My eyes popped open. What time is it? What day is it? Where am I? More importantly, where’s the coffee?! 6am. Sunday. That can’t be right! I set my alarm for 5am! I must have turned it off in my sleep. Launch Sunday.
The first day for our new church campus… of which I am the campus Children’s Ministry Director.
LAUNCH SUNDAY??!!! OMG, I’m late!!! Get up! Get the coffee! Get the shower!
Clothes. Check! Fun hair bows. Check! Teeth brushed. Check!
Ok, run run run!
No, wait. I forgot the kids.
KIDS!!!! Come on, let’s go! No you may not bring the cat to church! Put him down, and get in the car!
The day was off to a stellar start. My first day, and I’m 30 minutes late for set up. Way to go, Katie. Gold star. Surely it was a minor bump in the road and the rest of the day would be smooth-sailing and sparkly awesomeness, right?? Or not.
I walked in the door and was handed a pile of gift boxes for all the kids and a helium tank. Right. Got to blow up ALL the balloons to tie on the gift boxes. I can DO. THIS.
I WAS BORN FOR THIS!!
There was only one problem…
I’d never used a helium tank in my life. 3 people showed me how to use it. Still I stood there like a dork fighting with the stupid stupid tank, calling the balloon all manner of bad names, and hurling insults at its balloon mama. This went on for nearly an hour. After my “helium tank wars,” I had a neat little row of balloon gift boxes and patted myself on the back. I can do this Children’s Director stuff! No problemo.
Then someone walked in with a giant container of 50 more boxes that had somehow been separated from the rest.
As my 10 year old daughter always says, “Are you dead serious, right now?!” I hadn’t even started setting up the classrooms yet, and I was running out of time! It was then and there decided that the younger kids would get a box with a balloon, and the older kids would get a box with a high five! (Improvising… a necessary life skill in Children’s ministry).
I was seriously depressed about the balloon issue, but whatever… moving right along to setting up each classroom. Well that was going smoothly for a few minutes until I suddenly realized I was REALLY out of time. People were arriving, the worship band was getting ready to start, and I hadn’t even had a chance to pray with my volunteers or check on them and make sure they had everything they needed! NOOO!!! I’m such a failure!! I’ve failed, and we haven’t even started yet!!
Families were showing up early, and there I was standing in the lobby with armfuls of paper towels. Quick! Hide the evidence! Paper towels were thrown down and kicked under the check-in table in a frantic scramble. Who needs paper towels anyways?! Just wipe your hands on your shirt, kids! It’s fun!
When it’s your very first Sunday service at a new campus location, EVERYONE is a first time visitor. That means EVERYONE gets to fill out visitor paperwork! Which means papers were flying through the air like confetti. Which means the children’s director (me) was hyperventilating trying to keep up. The only words available in my stricken frontal lobe were, “Hi! It’s so nice to meet you! I’m so glad you’re here! My name is Katie! Hi! It’s so nice to meet you! I’m so glad you’re here! My name is Katie! Hi! It’s so nice to….” Well you get the point Why couldn’t time stand still so I could actually chat with all these awesome people?! I was supposed to introduce myself and explain all there is to know about our kids ministry, so they will feel comfortable and confident leaving their babies with us. But I had a line of people all the way to the door and had no time for all the lovely chats I had perfected in my head the past few weeks.
Once all 37 kids were safely in their classrooms, the realization hit that 20 of those kids were in one room… With one lone volunteer…. and the volume level was rising. I looked in the room. My heart froze. This can’t be good!! I leaned my head against the door and prayed, “Jesus, I can’t do this, and I don’t know whose brilliant it was to put me in charge! HELP!” Here goes nothing… I opened the door and jumped into the fray.
When there are 20 extremely excited kids ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade, your main priority suddenly becomes keeping Johnny off Jimmy, getting Billy to come out from behind the curtain, and coaxing Sally off the table and back into her seat. 5 pages of curriculum are just not going to happen. My volunteer teacher and I looked at each other and simultaneously agreed to split the class and each take half. Divide and conquer… it worked for Julius Caesar, AmIRight?!! We decided really fast to focus on the one big truth… “God made you for a purpose and LOVES you more than you can imagine!” (Now sit down and let’s make a craft!)
I sat in the middle of the craziness wondering if I was doing any good here? None of this was going as I had carefully planned! What the heck, God?! My face was calm, and my voice was calmer; but a lump of hysteria rose into my throat and lodged itself there. My methodical perfectionism was taking a blow to the face here. How will all these kids know ALL the wonderful things about God if I cannot impart a full hour of deep profound wisdom to them?! Over the din of my clamoring internal brain monologue and the squealing of overly excited children all trying to talk over each other, I felt a quiet voice in my spirit say, “Look.” I turned my head, and a little 5 year old boy was smiling huge and staring up at me with understanding flashing in his eyes. I saw myself in his eyes. My 4 year old self. That little girl Katie who understood truth and gave her life to Jesus at 4 years old. I smiled at him, and he smiled back at me… the biggest most beautiful smile. I handed him a God’s Great Adventure journal, and he clutched it in his hands and excitedly looked through every single page. I’ve always felt strongly that kids have a greater capacity for understanding than we give them credit for. I believe in kids. This little boy reminded me of that. He reminded me why I signed up for this in the first place.
I taught them how to pray, and we did a craft. I don’t even know how many were listening to me. When it was over, all the happy kids (high on animal cracker goodness) charged at their parents. OMG!! How am I supposed to conduct an orderly dismissal and match name tags with corresponding parent claim tickets?! Staahhp!! Everyone freeze! My brain doesn’t work that fast! Seriously, some criminal is going to walk in here and take a child. I just KNOW. IT. My first day on the job, and I’m going to lose a child. I was frantically scanning the crowd for evil criminals (because I would know exactly what criminals look like?? My logic astounds even myself). Somehow we managed to match each child with their correct parent, and no criminals surfaced.
Once all the kids were out the door eating kettle corn and jumping in the bounce house, I stared at the floor and took some deep cleansing breaths. My fellow volunteer teacher could only laugh. I wanted to prostrate myself at her feet and beg her not to quit. (Update: She isn’t quitting. I may hug her. Please, Everybody, send her ALL the flowers and chocolates in the universe).
I stood in a corner and composed myself so I could go meet families and enjoy the after service party. As I was walking around talking to people, a little voice whispered in my spirit and said, “Look.” I turned around and there was the little 5 year old boy and his parents. I introduced myself, and we spoke at length. They had been away from church for many years and came here looking for God, community, a group they could call family, and a place that wouldn’t be boring to them and their son. They expressed how happy their son was after church and how much he liked it. I spoke to several other families who expressed the same or similar stories. I felt God reminding me that this is why I do what I do. Not to be perfect and perform perfectly. Not so paper towels will be where they’re supposed to be or so class curriculum will be taught flawlessly. Not for stellar decorations. Not so I can put on a fantastic children’s department show. As long as I do my best and work hard, the details will always work themselves out. I do what I do because of the PEOPLE. I love people. They are are complicated, messy, broken, and beautiful. And I love them.
I don’t know if that family will be back. Perhaps they will return. Or perhaps our church was the just a catalyst to bring them one step closer to God. Maybe they’ll land in another church where they will find their way back into the arms of the God who is lovingly pursuing them. I don’t know. We’re not in competition with other churches (I personally believe we should all be working together). Our one focus is helping people take their next step toward Christ, and that is where we define success. All the details come second to that. I watched that family walk away, and despite all that had not gone the way I had planned that morning, I knew for sure that I was in the right place, doing exactly what God asked me to do.
I learned so much this week!! How to inflate a helium balloon… the importance of not turning your alarm off in your sleep… that I need 5 more volunteers IMMEDIATELY… that perfection and performing with excellence is great, but God doesn’t need my perfectionism to reach people… and not to let all the many details of a Sunday morning prevent me from seeing a love story unfolding before my eyes every week: the love story of a holy God recklessly chasing us and changing us with His love.
Sunday afternoon I collapsed on my couch and stared at the ceiling trying to decompress from 7 hours of being on my toes. Two thoughts were prevalent in my head. First, this job will be much more difficult than I realized. I feel completely unqualified and terrified. And my second thought was somehow I’m super excited about that and ready to roll up my sleeves and do it all again next week!! BRING IT ON!
I scratched my head wondering how those 2 feelings could co-exist? But honestly, deep inside I already knew the answer to that question…
When God leads you to something that He wants you to do, you can be certain that it won’t be easy (at all). But you can also be certain that He wired you for it, created you for it, will give you what you need and walk beside you, and you will feel so alive and fulfilled by it. There’s nothing quite like being FULLY ALIVE.
Most of the time people in leadership roles work hard to present themselves as calm, cool, and collected. They do it to instill confidence in their people. They want the folks above them and beside them to be confident and comfortable in their ability. They cast vision and lead the charge. They do not speak openly of struggles, frustration, panic, and times when things don’t go completely as planned. So why am I being honest and vulnerable here? Because I believe it is equally important to show that when God assigns you to something, your idea of earthly success and His idea of heavenly success will not always be the same. And your perceived failures are not going to stop Him from using you to push back the dark in whatever position He has placed you. Don’t give up or lose your confidence in what He has called you to. Do it with joy and determination.
God calls us, not to success, but to faith – obedience, trust and service – and he bids us to be unconcerned with measuring the merits of our work the way the world does. We are to sow; He will reap as He pleases. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” the apostle Paul exhorted the early church. Let that and nothing else be the standard of our Christian “success”. -Chuck Colson
God isn’t going to call you to do something you’ll hate. You may be terrified of it at first, but if you jump in and “do it scared” you’ll find that you were designed for it, and you will love it. If you’ve been afraid to step out onto the waters God has been urging you toward, be brave. Take a leap of faith and get out of your comfort zone. If I can fumble my way through my first week in Children’s Ministry and come out alive and still enthused, you can do whatever God has set before you. Adventure is out there! Start with a baby step
“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” -William James
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” -Frederick Buechner
I’m so excited to see what God will do in the next week! Is it Sunday yet?