Ephrata Youth Bible School: The Experience Recounted

(Part 1) (Part 2)

I received this humorous piece from someone who wishes to be known simply as a former female attendant of Charity Ministries’ Youth Bible School. While a few things said in this article (and I emphasize the word ‘few’) are exaggerated, things usually do happen this way for many who attend YBS. It’s my understanding that there will be sequel parts to this as well.

Charity Bible School: The Experience Recounted

First off, your parents and congregation start pressuring you to go. You’re scared because you’ve seen what happens to youth people who go to Bible School. They come back with creepy zombie faces and recount stories about how they became convicted about their rock music collection and how the first thing they did when they got back was to empty out their entire bedroom and burn it all with fire. Everybody in the church praises God and then looks at you expectantly.

You fill out the form and lie a lot about what kind of music and books you like, because you figure they’ll tattle on you if you say something wrong, since they ask for your parent’s names, numbers and the same for your pastor. You get accepted. Oh, crap.

So you pack your most conservative clothes and wonder if jean skirts are considered worldly right now. It seems to vary over time what is worldly or not, so you opt to skip the jean skirt and pack extra head coverings. The rules focus a LOT on what you can’t wear and how if you talk to a member of the opposite sex, you will probably be separated with a firehose. Or something pretty close.

Day 1: You arrive after driving all day long in a 15 passenger van stuffed with other youth. Or maybe you were stuffed into the back of a tiny cramped sedan. It depends on how many teens that your pastor was able to guilt into going.

You hope to God (reverently, of course) that your host family isn’t weird. You’ve heard stories about weird host families. You peel yourself out of your seat and wander around the parking lot until you spot a creepy looking mini-van.

“Please,” you think, “Don’t let that be my host family.”

You’re in luck. As a woman and about 6 small children who seem to be under the age of 5 pile out of the van, your friend Edna swallows. It’s her family. The woman smiles at her and says brightly,

“We live out a ways on a farm so we like to get up real early but I’m sure you’ll fit right in. We can’t WAIT to see how God works in your life this week dear!”

Edna shoots you a pleading look and walks away, immediately surrounded by the horde of small silent children. You finally find your ride. It’s a silent-looking guy with a Hutterite accent and a disinclination to talk too much. At least he isn’t harassing you about what your relationship with your authorities is like. You lean back in his car and inhale the scent of Ephrata farmland. It’s going to be a long week.

About princeasbel

As Frank Walton says, I'm just a college undergrad who loves God.
This entry was posted in Bible School, Family Issues, Humor. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Ephrata Youth Bible School: The Experience Recounted

  1. Sarah Grimes says:

    Eerily. Creepily. Tragically. Humorously. Spot. On. Not sure if I should laugh, or shiver, since it embodies my own experience so much! there is such a high expectation that you go, and of what happens to you there. Sheesh.

  2. Former Female Attendant says:

    Stick around for the rest of the series, Sarah-sad to hear you experienced the flu-filled horror fest that is YBS, but nice to know I’m on target

  3. jwscholar says:

    I think it’s ironic that Charity bemoans the number of youth that come to Bible School for reasons other than spiritual interest, yet doesn’t address the root of that problem–parents, pastors, and fellow youth that pressure the young people into going to Bible School out of a sense of duty.

  4. jwscholar says:

    Then again, I’m having trouble coming up with a way to actually address that problem. I guess I can sympathize with their difficulties somewhat.

    The problem is that to be socially accepted in the church you have to be seen as a good Christian with an interest in spiritual things. Such a person would, of course, jump at the opportunity to go to Bible School. In order to remove that pressure, you’d have to make it socially acceptable for a church member to be uninterested in spiritual things. But, of course, we don’t want to cultivate THAT kind of an atmosphere at a church, right? The whole point of going to church is supposed to be that you are interested in spiritual things.

    So how are you supposed to weed out hypocrites?

  5. jwscholar says:

    For the record, I didn’t lie about the music/books on my application. And my parents knew what I was listening to/reading, so I wasn’t worried about that either.

    The ride up was always my favorite part because I loved hanging out with my friends.

    And, finally, I have yet to find a host family weirder than my family, so that wasn’t really that much of an issue either.

  6. Elise says:

    That’s creepy, its so life like!!!
    MY host was a hutterite lady with no children BUT STILL

  7. ex-Charity girl says:

    You know what’s pretty funny about “Charity” Youth Bible School, is that the young people in Charity Christian Fellowship {CCF the original church that started the movement} complained about Bible School quite a bit too, and thought the rules, especially the rules about the opposite sex, were really dumb. I was introduced to Charity through Bible school, so I just assumed that the rules at Bible school were what were practiced by people at CCF. But not at all. In youth group, guys and girls, that aren’t related *gasp* aren’t afraid to look in each other’s eyes and have meaningful conversations with one another. And plenty of them wear jean skirts, so no worries. So a lot of the youth from CCF would attend Bible school for a year or two, and then would just volunteer in the kitchen or something, or simply just not go, because even they couldn’t handle the rules!

    I dunno, but I think that a lot of people coming from Charity churches outside CCF are waaaay more conservative than CCF is. And maybe that’s because they have a distorted view of CCF based on what they witness at Bible school? ‘Cause if you take the rules that are implemented at Bible school and even some of the teaching… it’s definitely not what’s going on at Charity.

    I think that was what started my disillusionment with Charity actually. I had this idea of what I thought CCF would be like from Bible school and from the sermons. But then when I found out that it wasn’t like that, it came off as hypocrisy almost. Not saying that ultimately I would have been comfortable staying at Charity, but I think I just thought that everyone, including the youth, were leading these ultra-holy lives and I frankly, found it appealing rather than off-putting. So then when I found out that it definitely wasn’t that way, I became kinda disgusted with it all.

  8. Frannie Halbert says:

    Hello,

    I just recently found this site and thought I could add a few things–a different perpective of CYBS. First, I can kind of understand what your article says and then I can’t. I have (joyfully) attended Bible School for a couple of years now–I came from a non-conservative home and church and to actually see young people obeying God (because while their are some going their own way there are also some who are seeking Christ) was something very encouraging to me.

    Addressing the issue about their rules on modesty and clothing–I was excited because finally I was attending a Christian event where modesty was a requirement–maybe if you had come from church where mini skirts and shirts-as-tight-as-skin were allowed you would feel as I did. I believe they only ask for double covering and no slacks for a lady–a reasonalble request for a conservative church. Now, I know that you may have felt pressured to leave your jean skirt at home and I’m sorry for that–however, if you were modest you were breaking no rule.

    You spoke about a fear of judgement if you talked to a boy–I was excited because I was actually going to spend time with youth (boy and girls) my age who claimed to love the Lord–and I met many who do. I’m sorry that you felt looking at a boy could cause the turn of a firehose–I’ve never felt that way. I try to make a habit of being sisterly and friendly to the boys. I chat, smile and be sweet and have never felt condemnation or judgement for doing so. I believe it is part of CYBS’s desire to see brothers and sisters in Christ meet and encourage one another–a desire I believe Christ would also want us to have. Perhaps listening to CYBS’s 2010 question and answer cd would give you a different view on this topic. One question a girl asked was about finding a husband without seeming loose or like a flirt–it was a very good question that received a very good answer. The answer revealed the heart of some at Charity and it was an encouragement to me.

    I’m sorry you felt that way about your host family–just as visitors being hosted by your church would feel that you-all were weird so you felt towards your host family. I’m thankful she was friendly, willing to host and willing to cook for you–all for no cost. A trait not many in this world exhibit.

    A little background–the first time I met some from the Charity Church I was mad at my mom for making me wear skirts; when I peeled onions for supper my mascera ran. My dress was so tight Mom asked for me to put a jacket on. However, the family I was visting and staying with welcomed me in with kindness and love. They’re example left a lifelong mark and I am so thankful for them. I know not everyone at Charity may exhibit Christ-likeness just like those in mine and your church do not either. However, my experience with the youth { I } met is that they truly love the Lord–this was evident in their kindness, hospitality, humility, modesty, friendliness, honor of parents, lack of flirting and how they invested their time. I wish I could take you along with me to meet those people and maybe then you would see attending CYBS more as a joy and blessing than guilt trip.

    Thanks for letting me share,
    Frannie Halbert

    • princeasbel says:

      Addressing the issue about their rules on modesty and clothing–I was excited because finally I was attending a Christian event where modesty was a requirement–maybe if you had come from church where mini skirts and shirts-as-tight-as-skin were allowed you would feel as I did.

      And maybe if you came from a church where you were forced to dress like a total frump ever day of your life then maybe you would feel differently too, Frannie.

      I believe they only ask for double covering and no slacks for a lady–a reasonalble request for a conservative church. Now, I know that you may have felt pressured to leave your jean skirt at home and I’m sorry for that–however, if you were modest you were breaking no rule.

      Breaking no rule, maybe, but there’s a reason people feel the pressure they do. They know that if they wear jeans that they’re pushing it, and there’s a headhunt for every girl out there who would dare wear something non-Mennonite such as a jean skirt or a different colored head covering.

      You spoke about a fear of judgement if you talked to a boy–I was excited because I was actually going to spend time with youth (boy and girls) my age who claimed to love the Lord–and I met many who do. I’m sorry that you felt looking at a boy could cause the turn of a firehose–I’ve never felt that way. I try to make a habit of being sisterly and friendly to the boys. I chat, smile and be sweet and have never felt condemnation or judgement for doing so.

      Good for you, but since you’ve evidently never grown up in a Charity church environment, it’s no wonder you can’t understand that fear of judgement.

      I believe it is part of CYBS’s desire to see brothers and sisters in Christ meet and encourage one another–a desire I believe Christ would also want us to have.

      They may affirm that in word, but in practice they contradict themselves six ways from Sunday.

      I’m sorry you felt that way about your host family–just as visitors being hosted by your church would feel that you-all were weird so you felt towards your host family. I’m thankful she was friendly, willing to host and willing to cook for you–all for no cost. A trait not many in this world exhibit.

      Actually there are plenty of people in the world willing to do just that, and on the plus side they don’t have awkward invasive personalities and smell like a barnyard.

      A little background–the first time I met some from the Charity Church I was mad at my mom for making me wear skirts; when I peeled onions for supper my mascera ran. My dress was so tight Mom asked for me to put a jacket on. However, the family I was visting and staying with welcomed me in with kindness and love. They’re example left a lifelong mark and I am so thankful for them.

      So what? At first or once-in-a-lifetime encounters they may act as civil and gracious as could be. They do that all the time. What you’re obviously unaware of is the fierce judgmental attitude behind their facade of simplistic piety. If you ever wanted to become a member of a Charity church, go ahead and do so, see the kind of restrictions on your life they start to impose, and see how quick their loving-kindness goes out the door.

      I know not everyone at Charity may exhibit Christ-likeness just like those in mine and your church do not either. However, my experience with the youth { I } met is that they truly love the Lord–this was evident in their kindness, hospitality, humility, modesty, friendliness, honor of parents, lack of flirting and how they invested their time.

      And I would just say you’re being fooled like every other person who gets sucked into this movement.

      I wish I could take you along with me to meet those people and maybe then you would see attending CYBS more as a joy and blessing than guilt trip.

      Did you even read the beginning of this article? Do you have any clue as to how parents treat YBS as a reform school to send their children who actually have a backbone? Obviously not.

    • Ex-Charity girl says:

      Frannie, I read your reply and was kinda confused, I wonder if since you were coming from outside the Charity circles, if your perspective on what was going on was a little off?

      “Now, I know that you may have felt pressured to leave your jean skirt at home and I’m sorry for that–however, if you were modest you were breaking no rule.”

      That is true, you could wear a jean skirt. But in a huge group like that, there’s a lot of pressure from the group not to stick out, not to look different, and wearing a jean skirt would have made you stand out. And you would have been judged, even if some of those who were doing the judging weren’t aware they were doing that, or thought they had your best interests at heart.

      “I’m sorry that you felt looking at a boy could cause the turn of a firehose–I’ve never felt that way. I try to make a habit of being sisterly and friendly to the boys. I chat, smile and be sweet and have never felt condemnation or judgement for doing so. I believe it is part of CYBS’s desire to see brothers and sisters in Christ meet and encourage one another–a desire I believe Christ would also want us to have. ”

      The years I attended, the rules became increasingly restrictive. They changed the seating at meal times so that girls and boys were no longer even allowed to sit across from one another, which the first year I attended they were. Also, in between sessions when students would walk around the building, there were adults out there making sure that any guys and girls who weren’t brothers and sisters weren’t walking together. To get around this rule, a girl would have her brother walk with her, and have other guys she wasn’t related to walking with her brother. When the chaperones realized that was happening, they cracked down even harder. So, to me, they were trying very, very, very hard to DISCOURAGE communication between guys and girls. Now, I don’t think you would have gotten a lot of judgement from doing so from the youth at CCF, but you would have been sternly reprimanded if you were caught doing so by the principals.

      This lack of communication between guys and girls had gotten so bad that a couple years ago, the ministry felt the need to backtrack, because they start getting concerned when people in their churches weren’t getting married! No wonder, because how are you supposed to start dating someone you barely know?!? I think that might be part of the reason that a lot of marriages and “courtships” start happening outside of the churches (not a lot of people start dating someone they’re attending the same church as) because it’s easier to get to know someone outside of the church and then it is within. Which is kinda sad.

      And of course this ridiculous weird standard had some really horrible consequences for some of the nicest girls. The girls that follow the rules to the ‘T’ at Charity, who are extremely modest, dedicated to the Lord, show up to early morning prayers, never talk to the guys, and yet are hoping and praying they will someday be married- these girls are now in their late twenties, having been passed over for the more ‘modern’ type girls in Charity- those who wear those jean skirts, watch movies, talk to guys, etc. That’s another reason I left, I would just get so upset looking at these girls who followed all the rules, loved CCF, and did everything the ministry wanted, were ending up single and alone, stuck in menial jobs because they had of course not furthered their education, they barely went through high school in their home school. (Oh, don’t even get me started on the education people at Charity are getting -rather, AREN’T getting).

      And I will say this- I really do agree with your comments about the welcoming and the love and the sense of community you experienced at Charity. While there are those who judge, and there are definitely cliques in the youth group, the majority of people at Charity really and truly want to be loving and welcoming. That is definitely something I admired about Charity.

      But you’re a little off on the guy-girl stuff.

  9. Paul says:

    When are yall gona post the next article? I would consider it a privilege to get to experience this event. And I wouldn’t be ashamed to put down the music/books I enjoy either.

    I also enjoyed the comments. The variety from different perspectives helps you get the picture. I mean, if you are going to an event like that with a guilty conscience, hanging on to something- anything, especially something that does not build you in The Faith, – and to the point of lying about it, – it stands to reason that if you don’t get some serious help and do some serious dying to self, you are going to have a very negative experience. A guilty conscience is no fun thing to carry around…

    • Paul says:

      I don’t know a lot about Charity, but I also wanted to comment on the part about boy/girl communication.

      <<<This lack of communication between guys and girls had gotten so bad that a couple years ago, the ministry felt the need to backtrack, because they start getting concerned….

      That sounds reasonable, to recognize a mistake, they may have went a little too far on this issue, according to what some of you say.

      Flirting and romance is way out of hand in most circles/churches in this age. CBS may have went too far the other way on this issue. Hopefully they can correct themselves if that is the case.
      I know about going too far on this issue, I spent a lot of my growing up years in a group that is way to strict in this area, they do not allow any form of courtship, they basically practice arranged marriage. They would call Charity liberal on this issue I am sure.

      • princeasbel says:

        They may very well call Charity liberal, but even Charity doesn’t acknowledge that they’ve erred in principle, but in application. The mentality that it’s wrong to let young men and women interact with one another is still very much there, and there’s no reason to think that they won’t go back to the radical rules they imposed in 2008 where they basically went the route of Pensacola Christian College in not letting even brothers and sisters walk and talk with each other.

        • princeasbel says:

          You’ve got this blame game completely twisted. This guilty conscience you’re talking about was imposed by weaker men and women because they need a reform school of some kind to beat you down to where you feel more like you’re saved because you obey their silly rules more than just obeying God. That’s spiritual abuse, in case you’re not familiar with the term, and as far as God is concerned, that kind of guilty conscience has nothing to do with trusting him and everything to do with putting yourself under the bondage of man’s traditions.

  10. Paul says:

    Spiritual manipulation is a fact, and some do abuse the conscience. Peer pressure adds to this. Sorry if you were under such a situation. That is not a good place to be in, and can help lead one to hypocrisy, such as lying on the application about music that they are unwilling to give up and also unwilling to admit they have.

    I don’t think my previous post is twisted, but maybe I’m missing something…, I don’t think we can ever justify lying. That is a choice we make, and we could just admit the truth, or not answer that question…

    • princeasbel says:

      I don’t think my previous post is twisted, but maybe I’m missing something…

      What you’re missing is that you were placing blame on the person with the guilty conscience when that guilt wasn’t put there by some genuine concern for God’s truth, but for putting on an act other people were demanding from him/her. I can cite multiple examples from my own siblings alone who say they experienced verbal abuse for daring to be honest on their application sheets. They took the honest route and got their worst fears confirmed. The ones who are in the wrong in this case are the one’s demanding the act.

      That is not a good place to be in, and can help lead one to hypocrisy, such as lying on the application about music that they are unwilling to give up and also unwilling to admit they have.

      Again, that’s not their fault. It’s not like people are naturally afraid to admit they have music habits other people won’t tolerate. It’s the pressure and the consequences they can look forward to if they do answer honestly. In fact, YBS turns down applicants who do openly and honestly express their disagreements with their teachings. YBS turned down one of my friends and my younger brother because they were as honest as could be in their views, and my brother specifically got the worst my parents had to offer because now the magical reform school of YBS wasn’t available to beat his conscience down to their level of weakness. You’re darned if you lie, darned if you’re honest, and being honest got you the worst treatment. Big surprise that people lie in their applications.

      I don’t think we can ever justify lying.

      Tell that to the midwives of Egypt.

      That is a choice we make, and we could just admit the truth, or not answer that question…

      I’m going to assume you’re just ignorant of this topic as a whole. You don’t have the option to not answer those questions, and like I’ve said already, confessing the truth is exactly what your peers don’t want. You’d do better, Paul, to simply leave off talking about this school rather than continuing to confirm your naivety. You seem like a nice guy, but I’d still advise you to wait till you’ve walked a mile in the moccasins of the pressured YBS applicants before launching critical remarks on them.

  11. Lovin'it says:

    I totally understand you guys when you talk about being freaked out at such places. There were def more people then you feel comfortable with for a first timer. I personally enjoy going to Charity Bible school. I was saved at one of the evening revival meetings. PS. why lie about the music movies and books you have? I just told the truth, who cares if they know it, it’s gonna be out in the open anyway some day.

  12. not interested in libel says:

    Whoever the creep is that maintains this site that I stumbled on needs to go get a life. I don’t know who he’s trying to fool, but he’s just spreading libel and slander under the guise of “helping” people avoid deception. I think people are smart enough to judge places and churches themselves without having him to “interpret” every last thing someone does that he has a pick against.

  13. Angel says:

    Frannie Halbert,

    I wanted to thank you for the comments you shared about your personal experience with the CYBS. I really felt you shared out of a sincere desire to glorify the Lord. God bless you as you continue to seek His will for your life!
    Angel Prowant

  14. MCAWESOME says:

    call me a dummy, but arent these charity people people too?? that jesus loves as much as all of us? im not from charity(i have torn jeans, some times spiky hair, and luv loud music) but do we really need to pick on them? Seriously? tolerance isn’t just for the tat2s and long hair, its for the cape dresses and beards! now i’ve never been accussed of being the smartest person in the world and to quote john rueben that was simply my 2 cents u can u can take it or leave it. maybe it would be better if prayed and not gossipped, built up and not tore down. just a thought…

  15. Koala-chan says:

    Strange!

    I had a very encouraging time at YBS this past Fall. I admit that I think some of the rules are a little annoying, but I understand why they have them. It all looks different to each one’s background. To some of you, you may hate the culture of life that Charity has, but I was really grateful to be around people who dressed modestly and (not frumpily, in my opinion!) with a sense of care towards their appearance.
    Perhaps the Bible School just got better since when you all went.

    Blessings to all of you.
    ~Koala-chan

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