when you labor faithfully in the margins

You labor quietly in the margins. Yet, God knows who you are, obscure though you may be from public view and accolades. Faithfully you teach the children. You have your bad days, to be sure. But mostly they are good. You know that God is working in their hearts. You know it because you’ve been witness to a generation or two or maybe even three which has already grown up. You have seen the fruit of how God has used you, and especially how God has used their godly parents. And it makes you smile in thankfulness to the Lord. Continue reading

Leading by Example in Children’s Ministry

The problem with leading by example is that some people seem too self-absorbed to notice. And they apparently would rather be entertained. They lack maturity to consider first the perspectives of others, choosing instead to advocate their own needs, and their own wants. They want leaders who will cause their hearts to soar at the promise of fulfillment without sacrifice, rather than leaders who are unassuming and self-sacrificing.

This is not to say we should not lead by example. It simply means that we should not be surprised if it does not reap apparent benefits through influencing specific lives for years, even a lifetime. But don’t lose hope. They are watching when you are not aware of it.

Over time, they begin to see the way you graciously endure a chewing out by two bickering sets of parents. They grow alert to the fruit of your labor in their own children as the kids consistently exhibit excitement about Jesus on account of your efforts. They notice how you pitch in to do the thankless jobs around the church facility. You know, emptying garbage, mopping and vacuuming floors, cleaning toilets, and the like. They begin to realize that the years have rolled by, and you continue to lead, and grow, and press in with passion for the children and their families.

And something begins to click in a few of them, though sadly not all. They recognize your example for what it is: the life of Jesus living through you, loving them even when they did not always love you. It takes time. Endure for Jesus’ sake. You may be surprised who will thank you years from now for the things you did, big and small, and the way in which you did them.

God is on the Move

God is working in hearts. He is moving among the people. He is making himself known both in large ways and in small. He is especially attentive to the little ones. So, it interests him deeply to hear your prayers for the children. The hard-hearted. The shy. The poor. The abused. The fortunate. The dying. The orphaned. The forgotten. The tears you weep in silence do not escape God’s attention. He cries them with you. As you reflect on a child whose eyes are haunted by war, God breathes through you gentle grace and peace to her heart. The orphan whom you hold dear is held precious by the Lord God. Each and every child is created by God; each and every one you influence is ever on his mind.

God is working in these hearts through you. Your prayers. Your teaching and mentoring. Your patience. Your example. Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season you will reap a harvest (Gal. 6:9). God is on the move. What he has purposed to accomplish, he will do in his good time.

Leading in the Ordinary Routines

Most of our lives are spent doing ordinary things in ordinary ways. Even our expression of ministry leadership. We show up early. We stay late. We help set up as necessary. We tear down and clean up. We greet people. We give direction. Pray. Prepare. Encourage. Set the tone. Ordinary stuff. Day in. Day out. Sure, there are exceptions. An extraordinary situation might suddenly thrust us into a place of pressured focus where we are called upon to dip from the well of our reserves in terms of our relationship with God, our experience, our wisdom and our ability to harness the collective talents of our teams. But on a normal everyday basis, we navigate the ordinary.

Let me encourage you. The ordinary things you faithfully do on a daily basis year after year; they are nothing short of extraordinary when you take into account that your faithfulness is not motivated primarily out of collecting a paycheck or hoping for the occasional compliment. No, it is motivated by your love for God and for the people he has placed into your leadership care.

So thank you. Thank you for doing the ordinary things far out of the spotlight. Thank you for being real, and in so doing, making Jesus Christ known through your influence.

seeking the heart of God when disillusioned

Most people go into children’s ministry because of a passion to reach kids and their families. Their dreams are birthed out of prayer and much thought, plus the affirmation of key influential people in their lives. They want to make a difference. One child at a time. One family at a time. They want to bring them to Jesus so they may come to know God and live vibrant God honoring lives.

For many, somewhere along the way they experience disillusionment. Chances are, someone reading this is disillusioned. You wonder how it came to this. You wonder where the joy of ministry went. You might even question your calling or your relationship with God.

I call to our attention the image of the beloved disciple as he leaned against Jesus during the last supper in the upper room. It was a moment of profound disillusionment for all of the disciples. Jesus had just announced that one of them would betray him. The beloved disciple, at the urging of Simon Peter, asked Jesus who this person would be. In essence the beloved disciple sought clarity, but also comfort. And Jesus, understanding this, provided the answer plainly.

So here we see an image of the beloved disciple leaning on Jesus in the hour of most pressing need. Upon whom are you leaning? Or what? Lean on Jesus. Listen to his heart beat, which clearly reflects the purposes of his Father. In time, this season of disillusionment will pass as you seek God’s face and follow his direction.

Active Listening to Encourage Children

Frequently, the children whom I pastor approach me to express ideas that interest or concern them. It might be news about something that happened in the past week, or it could be an item of concern for which they desire prayer. I always consider it a privilege to listen to their hearts. I try to do this actively, rather than in passive disinterest. Sometimes I may need to ask them a question to make sure I understood a detail correctly. At other times, when they speak so softly that I cannot hear them, I may need help to understand what they are saying, given my hearing loss.

It is important work, this business of listening actively to a child. For in so doing, I am opening up doors of encouragement from God’s heart to their hearts. As one of the undershepherds in their lives, I am charged with the responsibility to know the little ones and their families and to minister in a way that helps their sensitivity to God’s voice remain clear and uninhibited, so that they may hear him and respond to his direction through the Scriptures and prayer.

Active listening is more than simply a technique for compassionate ministry. It is a way of shepherding families with spiritual clarity and relevance to their lives.