Like many ministers, the Rev. Bobby Land Sr. hands out tracts that he keeps in his car. But they aren’t the typical religious tract.
“I love to work with young people and push them forward,” he said. “I’ve seen too many just go down the drain because they just didn’t care about life.”
To Land, getting an education is at least on-par with being a Christian.
“They’re not going to ask you when you’re applying for a job, ‘Are you a Christian?’” he said.
Land also volunteers as a “watchdog” at John Tyler High School. He roams the halls, making sure students are wearing their ID and get to class.
Land and the Rev. S. L. Curry Jr. are both leaders in the Original East Texas Baptist Association, a network of more than 40 churches in the area. Curry has experienced Land’s passion for young people first hand when Land offered his church for Curry to preach his first revival.
The two have maintained the friendship for more than 30 years.
“He’s always doing something for young people,” he said. “It’s very important, because many people get to a certain age and don’t have time for young people anymore.”
He has an account on Facebook, uses text messaging and even writes raps that he shares with some of the teens he meets.
Land keeps a long piece of cardboard with photos of young people he’s mentored over the years. They’ve gone into a variety of professions. He smiles as he points to pictures and describes each one.
“My wife says, ‘You’re just an old teenager,’” he said with a laugh.
Land’s own congregation at New Baptist Evangelistic Church has only three members under 20 years old. But he still sees helping youth reach their full potential as an extension of his faith.
“Some of them will hear you, some of them won’t,” he said. “I know times are different now, but if I bettered my own life, maybe I can help kids today.”