ferns as a metaphor for children’s ministry leaders

Photo by Glen Alan Woods

Oregon forests are known internationally for their soaring trees. But locals are also very familiar with the ferns which grow in these forests. Lush, dense undergrowth brim with life under the forest canopy at Tryon Creek State Park in Portland, Oregon. Ferns are part of a complex ecosystem, not only in Tryon, but also in many of the other forests in Oregon’s cooler regions. They add beauty and character, not to mention their ecological benefits. They thrive in the unique climate of Oregon’s valleys and coastal range, west of the Cascades. With leaves which are intricately delicate, and stems and branches which can grow quite large, ferns quietly earn respect from locals and visitors for their integral place within the forest. I am no scientist, but I think it is fair to say they are aesthetically pleasing, and ecologically necessary to the health of their natural habitat.

Allow me the liberty of a metaphor for a moment. I suggest that children’s ministry pastors, leaders, and workers are kind of like our beloved ferns. We don’t easily notice them from afar. It requires direct exposure over an extended period of time to become aware of all that they do, and how much value they add. Senior leaders, worship leaders, and those who often enjoy face time in front of adult audiences are more like trees with respect to the attention they receive. Trees often show up in panoramic photography and garner the attention of widespread audiences. Ferns, on the other hand, likely will not be noticed until observed close-up and first hand. They are considered part of the undergrowth of the forest. Yet their role is vitally important; indeed, no less so than that of trees. I contend this is true in the church, as well. Whatever your role, your title, or lack thereof. You are important in the ecclesial family where God has deposited you.

Maybe you are like me, struggling through a period of transition and trying to figure out your place in God’s kingdom, his church. Don’t be dismayed. Be faithful. Be willing and open. God has your back. If someone wants to stab it, they will have to go through him first. And if someone wants to talk about you outside of your hearing, then they also will have opportunity to explain their words when their time comes to stand before God.

Perhaps you have long been serving in a role, far from the view of many in the church. Be faithful for as long as God desires for you to serve in that responsibility. Don’t lose heart. God personally designed each of those wonderfully delicate ferns. How much more is he interested in you and in what he has called you to be and do?

Do what you do. Let God do what he does. The result will be a legacy to behold for generations to come.

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