A few years ago, a staff member of our church asked me for ideas for volunteer appreciation gifts. The gifts needed to be thoughtful, simple, and inexpensive, since we had well over 100 volunteers in children’s ministry.
My brother-in-law passed away last week unexpectedly just a few months short of his 60th birthday. He left behind a family that includes several grandchildren that will miss him dearly. That event combined with several things I have heard and read in recent days led me to write this article about leaving a legacy.
Legacy is defined as “anything left behind as from an ancestor.” A legacy is what we leave our children and grandchildren when we have left this earth. The best legacy is not monetary, but something even more tangible—something spiritual. The best legacy would be those memories, those spiritual values, those morals and character traits that we purposefully instill into their lives.
As volunteers in children’s ministry, we have the opportunity to build a legacy into the lives of each child we teach. Each time a child attends our class is another opportunity to build a foundation that will become our legacy to that child. We should not only teach them biblical knowledge and principles, but reinforce the fact that God loves them and so do we. If that is the only thing that they ever get out of our time with them it may well just be enough for them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ later in life.
I was blessed this year to be able to attend the OC12 Conference in Atlanta, GA for the first time. Wow, what an amazing conference! With 100+ workshops to choose from including eight that help us to minister to children who have special needs or learning differences! As the Special Needs Facilitator for Skyline Church in La Mesa, California I was excited to learn new ways to serve these families more effectively.
One of my favorite workshops was Meaghan Wall’s “How to Create a Special Needs Ministry Environment”. In this workshop Meaghan gave us great ideas and concepts to make our classroom environments a place where the children are safe, sensory needs are met and where they are able to learn about the love of Jesus. She helped us to learn and consider everything that a family with child/children with special needs encounters from the time they drive onto the church property to the time that they leave.
Last week I heard a great sermon on Acts 6:1-7 that challenged me in my children’s ministry. Acts 6:1-7 describes a time in the life of the early church when the leaders realised they needed volunteers to look after the fair distribution of food to widows who were in need. Verse 3 (Therefore, brothers and sisters, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty) emphasises three things that helped the early church leaders choose volunteers. Firstly they picked volunteers from “among you”. That is, the volunteers were part of the church community. Secondly, they chose people “of good repute”; people where were known for their commitment to Christ. Thirdly they chose people who were “full of the Spirit and of wisdom”. As well as acknowledging God is in control, the people they chose would have been praying and trusting in God’s word. These are the kinds of things that people saw in us when we started working in children’s ministry. However, the problem is that children’s ministry volunteers are often busy people. We have the responsibilities of our ministry, of our family, and sometimes of another job. All this busyness can pull us away from these things.
- Pick out from among you – we are so busy working in children’s ministry that we stop feeling like we are part of our church community. We never get to a service, and we can be so busy before and after the service that we end up feeling distant from the community.
- Of good repute – in our busyness or as we deal with difficult situations we can be quick tempered, and our words and actions do not reflect our love for Jesus.
- Full of the Spirit and of wisdom – to get everything done we sometimes neglect the time we spend with God. Our prayers can become superficial and we read God’s word less and less. We might still give lip service to our relationship with God, praying a quick prayer or quickly reading over the bible story we are going to teach, but we stop trusting in His wisdom. Instead, we rest on our own wisdom and our own control and leave God out of our ministry.
Welcome once again to our series of things volunteers think but don’t necessarily want to tell their children’s pastor or children’s ministry director. For a complete listing of posts in this series, see the listing at the bottom of this article. Last time we started to look at issues related to shepherding and growing volunteers – in other words Volunteer Development. Today we continue in this, our largest category, with:
- Barbara Graves, Wendy Douglas, and Tonya Langdon: These ladies are part the team that I have the privilege of leading here at Kidmin1124. This is the first time that I have ever met these ladies in person, but I sincerely pray that it will not be the last. These women were each an inspiration to me already, and are even more so now that I have spent a little time with them.
- Jim Wideman: I know, who is children’s ministry has not been inspired by Jim Wideman. Well, on Wednesday night I had an opportunity to have dinner with Jim and some of he folks who have been through his Infuse program. Jim had never met me before and I sure had never heard of me, but he was still willing to allow me to join his group for dinner. This type of generosity is not often seen these days, even in the church.
- Tommy Campbell: Tommy was with the 410 Bridge, and Rafikimail. The 410 Bridge was one of many organizations set up at the conference to tell people about what it is they do in hopes of connecting with the attendees and with the churches they represent. However, Tommy makes this list while many other did not. You see, as a guest blogger I wanted to get to know a little but about the different organizations represented. So, I approached Tommy and asked him to fill me in. We then proceeded to have a conversation that lasted at least 20 minutes. Tommy spoke with such a passion, that I found it difficult to walk away. This conversation served to re-ignite the passion in me. I wouldn’t say that this passion had gone cold, but simply had been filed away for future use. Tommy helped me to realize that the future is now.
- Amy Dolan: I consider Amy to be one of the superstars in the Kidmin world. Despite this, she took the time to sit and talk with me, one-on-one. In fact we talked for over an hour. Like with Tommy, my time with Amy helped to dig up some latent passion.
- Amy Fenton Lee, Meaghan Wall, and Denise Briley: Amy is another one that I consider to the be a Kidmin super star. I am sad to say that prior to Orange, I had not heard of Meaghan or Denise. Well, I had the opportunity to have dinner with these ladies and Joe McAlpine on Friday night. While I may have never heard of these other two ladies, I can tell you that I will never forget them. Prior to this dinner I would have considered Amy to be the premier when it comes to special needs ministry. Now I would add these two ladies to the list. It is humbling to be able to sit with a group of people so passionate and knowledgeable that were still willing to pour themselves into a couple of children’s pastor desperate to do a better job of ministering to a group of people that most have forgotten.
- Rhonda Haslett: Several weeks ago I wrote an article about regional conferences. Rhonda commented on that post and we then passed a couple of emails back and forth. You see, she run regional conferences aimed specifically at volunteers and this is something that God is giving me a passion for. Well, I didn’t even know that she was going to be there. During one of the breaks on Friday I walked out of the bloggers suite and started talking with a random person who happened to be standing there. That person was Rhonda. She and I went on to talk for the remainder of the break and part way into the next session about our shared passion for equipping those that give freely of their time to minister to children. With over 5000 people attending the conference God placed Rhonda literally in my path.
- Joe McAlpine: At the beginning of the week Joe was just a random person that I had connected with in hopes of saving my church a little money as we split the cost of the hotel room and rental car. However, as the week progressed it was clear that God has something far bigger in mind. From the very beginning Joe and I hit it off. Of course, you would expect a couple of charismatic, young men with a shared passion for ministry to children to get along, but by the end of the week we had become friends. Then, late Friday night, hours after the conference had ended we had a chance to sit and talk. We had shared bits and pieces of our own stories throughout the week, but this conversation went so much deeper. We talked about a number of things, but there is one thing that Joe said to me that I will never forget. “You have to pursue your calling.” I don’t yet know the full impact that this is going to have on my life, but I do know this; up to this point I have not been pursuing my calling. I have been kinda waiting around for God to give it to me. I have been working very hard, but I have not been pursuing my calling. I am not sure what God has planned for my future, but I know that from this moment on I will pursue my calling for all that I am worth. Joe had only known me from a few days, but he was willing to speak into my life.
In her Orange ’12 session on training special needs volunteers, Linda Martin shared about Nehemiah as he led the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. That session started me thinking on how much this applies to all volunteers. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that Nehemiah was a builder before he was a cupbearer and the people that he was leading and directing to build the wall weren’t builders either. Chapter 3 identifies some of the people building as goldsmiths and perfume-makers. God took people who were willing to engage in something away from what they knew and understood and were comfortable doing and enable them, thru Nehemiah’s leadership, to build a wall that would allow the inhabitants of Jerusalem to live their lives without fear in the city of Jerusalem.
As volunteer kidmin, we can often feel as if we have been called to serve and/or lead people who are out of their comfort zone to a place that is out of our comfort zone! It’s not an easy task. But the reward is worth it. To build a ministry where children and families can find help to live their lives in a vibrant relationship with their Creator is a noble goal. Many days, it can be seen as an unattainable goal. But, like Nehemiah,we can say, “The God of heaven will give us success”. When we keep God as our source, He will give us success. The key is to keep our focus on God. Yes, we will find help from other leaders and quality resources, but our ultimate success will come from God.
Welcome once again to our series of things volunteers think but don’t necessarily want to tell their children’s pastor or children’s ministry director. For a complete listing of posts in this series, see the listing of the bottom of this article. Today, we look at our final entry in the category of service: