and ramblings on everything in between
About a year and a half ago my pastor talked about the importance of serving in a ministry and the message basically went like this, “If you aren’t serving in a ministry, you need to be. And if you’re already serving in a ministry, you’re not doing enough.” He said it in much nicer words, of course, but this is what I heard. I had been helping in the 1-year-old room for awhile and loved it, but I wanted to have more of an impact. I wanted to pour into someone else and be more than a big playmate.
As my eyes skimmed over the ministry sheet, I remember thinking, “Anything but the high school ministry. I can’t stand high schoolers.” But before I knew it, I had written down the high school ministry on the paper. I looked at it in disbelief. What the heck just happened? Stunned, I placed the sheet in the basket and walked out of the church.
A week later, I met with the youth pastor and when I walked into his office, I said, “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t have experience with high schoolers. I’m scared of them. I don’t know why I thought I wanted to do this. I actually never thought I wanted to do this. I don’t know what happened.” He laughed and said that’s everyone’s response but asked me to give it a chance. If I decided it wasn’t for me, I could walk away as if nothing had happened.
Seventeen months later, I’m still hanging in there and those big kids have certainly taught me a thing or two or three along the way.
1) You don’t have to know what you’re doing. It’s not a requirement. In all reality, no one really knows what they’re doing most of the time so people who make you feel like you should know what you’re doing probably don’t know what they’re doing even more so than you. You don’t have to wow the students with your public speaking skills, or coolness, or Bible knowledge. Just show up. That’s what you need to know how to do. Wasn’t it Woody Allen who said 80% of success is showing up? He was right.
There were so many nights that I thought, “I can’t do this Lord. I’m not good at leading. I’m not connecting with the kids. I don’t like it and I don’t want to do this.” I had no idea how to fit in with them. I felt like I was back in high school myself, hoping someone would talk to me when I walked into the door. I had made a year commitment and I was going to stay true to my word, but once that year was up I wanted out. I didn’t think I was cut out for it.
Even though I didn’t like it, I kept showing up. I kept making an effort. I kept asking God to help me be a better leader. I grumbled while driving there, but I never skipped out on them. After eight months or so, something started to change. I started to make some headway with the girls. I started building relationships with other leaders. I started liking it.
As you read through the Bible, it’s clear that God doesn’t use people who think they are capable (i.e. Moses). He uses those who are simply willing. He loves the challenge, I think. I’m sure He loved that I sat in church saying, “I can’t do that Lord,” because it gave Him an opportunity to show me just exactly what I can do when I let Him lead.
2) Stumbling over your words and not making sense is NBD. I find myself saying the following sentence to my girls on a regular basis, “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but people aren’t as concerned about you as you think they are.” My girls are so worried about what others will think or say if they do the right thing instead of the normal thing all the other kids are doing. They don’t want to be weird, they don’t want to be different. They want to fit in. I completely understand that. But in all reality, people just aren’t that concerned about you. They’re too busy thinking about themselves, just like you’re too busy thinking about yourself.
If I had to guess, I’d say my girls are listening to me about 50% of the time. Actually, that seems pretty generous. I’ll go with 40% just to be safe. They don’t care when I stumble over my words. They don’t care when I don’t make sense. Most of the time, they’re preoccupied by the thoughts in their head, the boy who keeps texting, the girl sitting next to them, that they simply don’t notice when I fail. But what they do notice is that I show up with a smile on my face. They notice that I respond to a text message when they’re freaking out over a decision they made. They notice when I hug them and love on them every week. And that is where the difference is made. While going through my freak out period (see #1), a friend pointed out that people don’t generally associate a deepening of their faith to one specific sermon. More than likely, it’s built over a period of time. I don’t need to change their life with one great small group discussion. I can change it over time by being their friend.
3) Be prepared to be unprepared. No matter how much I read through the curriculum, no matter how much I try to imagine what their answers will be to my questions, the girls never cease to take the conversation in a totally different direction and leave me sitting there trying to figure out what just happened. I might have identified a great anecdote to share with them based off of the scripture we are studying, but most of the time the conversation never comes around to the point I feel I need to make. But I trust the conversation turns into whatever God needs it to be, and I know His hands are more capable than mine. Even though I try to be prepared, I have to hand the baton over to God and let Him run with it.
And isn’t this true of life, as well? We can do everything in our power to save money for emergencies, get in line for a promotion, avoid getting mugged, but we all know life has a funny way of happening anyway. It’s what we do with those situations that matters. It’s how we respond when we think on our toes. It’s how we grow when we accept a new challenge. That’s what being prepared is all about.