Reaching, Teaching, Loving
Zach and Donna Prince have a regular routine when they have company over to their home. When it’s time for their guests to depart, the Princes make a point to walk them out, stand in their driveway, and wave until the visitors are out of sight.
For the Princes, hospitality is about more than just being polite or making their guests comfortable while inside their home. It’s about letting them know they’re glad they came, that they personally care for them, that they enjoyed spending time with them.
Throughout their 32 years of marriage, Zack and Donna have brought this same mindset to serving their church, Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington—where Zack has been a member since 1975 and Donna since 1976. Zack has taught Sunday school nearly 65 years, ranging from teaching boys, coed youth, junior and senior high students, young marrieds, and now, since the 1990s, a class for senior adults. It’s the same class where he and Donna met in their 30s and 40s and where they have aged, grown, and served together.
Zack’s life group fosters discussion. He is adamant that it is not lecture-based. He researches commentaries to expand on and discuss in class. He asks lots of questions to create more opportunities for sharing. In other words, it’s about more than conveying information.
“Relationships happen in small groups,” said Donna, who also teaches a weekly women’s Bible study, “and small groups function best when they are relational.”
Relationships aren’t just casual in Zach’s Sunday school class; they are a necessity. The class includes about 40 regular attenders and 12 members who are homebound, all of them ranging in age from their early 60s into their 90s. The class has faced a number of challenges over the last several years. COVID was certainly one of them, but there have been other illnesses, as well as deaths. As such, there are more widows and widowers in the class now, with many navigating a difficult new reality.
“You can’t just go to Sunday school or go to Bible study every Sunday and teach a lesson and expect to have much effect on anyone, especially older people,” Zack said. “They need more help.”
And help is what Zack and Donna offer. They spend many of their days visiting sick people in the hospital or cooking and delivering food to families in need. The gift of shepherding, Zack says, is so much more than teaching; it’s also being available to serve, to do for people the things that they need done when they can’t take care of it all themselves. And those that are able in the class are wonderful about serving others, too. Some drive for Meals on Wheels and drive other members to doctor appointments. They cook and serve meals for funerals and often collect needed items for ministries that serve those who are often underserved, such as new mothers and low-income families.
It’s a culture of service that is spreading. Richard Hight, who has been a member of the class for five years, considers Zack a mentor and friend. Hight serves in a weekly community outreach that feeds the homeless in Arlington, serves in Meals on Wheels, and often joins Zack in visiting class members who are homebound or in the hospital.
“He has set a wonderful example of what it looks like to shepherd others,” Hight said. “He faithfully demonstrates a servant’s heart and genuinely cares for those God has placed in his classes.”
In turn, Zack says he doesn’t think he could have continued to teach the class without Donna’s support and partnership in ministering to the class. Said Zack: “She has been a great, great person to shepherd these people.”
So how long will Zack continue to teach the class? “I want to go out with my boots on,” he says, acknowledging that they plan to continue to serve as long as they are able. He believes he has been able to make it this far because of the truths in Matthew 6:33, which lead him to seek the Lord before all else, and Philippians 4:8, which has helped him realize the need for daily, personal, reflective time with God. So until the day comes when his season of teaching is over, he plans to do three things in keeping with 1 Thessalonians 1:3: maintain strong faith, carry out loving deeds for others, and look forward to Jesus Christ’s return.
The Lord has blessed the Princes’ faithfulness. They reared their children in church, who in turn did the same with their families. Now, on Sundays, four generations of Princes are present at Tate Springs. Donna and Zack can look across the church auditorium and see their oldest daughter, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
“In money, in time, in love of other people, in helping and serving—you cannot out-give God,” Donna said.
“I believe that as we serve our class, God blesses us and our family so much.”