Throughout my journey of being a children's pastor at our church I know God has been working in my relationships. He sent me some people who have been just blowing me away with how much they love the Lord, how much they understand kids and ministering to kids and how much they have the gift of teaching. The first person he sent me was my friend Ben. Now... Ben is HUGE... and when I say huge I mean huge, like ultimate fighting martial arts kind of huge. But just as huge as Ben is... his heart is just as big. One of the first times Ben and I had talked when I started at the church a year ago, a man came into my office and was telling me a story about how he was taking care of his brother who had a neck injury and was very very sick. As the man was telling me the story, I looked over and these huge tears were rolling down Ben's cheeks. The man telling the story stopped, startled a little I think because Ben was crying... but that's just how Ben is. He truly sees the heart of situations. He is compassionate and an incredible listener and friend... and he served for many years ministering to kids who were going through crisis and divorce. So when it comes to ministering to kids. Ben has lots and lots of wisdom.
Which brings me to my next person. Her name is Beth... Beth is a leader Ben served with in Chicago at a Willow Creek church there. Beth has her masters, she has taught in schools, she is wise beyond wise and she too seeks to understand and truly be Jesus to people. She understands pain, but moreso she understands God's grace in the midst of it all. Which brings me to the workshop and the concept of "safety" Ben and Beth are teaching me.
Having not come from a "tradional" Christian background I feel like my perspective on riverKIDS is a clean slate. I know I don't want to develp a "traditional" children's ministry. I know I want a ministry that is first and foremost based on relationships with Jesus first and relationships with kids. If the kids don't feel safe and loved in the relationships they have at church why would they ever believe a Bible story we tell them? If they think the only reason we are in the class to teach them is because we have to run through curriculum, then why have a class at all. I want this ministry to be a place where kids feel SO safe, So loved and SO TRULY known... that they begin to reveal the truth of their hearts to us. That they begin to confess to us the things that are hurting them most. That they are able to say to us... I need to be healed by jesus, will you pray with me and believe with all of their hearts it is the same thing their teachers want. I don't want a show... I don't want a party, I want ministry. I want kids to learn the things of the Bible but to first and foremost know that I am not there fixing, judging and joking about their problems. I want them to know that every team member I have is someone who can sit with them in their pain. Can ask them questions that do not make them feel like they have to defend their emotions or justify how they feel. I want to hear that kids have been healed at a very young age from fear and anger. I want God to do a mighty work in my teacher's hearts so they too begin to understand that what we seek to do for these kids is what Jesus has done for us all along. He doesn't fix, He doesn't judge, He doesn't make jokes. He just sits with us in our yuck and says... "Yep... I am SO SORRY you feel that way." He sits with us in our yuck and says, "Tell me more about what your feeling..." He sits with us in our yuck and says, "I noticed you today and I hear what your saying and it's so important to me that you share with me... oh and by the way Jen... I love you no matter what is happening in your life."
Ben and Beth talk about creating a "safe place" in the church for kids to not only learn Biblical truths, but a place where they actually experience what Jesus would have been like in real relationships with teachers and people who love them and want to help them be healed by Jesus. And yes... young children need Jesus' healing. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking they don't carry stress, difficulty and pain. I haven't even been in children's ministry that long and I know the pain of a child. They have parents who are divorced, they experience deaths, they know what bullying is, they have been betrayed, they help their addicted parents, brothers,sisters and families and some of them have parents who have committed serious crimes. Some of them have been exposed to sex younger than they ever should be. Some of them have been molested and abused. This ministry is not something I will take lightly. Yes, right now we are concerned with paint and esthetics and the 90 second first impression. But we will be communicating what a safe place looks like regularly. I'm so excited for this. And as I begin to uncover and look at this type of thing in my own life, I am feeling a huge conviction that I am seeking forgiveness for. A conviction where I know I have not been safe in communicating with many people who matter most to me. I have tried to fix them, I have tried to joke with them, I have tried to tell them a story that is simliar. I haven't just sat with them in their circumstances and tried to get their perspective. So I'm praying today that God reveal those things to me a little bit more clearly. I am completely trusting Jesus that he will take this ministry to the next level. Thank you God for Ben and Beth. Two people who have been Jesus to me.
Here is Beth's company's website. www.envision-innovation.com. You want a fresh perspective on your relationships, talk to Beth see what she has to say.
1 year ago