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Glimmer of Hope

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I want to give thanks.

Ten children, four parents and two other adults came to my soup Lenten series.

I have to admit, I went into this week not expecting much. I decided to go with the pear lentil soup that I posted on here before because it is souper (pardon the pun) easy to make and cheap. I cooked a considerably smaller amount, thinking about how much room I had in the freezer. I made cornbread muffins with the intention of freezing anything that didn’t get eaten as I didn’t want to make bread again. I set up three tables – just in case. But I was prepared to eat with just my friend and my boss. I wondered what I should do if no kids showed up yet again… does one continue to make soup and hope? When does one throw in the towel and say, “well, that didn’t work.”

5:29 – a minute before the program was to start. The great hall was discouragingly empty. I whispered a quick prayer of desparation – Please God. Let children come. Please.

a few minutes I heard a knock on the door – ten children heard that there was food and games and crafts and came with their parents to check it out.

My heart warmed and I practically lept with joy. We made crafts and talked about Jesus being the bread of life. Oh these kids melted my heart. Two of the girls ran over to give me a hug goodbye and they all asked if they could come again. Of course!!!

Children’s ministry is challenging. I was talking with one of my mentors who is at a more evangelical conservative (forgive the words… the labels are meaningless at one level, but make a point on another) Anglican churches said that they are struggling too with Children’s ministry. In some ways that is disheartening as he goes to one of the churches I visited once upon a time and have always heard good words about. Disheartening because if one of the “thriving” churches struggles with children’s ministry, how the heck am I – as one of the few under fifty – to have any impact in this area? And yet comforting, because I am not alone. In my conversation with him, I felt utterly heard and understood… enough to go in on Wednesday.

It’s so hard to fight the temptation to define success by numbers. Each week I am asked, “How many kids came today?” I know not to define success in ministry by numbers of heads. But it’s hard to not get discouraged when your answers are no or one. Or perhaps more concerning – when the one child who is there the most asks you “Why doesn’t anyone else come?”

There are particular challenges that I am facing that I won’t get into other than saying getting the word out there is my biggest road block. Community centres and libraries won’t post our programs because they are in a church. This neighbourhood is filled with kids. But I don’t know how to reach them. It’s been suggested that I put notices in other churches – and I am resisting this simply because I want to stay clear from stealing kids from other churches. If I had to legitimize this ministry in numbers alone, I’m sure I could beg my friends with kids to come. But that isn’t the way to grow a ministry. The lessons I learned during my time with the Jeremiah Community I hold dear – one of them being a deep sense of rootedness to the community and parish bounds. But I live an hour commute away from this church and moving is not in the near picture. Add in time and financial constraints, and advertising events is a huge challenge.

And then there is the problem with marketing the gospel. I know without a doubt that relationships are what make a ministry grow. But when you are starting from scratch, how do you get the word out there? I don’t want to covertly indoctrinate the children with the gospel with an event like cupcake decorating. But how does one go from being unchurched to churched? Especially when all churches are facing a decline! Growing up, church absence was not an option. In my adult years, I have taken breaks… though not complete breaks as I’ve been involved in Bible studies which are a church of sorts. So I cannot draw on personal experience. But one of the biggest things that I am opposed to is building a relationship for the purpose of conversion – people can tell when that is your aim. And typically it isn’t met with joy and thanksgiving. I want to love people – because they are God’s special creation. I want to get to know them because they are interesting to know. But again – in building a ministry – how do you go from no ministry to one that is thriving?

The crowd on Wednesday gave me hope. Gave me hope that God is at work. Building relationships takes time. And while I thought I learned patience with the whole court stuff, clearly that is not the end of the struggle for me! But I needed a glimmer of hope to persevere. And seeing these beautiful children smiling and having fun gave me that.

Thank you God. For working even when I doubt, for providing strength in my weakness, and hope in my discouragement.

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  1. Ian Adnams
    February 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Ask each one to bring one mext week. Send home invitations with those who come to tap into their networks. The multiplier effect could be huge!

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