I know you think that all kids teachers have natural affinity with kids and that all campus missionaries are automatically drawn to teenagers. Let me shatter your expectations.
I have two confessions to make.
1. I didn’t like kids.
Shocking right? I’ve been in Kids Church for a long time and yet I didn’t like kids–at all. I didn’t know how to communicate with them. I didn’t gush over them. I wasn’t looking forward to having a brood of messy tots in my life. I was more cut out to be a cool-as-cucumber executive who would mentor aspiring and ambitious young women professionals like me.
In 2003, we had a minor crisis in Victory Los Baños. For years, we had been a church composed mostly of students, but in the recent years, we were having more and more families join us, and with them came the children. We had no experience with Kids Church. Most of us who became Christians as university students were not even familiar with Sunday school.
My leader, Cathy, gathered some of us and shared the need to start the Kids Ministry. My automatic response was, “Sorry, Cathy. I’m not good with kids. So I’m not even going to pray about it. I know I’m not called to be a Kids Church teacher.” Cathy, being the kind of person who does not easily give up, responded, “But you are so good with my three year old!” I said, “She’s different. I talk to her like an adult.” She replied, “Well then, you could treat the other kids the same.” I was stubbornly silent. And then divine inspiration set in and Cathy shared a verse:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. – Judges 2:10 (NIV)
She caught my attention with that verse and I realized that I didn’t want to be party to the next generation not knowing about God and His love and faithfulness. I knew it was God speaking to me. It was not about what I’m comfortable with or who I would like to reach out to. It’s about His plans, His purpose, and His timeline. Obeying Him should not necessarily be accompanied with the love or the skills or the comfort needed for His calling.
The next Sunday, I was in Kids Church and almost 13 years later, I’ve never once regretted obeying God. I love kids now (I get to have random conversations with little people in airports and malls) and I know it’s the kind of love that transcends emotions–it’s the kind of love that is the fruit of obedience. My first students are now adults and it is a privilege to see many of them serving God wherever they are. Despite my lack of compassion, God chose me to be a part of their lives and I will be forever grateful that my reluctance did not deter my leaders from strongly encouraging me to try.
2. High school students were the last group of people I preferred to reach out to.
Because I knew just how much angst I had as a high schooler, I was adamant that I would not choose to reach out to this age group. I’d rather stick to teaching the 7-12 year old kids, who are sweet and innocent and to reaching out to the university age ones, who I figured would not be as hormone-driven. Let someone else deal with the confusion of puberty.
However, I saw more and more promising young leaders sinking into depression and giving in to the identity confusion they normally experience when they step into high school life. And I thought, why wait to reach out to an even more broken person in college, when they could learn the truth earlier? I tentatively started to reach out to girls between 13 and 16 years old and am I glad I did! So many mindsets that I had about high school students were broken because it wasn’t feelings or comfort that dictated my decision.
Not only do I now have so much love for these young people–I have a deep respect for them, especially when they choose to stand apart from their peers yet still respond with compassion in the midst of persecution at an age when rejection chafes the most. I look forward to the kind of leader they will become as university students, as professionals and as parents.
How about you? Is God calling you to fill a need, even if your feelings toward the people involved seem to border on apathy or revulsion? Are you willing to obey and be in faith despite your feelings? Or would you rather stick to your comfort zone?