When John Clayton was growing up in East Texas, there was not much to do. He grew up in a broken home, but his mom or someone from his community would pick him up and take him to church. As a young boy, he was able to attend the church's Royal Ambassador program, which significantly impacted his life. Clayton now leads many of the RA and Challengers missions and camping experiences for UBA churches. His own sons were involved in the program as young boys and now volunteer with their dad at various events.
The Royal Ambassadors (RA's) and Challengers programs are utilized by churches to influence young men (grades 1-12) by helping them grow spiritually and learn leadership skills. The program traditionally takes place on Wednesday nights and includes activities like Bible study, basketball, a pinewood derby, and mission events. It allows young men to learn from an older male leader.
The primary benefit for the participants is a sense of belonging or “place.” As we all have a place in the family of God, each boy and young man has a place in RAs. When so much of their lives occurs digitally and virtually, RA’s is anything but virtual. Most, if not all, activities encourage relationships between the young men and a strong male role model. They learn how to have integrity, the importance of honesty and trustworthiness, and most importantly, how to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Leaders exemplify these character traits through involvement, weekly Bible Studies, and fun activities that undergird the Bible lessons.
These fun activities also teach boys valuable skills. One game teaches kids how to change a flat tire through a Daytona 500 pit crew-type experience. Not only that, but they tie the physical lesson to the spiritual. Just as wheels wobble when lugs are not installed properly, our lives are going to wobble when they aren’t held by the standards God has placed before us. The idea is to make sure we are firmly secured in the principles of God.
RA’s has been around since 1899, so one of the greatest challenges they face is the idea of relevancy. Many churches no longer have a Wednesday night service, which makes it difficult to schedule an RA meeting. Often, people are either too busy to attend or consider RA’s activities (like camping) outdated, as well. However, RA's teaches valuable lessons that all boys should learn, even in the digital age. They are taught how to become Godly men and all the characteristics that accompany the lifestyle of an Ambassador for Christ.
The RA program today is streamlined, up-to-date, and addresses issues that students face every day: from healthy ways to engage competition to how to respect women. Raising children into a God-fearing, woman-respecting, mission-minded businessman or blue collar hero is not accomplished in isolation. These boys, young men, and future leaders are built through consistent training in God-focused activities.
Any church can develop a strong RA and Challenger program. The cost of the program is completely up to the church. RA's and Challengers give Christian men the opportunity to help guide young men into manhood. Some of the older boys volunteer, apply and are honored by being asked to serve as a State Staffer. There are opportunities for leadership training in early June, and John Clayton is willing to assist churches who are interested in developing a program. Contact him for more information at JClayton@MayesClaytonGroup.com. “As Iron Sharpens Iron...”, we will serve with our brothers and sisters in Christ to help build the next generation of Jesus loving men.