Gratitude is hot this week. I'm talking hotter than rolls fresh out of Grandma's oven. Everybody and their dog is Facebook posting, tweeting, texting and blogging about all of great things in their lives for which they are thankful. This is a good thing.
But let's be honest. It's easy to be thankful for the happy stuff, especially for those of us who are Kidmins. Every week we get to work with cute kids and amazing leaders and watch God turn families' lives upside down (or maybe right-side up). I'm truly thankful for the fun parts of ministry.
But what about the turkeys? What about the hard stuff in Children's Ministry, the parts of the calling that absolutely stink? How many of us going to be tweeting things like, "So thankful today for the kid who just threw up on my shoes!" or "Wow, I'm grateful for having to confront my leader about their drinking problem."
And yet, it's in the midst of these crummy circumstances where God does some of His best work - both through us and in us.
Here are a few of my personal favorites from the past 20 years of Children's Ministry:
- Dry recruiting seasons
- Budget cuts
- Tech meltdowns
- Angry parents
- Stressed out staff
- Programs blowing up in my face
- People blowing up in my face
- Hard conversations with leaders
- Hard conversations with bosses
- Losing leaders to sin
- Dealing with gossip and factions on my team
- Being misunderstood and misjudged
- Falling flat on my face
Yeah, good times, right? No, actually. They were miserable. I hated every second. During each of these challenging moments, I doubted myself, doubted my call and, to be perfectly honest, at times even doubted God. Sure, I knew He had the power to move these mountains, but would He?
Sometimes He did. Sometimes He didn't.
But in this wrestling, waiting, suffering place God moved more than my mountain. He moved me. In each of these valleys, He made me a better leader and grew my faith. Every. Single. Time.
Sure there are many key ingredients to growth but nothing matures us faster than suffering. Maybe this is what James had in mind when he said, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
But not only do these times mature us, they drive us to dependence. In 2 Cor. 1 Paul described his own ministry hardships this way, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
So this week as I look back on almost two decades of kidmin, sure I'm thankful for the obvious, but I'm also thankful for how God has used the pressure, the trials and the outright failure to draw me closer to Him and to shape me into a more useful tool in the Master's hands.
I can't actually say I'm thankful for the circumstances, but I'm thankful that none of it is ever wasted.
What about you? What trials has God used in your ministry to grow you and your faith? Just leave a comment and tell your story.