A Campfire or a church?
This is what I’m looking for.
It wasn’t my intention. I wanted my kids to be more involved in church and knew I needed to serve. I loved kids and wanted to make a difference.
So I signed up to volunteer on Wednesday nights. I just wanted to be there, behind the scenes, pull supplies or lead a small group. When we started, there were only three volunteers, but the program was small and it worked. With only three volunteers, there’s no such thing as behind the scenes. (Unless you’re the sound guy – which my husband quickly stepped up to do.) After a few weeks, I was asked to lead prayer. On the stage. With a mike.
Pause right here and think a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Now double it and add in fear, insecurity, and light-headedness. That’s a bit of how I felt.
But I did it. And the kids didn’t laugh.
The children’s pastor took me under her wing and began to mentor me. She showed me the ropes in building a program – what elements are involved, how to organize, time management, talking to parents… More importantly, she taught me that prayer is the most important element in planning. Some planning meetings became prayer meetings.
Little by little I stepped into different roles. I did things I NEVER thought I would do. I never saw myself as a leader. Until my mentor told me she saw it. The words she spoke into my life grew. When put in uncomfortable places, I learned a reliance on God. Anytime I step on the stage, I put myself to the side and became God’s vessel. For a time, I was a worship leader. (For those of you who don’t know me, I can’t sing on key and my dance skills are well, non-existent.) That is when I saw love in a whole new way. My husband – the sound guy – ALWAYS turned my mike off during the singing. That’s love. And I’ll never forget the boy and girl who would do the motions a step ahead so I could follow their lead. God has a special blessing for them. (All because they didn’t laugh!) Being a leader means filling roles when others don’t show – even when it’s uncomfortable.
Over the next few years, I went from volunteer, to co-leader, to director. There were some nights the only volunteers with me were my family members or church staff. There were times I wanted to quit. Sure, I got my feelings hurt. But each time I looked into the faces of the children, I knew God was touching lives for Him. Serving God is not about me, but about Him. Serving is learning. Serving is putting self to the side. Oh, and the nights I just didn’t want to go… there were plenty of those nights. You know, as soon as I walked into the church, that nagging headache or stomach problems – evaporated. And if they didn’t – I found someone to pray for me. God always gave me strength to carry on.
Through all of it, God taught me so much more than I would’ve learned sitting in the service. Just as my mentor invested in my life, I tried to also invest in the lives of my team. I’ll never forget the prayers in coffee houses together, prayers in hallways, encouraging emails, hugs, and the life experiences I walked with my team. Leading is investing in the lives of the people in your program, as well as in the lives of your team.
Leading is also about knowing when to step down. I felt the nudge that it was time to move on. Taking off my director hat is hard. After praying, then talking to my husband and finding he felt the same nudge, I knew. The time came to hand it over. Tonight’s the night – my last night. I know the door is still open. I can come back anytime to pray with the kids, fill in for a small group, or just get some hugs. I’m still serving God and part of the children’s ministry, just not leading this area. I wonder if I know what to do in big church?
I’m sad to close the door to this part of my life, but excited to see what God has in store for me now.
I would not trade these four years, or the lessons learned for anything. It was life changing. I thought I was serving to teach children about God and His love. God used my service to change and grow my life. I went from a mom filled with insecurities, afraid to step out of my comfort zone, to a leader. A life changer. Every time I tried to show God’s love to the kids, it came back to me doubled. When I taught the Word, I learned a lesson too. I thought I was teaching the kids, in turn, I was the one taught. I thought I was there to show them God for their lives to be changed – it was me who changed. Being a leader is really being a learner and a lover.
The verse the Church NEEDS right now.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2: 1-4
Maybe I should change that to…
The verse I NEED right now
and it starts at home.
It’s easy when children are young. As they get older, learn to talk (back), and start to walk (away), it gets harder to keep putting them above myself. On days I don’t feel quite so good, it’s even more difficult. In reading verse four for the who-knows-how-many thousandth time, I realized the key.
Put the verse back in the Bible and read the whole passage.
In order for me to put others above myself, I need to unite with Christ, find comfort in His love, share with the Spirit, and become complete in joy. THEN I can follow the rest of the verse.
Knowing myself, I often spend so much energy putting others first to the point of this verse becoming a diving board into the pool of guilt if I do something for myself. But that is not what the verse says. The last part is often left off – each of you to the interests of others.
Is this a picture of your family? If you have a teen, probably not. Instead of coming down hard (talking to myself here), give them tools on how to recognize someone else’s interests and how to humbly put others first. Remember, it all starts with verse one.
What about your church? Each of you. That means all of the like-minded Christ followers. Are you looking to the interests of others? I can hear you asking, “Does that mean I need to serve in the church?” Well, since you asked – Bingo!!! Let me just add that if you do find comfort in His love, share with the Spirit, and are complete with joy, how could you NOT serve? Serving will become an outflowing of abundance.
Building Bridges means we all pick up tools to help on each other’s bridges with humbleness and respect.
Now that I’ve had time to think about all that the whole Chic-Fil-A thing encompasses, honestly, I’m conflicted.
On one hand, I’m proud of all the people who stood in line and purchased Chic-Fil-A in order to support the traditional values of family. We need to stand up for family values. I do applaud that.
On the other hand, a large group of people felt alienated and unloved.
So I had to ask myself, “Would Jesus have eaten at CFA?”
This verse keeps coming to mind:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
It’s easy to go one of our favorite hang outs on a specific day and indulge in fast food in the name of all that is good. But is that love? What is the reward?
What if Mike Huckabee asked us to something a little more difficult? If we were asked to sit with someone who does not value family as we do, share the meal with them and show them love, would there be lines wrapped around the building?
That is my challenge to you:
The next time you encounter someone who does not hold traditional beliefs like you do, love them. Yes, even if they are openly gay. That is when the battle for family will be won.
Build bridges. Don’t burn them.
One last thing: Chick-Fil-A, what are you going to do with the profit you made? Bottom line, we made someone rich yesterday. I can think of a ton of things we could have done with that money to make an eternal difference or support family values that don’t involve in indulging in fried food.
It’s all about love and I think we kinda forgot that. Would Jesus have eaten at Chick-Fil-A? I think he would have, but his table would’ve been filled with gay people.