Recently I have started telling Middle school students they can ask me any question they want and I will answer it. These students don’t know me very well so they think if they ask something like “How are babies born?” I won’t answer. Much to their surprise, and quite honestly disgust, I am more than willing to talk about that. Just ask any former student and they will tell you I talk about that a lot with students. I think many people are terrified to tell middle school kids or anyone for that matter, to ask them anything. I have found it to be most helpful in striking up conversations with young people. I even have this same policy with my own kids. I want them to ask questions and I want them to learn. I find when I allow questions it allows students to ask and to be willing to learn.
Many moons ago I went through a class in college by Dr. Steve Arnold that helped me to articulate something I understood but didn’t know how to explain to others. The idea is that in order to teach someone something they have to give you permission to teach them. Students, adults and just about everyone will only learn something from you if they give you permission. Most often it occurs in the form of a question they have asked. You see many people still teach in a way that says you are going to learn from me because I am the teacher. What I have found with kids today is they don’t care if you are the teacher, pastor, DCE, mom or Dad. They want to know you care first and then they will give you permission to really teach them something.
This waiting for permission is hard and sometimes I fail to remember my own lesson. I do know that students and most importantly my kids learn best when I get permission. I love to have my students and my kids ask questions. Those questions open them up to my answers. It opens them up to hearing about Jesus. It opens them up to hearing about life.
My encouragement for you as parents, fellow believer and fellow Church workers is to let your kids ask questions. Let the adults ask questions. Let them learn from you. Don’t answer questions they are not asking. Develop a culture of questions. You may be surprised by the amount of sharing you can do if you wait for the question.
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. Mark 7:17 NIV
When I was first in ministry I worked with a wonderful women who worked in our Sunday school Pre-school. If I could multiply her by 100 I would. She was amazing at what she did with young children. She amazed me with how she could work with any young child. She taught me something I use every day when working with young people. She taught me to get on the floor and look them in the eyes.
It is something so simple we often forget it. When I teach with young people one of the most important things I try to always do is get down on the floor and look them in the eyes. It changes the dynamic. It allows them to see you as a person and allows you to share Jesus with them. It allows you to listen and speak with them. It allows you to be in their world. If you don’t do this with little kids I would totally challenge you to do it.
Here is the thing. I want to remind you as a parent, minister, and friend please get on the ground. Look them in the eyes. When you do, you can share Jesus with them. The first pastor I served with shared with me this thought “People don’t remember the sermons, or messages. They remember the time you sat with them and listened. They remember the time you prayed for them. They remember the time you were just present in their time of need.”
We all have people in our lives we want to stand in the pulpit and preach at. However I would challenge us all to bend down and talk to them on their level. To listen and look them in the eyes so we can share Jesus with them. Too often we stand tall and preach. We need to be people willing to get down on the ground in order to share Jesus.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col 3:12 NIV
I miss my bed. I miss how it makes me feel. I would like just once to wake up in my own house on my own bed next to my wife and not have a kink in my back and neck. My new chiropractor loves this by the way. (Not really but we have gotten to know each other rather well these last few weeks based on the number of times he has popped my body back in place.) Needless to say it has been a uncomfortable few weeks.
Beyond the aches and pains I started at a new ministry. I traveled back and forth to sell and buy a house. I have lived with my in-laws for almost 6 weeks now. I went from a 5 minute commute to work to over 45 minutes when traffic is good. I went from knowing everyone’s names to knowing almost no ones.(cue Cheers music) OH and my wife is living in Grand Rapids and i see her on the weekends. Needless to say everything is different. Life has become uncomfortable and I am ok with it.
I do like life to be comfortable. I like to have a routine. I like things to be predictable. I really like to sleep in my own bed with my wife. However being uncomfortable has helped me know Jesus. Over 3 months ago my life was flipped on end. I said goodbye to some amazing people. I am serving in a new ministry. It isn’t comfortable but it is exactly where God needs me to be. Worship, prayer, and everything else is in my faith life is different. Jesus is in control and for that I am grateful.
So why bring up being uncomfortable. Is it so you can feel sorry for me? Is it so you can comment on this post and say we are praying for you or can we help? (please do pray for me and my children.) Really that isn’t the point. The point is being uncomfortable in this faith walk is a good thing. It reminds me of God and His work in my life. It reminds me that no matter how much I have planned and how comfortable I am He seems to find a way to make me uncomfortable so I can trust in Him, so I can follow Him.
When we get comfortable I think we tend to trust in ourselves. We trust in our choices, and abilities instead of trusting in Him. We trust our good fortune, or luck. We trust in everything but Jesus. We look to everything but Jesus. Here is the thing. We need Jesus. We need Him in His word, and sacrament. We need Him in our prayer life. We need Him in everything. Being uncomfortable has reminded me of Jesus’ work for me. Thank you Jesus for reminding me of my need for you. Thanks for making me uncomfortable!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
This past weekend I was asked to speak the message at a former student’s wedding. It was truly an honor to be a part of her, and her husband’s special day. It really made me think about all the students God has lead across my path over the last almost 12 years. It has made me think about what I love most about being in ministry. I love walking alongside people. I get the greatest joy of walking along side people and sharing Jesus with them. Sometimes with great joy and sometimes with great sadness. Most of the time it is both.
Speaking at Emily’s wedding reminded me of the messiness of walking with people. You see at Emily’s wedding it rained during the whole outside wedding ceremony. I am not talking about that kind of rain that just gets you wet but the kind that leaves you drenched. My suit was dripping and I couldn’t see for part of the message because water was just running down my face. I was reminded that walking with students isn’t always easy. It can be quite messy. You know when it is all said and done it is quite rewarding. You get to see two people join as one to follow Jesus together. You get to see lives changed and you get to laugh at the craziness of life and enjoy the moments for what they are. Moments where Jesus can bring joy in the midst of hardships. It did make it much easier to talk with them about being children of God through baptism because I had such a great object lesson.
This weekend also marked another tough moment in ministry. A student who I met a few times and is friends with some of the students I know well, ended his life. It was a tough way to end a weekend. I also thought is was emblematic of ministry. God lets us walk with students in the good times and we also have to walk through the tough stuff as well. I am reminded that Jesus calls us to walk in the lows and the highs, in the sorrow and joys but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will have another post later about this week with students and about this young man. So as I end I would ask for prayers first for the couple who is starting a new life and second for the family grieving today. Ministry is tough and walking with families isn’t always easy but Jesus reminds us of his unfailing love through all of it.
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance
Ecclesiastes 3:4 ESV
My body wash reminded me of something this morning. Every so often in the morning I want to stay in the shower. Sometimes because it is warm, but mostly because it gives men a few minutes to get my head on straight before I have to deal with the world of two young people and a teenager. Oh my kids aren’t that bad. They have their cranky moments and they act like all little sinners some times but I wouldn’t expect anything less. Their dad’s theme song is often chief of sinners though I be. Today I was in the shower and happened to be reading the back of my body wash. I know I am weird but like I said I like to take a few minutes. I was blown away as I read the bottle. Rinse lather and repeat as necessary, it says. As a guy I have never really thought about doing it twice. Most of the time if I have done it twice it is because I got so little sleep the night before that I forgot I did it in the first place.
When we talk about sharing our faith with our kids, families and for me Youth group, I forget that I need to rinse and repeat more often than not. I sometimes forget the importance of this process in making disciples of Jesus. I often think of Jesus and how he taught the same thing over and over again just so he could give them the holy spirit and then they would finally understand. We are a stubborn people in need of constant reminder. We like the Israelites, disciples, and really everyone else in the Bible have seen God work in great and amazing ways yet we constantly have to be reminded of the things God has done in our lives.
So maybe today you are struggling with teaching your family, your youth group, your Church, your friend or yourself. Remember we need to hear it over and over again. Like shower time it isn’t is a one time thing. The really tough stuff might even take multiple times in one attempt to get it clean. So lets all remember to keep bathing in God’s Word! Rinse, lather, repeat.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.