Have you ever taken a moment to admire a painting or sculpture? Perhaps a poem took your breath away, or a novel captured your imagination long after you finished its final page. Maybe it was a classical piano piece, or ballet performance, or the complex artistry of an athletic event. Each of these skills performed at the highest level exudes excellence in its own right, which in turn requires years of disciplined hard work by their respective participants.
Yesterday, I was privileged to watch two stellar performances, the first a classical piano recital, and the second at a ballet production of Giselle. Two of my nieces, Jeci and Meghan, exemplified excellence.
Jeci is a gifted pianist who, at age 15, has students of her own. She performed two classical numbers at a local recital with no sheet music on hand. I knew she was good, but she blew me away with her mastery of the material. Hard work and talent produced excellence at the highest level.
Meghan (pictured in the foreground in the photo above, taking her final bow) is a talented ballerina who, as I type this, is performing her final ballet of her career. At 19, she is retiring from ballet to focus on her academic career and other interests. Her performance was breath-taking. I admit that I write partly as a proud uncle. But based on the applause her specific dance routines generated, I suspect others in the audience were similarly impressed by her artistry.
Both of these young ladies exemplify the rewards of hard work. Their effort in practice paid dividends in their performances. The excellence they achieved was not due to luck, chance, or any notion that piano and ballet are easy disciplines to master. Far from it! They have worked hard for many years with unrelenting focus. They were self-motivated, not driven by the ambitions of others. They wanted to be the best they can possibly be in their skillset.
What might this imply for children’s ministry? What kind of effort do we apply when no one is looking so that the results may be felt in the public sphere, even if no one discovers our full role in a ministry’s success? What are we willing to do sacrificially so that the community of faith might benefit from the resulting excellence? These questions are not limited merely to campus expressions of ministry. They apply also to missional initiatives. Who we are and what we do behind the scenes will rise to the surface sooner or later in our public ministries. Why not pursue excellence privately so that what emerges under pressure is integrity, discipline, humility, and beautiful expressions of a lifestyle of preparedness for the ministry moments which God places before us.
Right now, the stage may be dark, and the venue may be quiet, but God is preparing you for venues which you might not expect at this time. It might be a parking lot in an urban apartment complex, with rain cascading down and lost people asking of the hope in you. It might be a heart-broken parent, grieving the choices of a spouse and the resulting effects on their children. Whatever the scenario, prepare your heart and skills now to the best of your ability. God will honor your preparedness with opportunities and excellence.