Teen Commitment Academy

Sometimes God gives you a significant task, and no matter how much you might delay, he usually gets his way. This was the case for Barbara Ingram.

In 1996, she became a wife and mother on her wedding day.

She became the mother of her husband’s 8-year-old daughter, and she embraced motherhood fully. She did all the things mothers do with their daughters, including shopping, decorating her bedroom, helping with homework and cooking meals.
She and her new husband prayed mightily and planned for their daughter’s future.

Barbara asked God to guide their daughter through the pitfalls of life, the temptations, hormonal changes and many challenges she would encounter as she grew into adulthood.

Barbara noticed how too many youths spiraled out of control with sexual promiscuity, teen pregnancies and poor choices. What was particularly frustrating to Ingram was that many of these youths were active Christians growing up in strong church environments.
In 2001, Barbara discussed with her husband an article in a Christian magazine about a movement in which fathers took their daughters on special dates. During these outings, the fathers expressed how much they loved their daughters and wanted the best for them. They then would give their daughters rings and ask them to commit to not to having sex before marriage.

When Barbara’s husband asked his daughter on her 12th birthday to wear the ring and make the commitment, his daughter eagerly agreed.

That day was a defining moment in Barbara’s life.

Being guided by the Holy Spirit, she wrote a 6-month program for Christian teens. She knew the program needed to be fast-paced, with topics that were of interest and relevant to them.

She needed many talented adults using Biblical principles to talk about life issues that impact youths and young adults. The topics included peer pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse, consequences of poor choices, money management and cultural pride. The program was designed to be transparent and fun, with food, music and straight talk. The culmination ceremony would include parents presenting their children with rings as a symbol of the youths’ commitment to celibacy until marriage. She named the program Commitment Academy.

Several more years passed, and Barbara remained committed to the concept even though she was no longer married to her step-daughter’s father.

In 2006, she was able to present the program to Christian youths at St. Matthew Church. And although 15 youths were enrolled in the program, only seven completed it, all related to Barbara. This did not deter her.

“Being guided by the Holy Spirit, she wrote a 6-month program for Christian teens.”

With a few refinements, the 2008-09 program was offered to Salem Baptist Church. This time, 30 youths completed the program, and the next class at Salem Baptist saw 16 make the commitment.

The 2013-14 class was a collaborative effort between three churches, Salem Baptist, St. Mark Baptist and Zion Baptist. There were 35 youths and young adults who completed the program. In all, 88 young people have completed Commitment Academy.

This program required a lot of energy and perseverance. But God knew that Barbara Ingram, with her enthusiasm, high energy and the help of others from the community, could make Commitment Academy work.

by Janice Gilmore