Whether your church calls it family ministry, children’s ministry, kids ministry… whatever it’s called, here are three reasons people often give for why they shouldn’t serve in a ministry that involves children. I propose these three reasons are exactly why you should sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
Because You Aren’t a Kid Person
I hear this a lot. As a kids ministry leader at my church, I often hear people say they aren’t kid people. That’s why they don’t serve in kids ministry. And to a point there’s good reasoning there.
Not everyone is suited for holding babies, singing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers, and teaching elementary students to discern Jesus from the Bible lesson. In fact, there are some really good reasons a person should have no contact with kids in church. But just because you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when kids are around, and you don’t talk to babies like you’re in a cartoon, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.
In fact, if you are quick to say, “I’m not a kid person,” you should sign up to serve in kids ministry. Let God take that aversion you have to kids and the chaos they may make you feel, and use it to lower yourself and listen to Jesus say, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
If you’re not a kid person, you don’t have to be the lead teacher or the one who guides the toddlers in a game of follow the leader. But get on the ground next to a kid playing with the Noah’s ark play set. Let God use those kids to show you how much he loves and accepts you as you are, and is leading you to grow up to be like Jesus.
Because You Work With Kids All Day Long
A reason many give for not serving in a ministry to children is that they work with kids every day during the week. They don’t want to work with kids at church too.
Teachers, daycare workers, preschool aides… you all are the pros! Your church’s kids ministry needs you to help them learn how to manage a classroom. We need your skills!
In Exodus 35, when Moses called the people of Israel to build the tabernacle as God instructed, he called for people with different skills to use their abilities not just for their own homes, but for the house God was having them build.
“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded… All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair… ‘See the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Juday; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…” Exodus 35:10, 26, 30-31
Jesus is building his church. And one way he does that is by calling people with different abilities in the church to serve one another using those skills. There’s an ability needed to guide a group of kids to listen and learn together. If you have that skill, sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation. Build Jesus’ kingdom with your classroom management talents.
Towards the end of his message, Piper responds to Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem in Acts 20:22, as a fictional American trying to talk some sense into the elderly apostle:
But Paul, you’re getting old. How ’bout a little cottage on the Aegean Sea? You’ve already done more in your ministry than most people could do in five lifetimes. It’s time to rest. Let the last twenty years of your life be travel and golf, shuffleboard and putzing around the garage and digging in the garden. Let Timothy have a chance. He’s young. Don’t go to Jerusalem. Agabus the prophet has told you, they are going to bind your hands and feet and hand you over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). And whatever you do, don’t go to Rome. And get out of your head the crazy plan of going to Spain at your age. You could get yourself killed. It isn’t American! It’s not the American Dream of ‘the sunset years.
The point of Piper’s message is old age in Jesus’ church isn’t a reason for sitting back and relaxing while younger folks do the work of the ministry. And it isn’t just John Piper preaching this message. In the Bible the psalmist pleads with God to give him a ministry even when he’s old, “So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:18)
And in Joshua 14:6-15, when 85 year old Caleb finally enters the land God promised Israel, he tells Joshua, “And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”
Not every person of retirement age can get down on the ground with toddlers, but if you’re a retiree and you can enter a church building, this Sunday you should sign up to serve the next generation of parents and children in your church.
Ok, that’s four, and it’s not a reason people give for not wanting to serve in a ministry to children. But I think it’s a reason many of us serious folks might unconsciously use as a reason we avoid kids ministry.
I tend to be too serious. In fact, it’s a prayer of mine this year that I will laugh more. I know that’s pathetic, but its true. Serving in kids ministry has caused me to laugh and have fun even while the hard things of life happen around us.
Proverbs 31 speaks of the woman who is clothed with strength and dignity. She opens her mouth and teaches others with kindness and wisdom. And she laughs at the time to come.
When you lower yourself to sit criss-cross and sing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers; when you learn to teach Jesus to a child, you will grow in strength and dignity and you’ll find yourself having the best kind of fun. You’ll laugh with a pure heart and it will be good!
I pray this stirs your heart. I pray if you’re not a kid person, and if you’re a teacher person or a retired person, you will turn your reasons for not serving the children and parents in your church into the reasons you sign up to serve them on Sunday.
In the days after the November 3rd election, I scrolled through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, reading posts from people with crosses, fish symbols and scripture references in their taglines, that left me grieved.
They used words like, “go to hell,” held up their Bibles, guns, favored-candidate’s flag, and accused other Christians on social media of being “baby-killers” and “lost” because they pledged to pray for a pro-choice democrat if elected. In response I tweeted this question:
“Christian, if you’re cutting people off, calling them names, mocking and slandering them, how exactly are you loving your enemies?”
But simply sub-tweeting a pained reply to what I read on social media isn’t going to make the difference I long to see.
One of the writers I follow on Twitter, recently said:
“It’s easier to write a book about a subject than to live the subject in a low, slow, & consistent way. If we think we’ll make a bigger difference in the world thru publishing our message than by simply living our message, God will (hopefully tenderly, softly, kindly) correct us.” – @lorewilbert
Social media and the internet make it easy for anyone to write anything. But as Lore points out, living the words we publish in a, “…low, slow & consistent way,” is the real world-changer. The incarnation of our words is a demonstration of power. To persuade a group of people to like what you say or repeat what you say is a kind of power. But to take the words you say and live them out changes lives.
It was easy for me to post my subtweet response on Facebook. It will be much harder, and much more an evidence of the power of Christ in me when I love the people who post such things, the same way Christ has loved me.
It feels weird to say it, but my “enemies” are people who use mean words on social media to demonize people they don’t agree with. Living out what I wrote, “low and slow” means praying for those people. Taking actual time out of my day to move my lips and complain to God, not social media, seeking mercy on their behalf just as I have been shown great mercy from Jesus. And if possible, meeting with them personally to humbly listen and share the truth and grace of Jesus.
Jesus is clear. The way he has prescribed and empowered us to follow him is from a humble, gentle, yet bold posture. A posture that doesn’t use words to tear people down or prop yourself up. The way commanded to us is a way of wisdom, self-control and gracious speech. But, is there a time for Christians to mock or use name calling?
In the Bible, Jesus called the religious leaders who tied heavy burdens on their followers and used them for financial gain a, “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).
In the Bible, Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27) in an ancient showdown.
These examples make us stand up and cheer! We latch on easily to the person with the wittiest comebacks and sharpest jabs. We hear meek Jesus put those Pharisees on blast, and Elijah drop the mic on the prophets of Baal, and we arm ourselves Biblical support for mocking and name calling.
I doubt that any of us can, with a pure heart, call another people group a degrading name, or make fun of another religion’s gods, in a way that fulfills Christ’s commission to make disciples. But even if there are times when such shocking words are spoken with humility and boldness, these biblical examples don’t prescribe a mode of operation for Christians.
If our mode of operation as Christians turns from the humble, bold way of Jesus, to the in-your-face, mocking, proud, name-calling way of the culture and wayward leaders, I fear we will offend our neighbors and enemies and wall ourselves in tight from all opposing views so well, we will lose the chance to win them to Christ.
A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. – Proverbs 18:19
Despair. That’s the word that comes to mind when I hear the news stories of late.
This morning, while I was getting ready to go to church, my husband sat at the kitchen table shaking his head. The news story about the two L.A. police officers, shot while they sat in their police car was on his news feed. “This is just disgusting! What is the world coming to!” he moaned.
My husband doesn’t yet hope in Jesus. I’ll spend my life praying, believing and living so that one day he will. Today, it was apparent to me, knowing where your hope lies is so important.
I asked my husband, “What’s your hope?” He struggled to voice a solution he thought might fix the problem of violence against police officers and the rhetoric he sees playing out in the public that makes it seem he’s the bad guy for being a police officer. His hope is that someone will someday fix this societal problem of violence and hate. He sees the bad guys, and hopes someone will stop them. The question that looms is, who’s going to fix the problem of evil?
What is my hope? A politician? Philanthropy? More police? Stricter laws? A different governmental system? Who’s going to fix this mess we’re all in?
When I voiced my hope to my husband this morning I got a bit of what the apostles got in Acts 4 when the leaders around them were, “…greatly annoyed because they were… proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2). My husband wasn’t greatly annoyed. But he was a little annoyed. “I don’t buy it!” he quipped. “I don’t think Christ is going to change these thugs’ and make them good people.” He couldn’t believe that Christ could make life-giving good people out of murders. And I get it. I don’t want Christ to make them life-giving good people. I tend to want Christ to just destroy them! I have a Jonah problem. But that’s another blog.
What my husband was annoyed at is my hope that the resurrected Jesus I believe in, who can’t be seen and touched, can make any difference in the world. And that’s just it. I believe he does, and is and will.
Right now, he’s in me and many others, moving us with his heart of perfect love and justice to self-sacrificially love others, forgive, stand up for the truth, for those who are oppressed, extending our lives and the good news that this Jesus we love is the only one who really can make all things new.
It’s good for us to use the systems we have to do as much good as we can, but ultimately, it is only Jesus who can take a dead, evil-infested heart, and make it alive with love and truth.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
It was never intended for you to be mine
Only that my womb would be the secret place where you were knit
Only that my body would bear the pain that gave you breath.
It was never meant that I would get to keep you close
Only that my days would be crouched low telling you what you did not know
Listening and smiling at your every coo
Wondering at the fact I get to raise you
It was never the plan that I would keep you from falling
Only that when you did I’d come running
Holding you close while you were crying.
It was never my role to teach you everything
Only to rub that spot on your back all knotted up
While you told me you didn’t feel like you would make the cut.
It was never meant for me to hold you tight
To keep you from sin’s deadly plight
Only that I should proclaim to you
The good news that could make you new.
It was never scheduled that you would stay
Only that while you were away
I would pray, and pray and pray…
You were born that way.
One day you will leave
And it is not me to whom you will cleave
Only to another
Someone never meant to be your mother.
On May 27th, the New York Times published the 100,000 names of people who died from Coronavirus. If you scroll down the screen of the online piece, you’ll see the images of humans scattered sparsley at first, then densly as time moves forward. Next to many of these human icons you’ll read the name, age and something specific about that person- their occupation, hobby or passion. The response intended from such a piece is sobriety and grief. Maybe if you read the names you’ll stop living with this intoxicated view that everything is fine. Maybe you’ll even feel sad that so many have lost their lives to this disease. When I first read the article I remember feeling sober and sad. But I also had questions. What would we do if we knew the 100,000? What if we knew the wrong they’ve done? Would we honor them like Jesus honors the undeserving? Would we do the vulnerable work of discipleship?
In my work as a nurse, and before that as a nurse’s aide, I’ve cared for people whose family members disowned them. Some had been abusive. Some were addicts. Some had abandoned their children. I’m sure my patients over the years have done many grievous things. My tending to their needs in times of illness, debility or injury is not dictated by how these people lived their lives. Yes it is my job, but also, I believe my work exemplifies the way God made us to live- to love and serve one another. Even when we know the evil the other has done. As a nurse, this way of loving isn’t passive or sugar-coated. It requires the broken to do things that hurt so they can get better, and at times it compels me to ask patients facing their mortality what their hope is.
Today, I read a heartbreaking story from David French about his friend and former client, Mike Adams. Mr. French’s eulogy is titled: A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for our Nation. America today—broken people, breaking each other. I was disturbed, convicted and saddened by what I read. Mr. French’s friend had said provocative things. And people sought his ruin in response. I don’t know if someone loved Mr. Adams enough to get close and express concern about things he said. As a people with screens in our faces, we don’t get face to face with others, see their sins and deal with them in an effort to bring wholeness. We do what Mr. French said. We break each other.
Undoubtedly there were many Mike Adams among the hundreds of thousands who’ve died of Covid-19. When the masses die we, as a culture, lament. But when among the masses one is exposed for some evil thing he or she said or did, we crush them. Jesus is not like this. And his people should not be like this either.
There is a distinct difference between our tendency to swoon over people and then destroy those same people on social media from a safe distance, and Jesus. Jesus doesn’t swoon, he knows what’s in people. He knows the evil that lurks in us all. But that knowing doesn’t lead him to destroy. Jesus, knowing what’s in us, deals with us, on a personal level. He lowers himself. He serves, even his betrayers, washing their feet (see John 13). We don’t naturally do this. The virtue of vulnerable love that exposes wickedness and offers redemption and reconciliation, is distinctly Christlike.
I expect humans to devour each other. But as Christians, vulnerable love should distinguish us from the rest of humanity. We should display a tangible foreignness in how we engage people, whether we know the wrong they’ve done or not. Not that we won’t be guilty of swooning and stabbing people, we will. I have. But we should be a people turning from idolizing and impaling others with our words. Increasingly, we should be a people noted for honoring and serving others, not because they’re good, but because Christ is good.
We have been sacrificially and scandalously served and loved by the God who knew our wickedness before we performed it. Therefore, as Christians, we should exhibit a kind of sobriety about humanity that knows the evil we’re all capable of. And with that sobriety we should bravely engage our fellow man with an other-wordly love.
There are a lot of shoulds in this blog. I don’t like shoulds. I want to be motivated by love, not rules. But just like a good parent, there is a need to remind a child what he should be doing, because we love him. I am as guilty as any of looking at the masses with sentimentality or with slander on my tongue. All these shoulds are aimed at me first. It’s hard to love like Jesus. It’s vulnerable. But it’s what I’m called to do. And it is love, that motivates me to do it.
The masses are dying around us, but get close Christian, close enough to love your enemy with your hands, like Jesus did with Judas. Get close enough to have a gracious conversation over coffee with your neighbor about what you heard your him say, like Jesus did with the woman at the well. Get low with the marginalized and despised, like Jesus did with lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes. Don’t engage others this way because they’re kind or good. But because the Spirit of the Lord Jesus is upon us and he is immeasurably kind and good.
It’s 110 degrees
there’s a significant wind moving the leaves
of our sissoos and elms.
From the window outside looks inviting
I’m tired of being inside
tired of air conditioning and my couch
I want to feel some heat, some breeze
that’s what I want
I’ll go get a watermelon
“I’m going to the store for watermelon!” I shout to my husband
laying on the couch watching videos of mountain biking
“That’s all? Watermelon?” my husband questions the necessity of the trip
“I’ve got my mask. I’ll be quick”
and off I went.
I found myself wondering the isles, not being quick
watching people, some masked, others not.
Going to the store wasn’t like this last year
Melon and some popcorn, I check out
a Plexiglas shield between me and my masked cashier
“What are you doing for the 4th, honey?” she asked,
It struck me funny she called me honey
she could have been my daughter
“Just trying to stay safe, you know” I pointed to my mask
“Me too. I wish I could just stay home” she confessed
“I’m sorry dear. I pray you’ll stay safe.”
“Thanks! Happy 4th!”
I was tired of being inside
she just wanted to go home.
Home again I wash my hands
and the fruit
and cut into that idealistic melon.
Small red triangles dotted with black seeds
fill my bowl.
but I don’t want to stay inside.
so I walk to the nearest patch of shade in the yard
the stinging invisible rays burning enough
to make me a little uncomfortable.
I brought the rinds from the watermelon
to our goats and chickens
who I found hunkering down, panting in the shade of our aluminum corral
I set the green and red rinds down in their troughs and watched them
get up from their spots
They seemed to enjoy the cold, crunchy shell of the melon
pecking and chomping
A neighbor down the alley has started up
the mariachi band that usually plays on Saturday nights
I listen for a bit
Mariachi always sounds like happy children playing in the yard to me
dancing and laughing and chasing each other
There will be no fireworks in town tonight
a young cashier will be calling strangers “honey” from behind Plexiglas
a Latino family down the alley will play mariachi
my friends will fight off panic in the hospital
a woman will grieve that Covid took her love
a daughter will weep that it took her mom
a stranger will call a nurses station hoping for good news
and when the sun to goes down
I’ll sit on the porch and watch the sky
This weekend me, my friends and neighbors are going to BBQ and blow up things. My social media feed will be full of American flags and Happy Independence Day GIF’s and memes.
I enjoy a good 4th of July celebration. Fireworks are nostalgia for me. Growing up in a small town of log truck drivers and mill workers (my dad one of them), the 4th meant BBQ’d chicken, which my dad joked was a burnt offering. It meant parking alongside the road up the hill from our fair grounds to watch (for free) the explosions in the sky.
As my sons entered their school-aged years, I began searching for stories and lessons from history that would help my sons know more about their country than the suburban white culture they lived in was teaching them. My mom tried to do the same for me, taping images of babies from various ethnicities to the wall next to my crib. As I began my search for more diverse material to inject into my kids’ senses, I began to learn what I was never taught growing up.
Yesterday I listened to a podcast with Dr. Walter Strickland. Strickland discussed his book, For God So Loved the World- A Blueprint for Kingdom Diversity. Strickland described the African American Christian community bringing to Christian theology a Berean-like practice that chews the meat of the gospel but spits out the bones of errant tradition. Strickland pointed out this Biblical practice has been part of the African American Christian way from it’s inception. Why? Because if African Americans had swallowed whole the Christian faith they were force-fed as slaves, they would have rejected it all together. The gospel the slaves learned and embraced was filled with a bunch of dead boned theology that their slaveholders used to defend slavery.
The Africans who were enslaved in the U.S. and on whose backs the U.S economy and government structures were built, were able to chew the meat of the gospel that Christ died for their sins to reconcile them to God and spit out the bones of the evil of their slaveholders. How can I do any less?
In Fredrick Douglass’ now famous speech What to the slave is the 4th of July, the former slave eloquently lays out the irony and wickedness that young America was willingly blinded to. He pointed out how our father’s thought it right and noble to seek independence from Britain’s crown, and celebrated their victory in gaining this freedom, while chained to the dark-skinned men, women and children they denied this freedom too.
“You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country…. ” (What to the slave is the 4th of July, 1852)
But even Douglass, so freshly scarred and wounded in a time of open slavery, was chewing the meat of the virtues America ironically violated in their slave holding, while spitting out the bones of our country’s wickedness.
“Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.” (What to the slave is the 4th of July, 1852)
I love America. I love her diversity. I love that she has an ethic of hard work and human rights. I love that she invites the immigrant and the poor. I love the bravery of those who fought and died for her. But those very appetizing traits have come with centuries of splintery bones we all too easily swallow in our fourth of July nostalgia. Tomorrow I’ll eat barbecued chicken and cherry pie. I’ll light up some store bought fake fireworks and sing our national anthem. But I want to celebrate with the wisdom of the men and women who perhaps sang the greatest anthem to come from America’s freedom- the cries of former slaves who discerning wisdom from above, took the meat from America’s declaration of independence and spit out all her bones.