As of last month, my church had roughly 200 spots to fill in the Children’s ministry.
I hear the number is much less now, but still. That seems like a lot of people.
There are plenty of things I like about my church: I love the way it takes care of its members, and all the different classes they offer to cover every need. I love our Sunday school class (even though I haven’t been there in a while) and the women’s bible study I go to where women my age ask really good questions and get honest answers from their leaders. I love that my community group members continue to try to come to our meetings after all these months. I looooove the coffee and the blueberry donuts at the cafe on Sunday mornings. The coffee is free, and the donut is literally one of the driving factors in pulling me out of my bed, dressing the kids and hustling them out the door by 8:30 AM.
But donuts and coffee are not the only reasons we make the weekly struggle to church. Erron and I both volunteer for the first service, he drives golf carts in the parking lot and I coordinate a team of volunteers for the 4 and 5-year-old Sunday school classes.
Before you roll your eyes at our good behavior, rewind three and half years. Erron and I are still in Dallas going to a large church that literally requires some type of volunteer service from you in order to be a member…and there we were: not doing that, for YEARS. I mean, we did a short 8-week stint as small group leaders for a pre-marital class. We figured that should count as enough service to earn us several years of church membership. (We might have well been taking the class by the way-but that’s another story.) The point is, on Sunday we rolled up to church when we woke up early enough, dropped our kids off to the volunteers, pleased that our church had such an amazing children’s program, and then patted ourselves on the back for a job well done at “Christian Adulting.” Getting there was hard enough at that time. We LOVED our church, we just didn’t think that serving part completely applied to us. We were realllllly busy and traffic on 635 was bad.
In fact when we moved to Oklahoma, we picked our new church primarily on the basis of it’s location. It’s a 5-minute drive from home. By then, we recognized if we couldn’t make that 5 minute drive on Sunday then we were kidding ourselves that we were the church going type at all. Yet even then, it was touch and go for a few months.
So, after three months of living in Oklahoma and sort-of attending our new, conveniently located church, we were flooded with an outpouring of love and support towards our family as we dealt with the sudden shock and heartache of Shep’s drowning. Inundated with prayers, care packages and words of encouragement; we were moved to tears by how well our family was loved by close friends and complete strangers. Once we got our family back home from Children’s Hospital and slowly began the process of living again, Erron and I both understood that our days of just taking from the church were over. We had been given so much by the church body (believers all over, not just our church) and we felt a strong need to begin paying it back.
I reached out to the children’s ministry in Shep’s age group, and when the woman in charge asked me what I’d like do I said, “ Welllll….what do you need?” She proceeded to tell me her biggest need was a coordinator, but it was kind of a big job—was I up for it? I said, “Ummm, sure?” And that was that, ignorance was bliss. I inherited a team of faithful volunteers and took on the job of communicating with them throughout the week and making sure as many of the kids’ Sunday school rooms were filled with volunteers as possible. Then I ran point for them on Sunday morning. It was a bumpy start, I felt out of my depth for a good 4-5 months, but my team didn’t seem to mind. They kept showing up on Sunday-so I did too.
And you know what? That was enough. I have realized that SO much behind service/volunteering is just about showing up. And think about who you are showing up for-your kids, my kids, the thing we care the most about. I heard about a study once that said the majority of people felt it was their personal responsibility to instill spiritual values in their own kids, not the church’s. I feel that way too, but really, how hard is that? I’m tired. And by 8:30 on a Thursday night I could be reading from their Children’s Bible, but in reality I’m going to read them whatever they want or whatever’s short, so I can kiss them and say goodnight. I know I will be repeating the process over and over for the next hour anyway. But showing up once a week? I can do that! I can physically be there on Sunday and model for Shep and Char what “showing up” looks like. My kids can experience it, volunteering can become the standard for them, and at the end of the day, that’s what keeps me setting my alarm on Saturday night.
That, and the fact that my team consistently shows up too. On my team alone I have stay-at-home mom’s, single moms, working moms, dads, grandmas, a mom with 4 kids, women who aren’t moms who have full time jobs, and a few volunteers who are currently volunteering in more one place, on more than one day. That’s just my team!
Listen, in the Bible I’m pretty sure God didn’t always use the best and brightest to achieve His big plans. You don’t have to be an ex-teacher or even a parent to love on kids for an hour and half. Moses tried to squirm out of his gig several times when God first sprung it on him. He actually said, “Oh Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (Exodus 3:13) Ha! Sound familiar? But at the end of the day what these big players in the Bible had in common was that they showed up. Even if it wasn’t their first choice or they didn’t feel up to it.
I get that there are times in life where showing up is not an option, life is seasonal and demands on people change. But the next time you hear of a need, do yourself (and your kids) the favor of considering it. Consider if you have enough margin in your life to show up for an hour or so. I have not talked to a volunteer yet who regrets saying, “Yes, I do, and YES, I can.” Saying yes for me was a game changer. My large church immediately shrunk in size. I was pushed out of my comfort zone but the stretch felt good. Some weeks, I may want to quit my volunteer job on Wednesday night when I can’t find enough subs to fill the rooms for Sunday morning, but when Sunday finally rolls around and I see the littles singing and spend time catching up on the lives of those I’m serving alongside, I LOVE it.
P.S. It doesn’t have to be kids, service is service. There are needs everywhere, in and out of church. But if any of you feel like showing up for the 4 and 5 year olds…. You know where to find me. 😉