometimes this is done by one of the mothers in the Club. At other times we invite another woman in the covenant community to come and share her special skill or knowledge with us. This is one of my favorite features of our Club; our girls are introduced not only to new activities at each meeting, but also to new people, women in the church or community from whom they may not otherwise have had an opportunity to learn.

Our activities this year have included lessons in etiquette, plastic canvas needlepoint, making gingerbread houses, making scrapbooks, writing letters to our grandparents, and reciting Bible memory work. In the coming months, we are looking forward to a knitting lesson and a hike through our community.

The Columbus Keepers Club has added a level two group for older girls, allowing for more in-depth instruction. Girls of all ages attend a common meeting each month; the older girls have additional meetings. By maintaining a common meeting for all ages, mentoring is facilitated. The older girls, having achieved a measure of competency in a skill, can help the younger girls and be an encouragement to them.

There are two core principles of the Keepers program that I have found to be particularly motivating. The first is to be a starter. If there are skills to be learned or tasks to be done, start them now. Our daughters will only be with us in our homes for a few short years. Begin today to teach your daughter the things she needs to know. The Keepers catalog cites this adage: "Your children are becoming what they will be."

The second principle is to be a finisher. A special award is given to each girl who finishes all her projects for the year (as planned by the girl and her mother). The Keepers handbook reminds girls: "It is good to begin new things, but it is even more important to finish what we begin."

Although these two principles may sound like worldly wisdom from some self-improvement book, the context in which these principles are taught makes all the difference. That context is one in which we encourage our girls to follow the example of our Lord, who came before us as the Suffering Servant. We start, we finish, we grow, and we learn, so that we may be better fitted for service in his kingdom.

This emphasis on humble service in all our tasks is what makes Keepers Club different. Many clubs have service projects from time to time, laudably giving to those in need and sharing resources with others. However, other activities are done solely for pleasure or the betterment of self. In contrast, Keepers Club teaches girls to do all to the glory of God and all in service to our God and others. (One hopes and expects that in doing so they will also have much pleasure and will greatly improve themselves!)

The Keepers handbook for girls, the Contenders handbook for boys, and other club materials are produced by Keepers of the Faith Company and are available through their Internet catalog at www.keepersofthefaith.com. Orders may also be placed by phone at 906/663-6881.

The author is a member of Calvary OPC in Glenside, Pa. Reprinted from New Horizons, May 2005.

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