I was perfectly happy teaching adult Bible Studies. But I remember vividly when I started feeling convicted and deeply ashamed for not serving where my kids were.
It was the same year I started attending funerals for children younger than my own. The first was a four-year-old girl who had been killed, beaten to death by a parent. Later, a pre-teen committed suicide. Then another. The last had simply been put into a dumpster by a scared neighbor after overdosing. And then taken out with the trash.
It was sitting next to my husband as he planned the service for an eighth-grader with a devastated family. It was watching my husband sing silly children’s songs over tiny caskets because the child had not lived long enough to have a favorite song, and no one knew any better songs to request.
It was hearing murmuring from church members about having funerals for non-members on our campus, and the mess that might be made before a Sunday, if all their friends from school came to their service on a Saturday.
None of this was covered in any Biblical Studies class I had. There was no mini-mester on the deep grieving done over kingdom and country, though Nehemiah provided the manual. Where is the book and chapter that covers what you say to comfort a father whose son’s body was recovered from a landfill? What verse is best for the mother whose very heart and treasure was left at a dump? Who would dare bring platitudes or good but careless intentions to that house?
From my experience, you say absolutely nothing unless the Spirit is speaking through you. Otherwise, you sit as long as it takes and you say only “Jesus,” or “I’m so very sorry.”
If you think you have a Sunday to waste, you’ve never buried a child on a Saturday.
And this was before COVID. The Enemy has been stealing our children since he was hurled to the earth. But I didn’t notice until he was stealing them from schools that my own children attended or streets that my children walked.
I wondered about every one of their short lives. I wondered what they liked, laughed at, or were scared of. I would stand at the tables of flowers, silly photos, stuffed animals, and sports equipment… everybody touching and talking about the collected things from a childhood ended too soon. And I would wonder if anyone had presented the good news of the Gospel to them.
Sometimes the Gospel is the only good news.
The world is so dark, darker than we really want to know. It has changed and the old ways aren’t working anymore.
That doesn’t mean the old ways never worked or weren’t good in their season. It doesn’t mean the people serving weren’t or aren’t doing their very best.
Every church we have been at has had excellent staff in every area. But they are one person, sometimes with a team or associates, sometimes with a few support staff, sometimes with just a few high-capacity volunteers—serving hundreds. And that’s the hundreds that are showing up to church, not to mention the thousands out there that aren’t.
Show me any children’s or youth pastor and I’ll show you someone who feels the weight of families and kids they have never even met. Even with all the classes covered, they could use more people in every area. More eyes on kids, more hands on deck, more ears listening for needs of families or opportunities to encourage.
There are parents doing their very best in hard situations who would welcome any encouragement or relief. They need the whole Body, not just one staffer.
Every Sunday I stood in front of my ladies’ class, I would make a plea for volunteers which is funny now that I think about it, “You go do this…you go serve there…” Ah, the foolish wisdom of the young.
Several ladies were already doing nursery hours, several more put themselves on sub lists or began teaching regularly.
One precious woman in particular started serving in children’s and I remember thinking, “My word, Betty, you for sure don’t have any more to give. How have you made room for this too?”
Her obedience was inspiring and humbling—but mostly convicting.
Betty was in her late sixties and her life was not easy. There was no husband doting on her or sharing her burdens. She was helping raise grandchildren, she was trying to shepherd adult children in various seasons of trials and triumphs. She rode the train into downtown early and rode the train home late, sometimes with a stop at the county jail or hospital to see a child in between.
But somehow Betty was now showing up on Sunday mornings with grandkids in tow to serve in children’s. Betty wasn’t just giving her best. She was best, her left overs, her tired feet and heart. Betty was giving it all to the Lord. Now, how could I not?