On Why I Chose Children’s Ministry

A few weeks ago I was in Indianapolis at a gathering with a group of ministers from a wide range of places, backgrounds, and denominations. As we made introductions, we repeatedly asked one another the same questions: Where are you from? What church are you serving? What do you do there? When I told one participant that I was a children’s minister, he said something along the lines of, “So the typical job for a Baptist woman in ministry.”

For some reason, his comment caught me off guard. Maybe it shouldn’t have. He certainly wasn’t totally wrong.
For a long time, women in the church have been told, “No, but….”
No, you can’t preach. No, you can’t lead. No, you can’t be a pastor. No, you can’t have a voice.
But.
But you can teach a children’s Sunday School class. You can help in the nursery. You can plan Vacation Bible School. And if you still insist that God is calling you to ministry, you can be a children’s minister. (But we’ll probably just call you a director.)
And so I get it. I get the comments and the resistance. I get the memes and the articles circulating around the internet with titles like, “Don’t Ask Me to Work in the Church Nursery.”
But here’s the thing…I still will. I will ask you to serve in the nursery and teach Sunday School and help with camp and lead missions friends. I will ask you to do those things because they matter. Because the work that happens in the nursery at 11:00 on Sunday mornings is no less holy and certainly no less important than the work that happens in the sanctuary. When we infer that children’s ministry is a second-rate job we are doing to children what we’re resisting being done to women—inferring that they are somehow not as valuable, not as capable, not as vital to the life and work of the church as adults. And they are.
I choose to work in children’s ministry because I believe that the spiritual formation of children is critically important. I also believe that children can and do make a difference in the church. Their joy, wonder, and curiosity offer the adults in the room an invitation to approach God the same way. The kids I work with each week ask questions that reframe my theology and challenge my worldview. I think that God delights in their fidgets and energy and not-quite-a-whisper comments during the sermon. They matter. And because of that truth, so does my job.
Don’t get me wrong—I believe that God can (and does) call women to do anything, including preach. But the work God has called me to involves play doh and millions and millions of goldfish crackers and teaching his littlest children about just much he loves them. And for that I am thankful.

Expecting the Unexpected

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One of my favorite things about kids is their curiosity.  They are unassuming, full of questions and wonder. They are always hunting, searching for answers—freer than we are to admit that they don’t know something. They love surprises and that little thrill that comes from the appearance of the unexpected.

Adults aren’t really like that. We like to know what to expect, what’s going to happen next. Our modus operandi to act like we have all the answers, like we have everything figured out already. We like to plan, to be in control of every aspect of our lives.

But that’s not really the way God works, is it? From the very beginning, the life of Jesus was all about the unexpected. We expect that the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior of the entire world, would arrive in some grand fashion with flashes of lightning and clashing cymbals, but that’s not what happened.  Instead, Jesus came quietly, gently, and without threat or fanfare.  In fact, only a few lowly shepherds and animals living in a stable had any idea that the world would never be the same.

We expect that the very Son of God would be awarded great power and prestige, but again that’s not what happened. Jesus taught us that the meek would inherit the earth and the last would be first.  He taught us that it is better to serve than to be served, and he lived that truth in his leadership throughout his life. And then finally he died. Jesus didn’t use his incredible power to free himself from the cruelty of crucifixion, but he died a painful and humiliating death on the cross. For us. Because he loved us so much.

And now we arrive at Easter. The women went to the tomb that first Easter morning with the no doubt that they would find exactly what they expected.  A tomb. A body. Sadness. Despair. But then the most unexpected thing happened—the tomb was empty.

The women, understandably, were terrified. But an angel appeared to them and asked what must have seemed like the strangest question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” The angel was tasked with delivering the most unexpected surprise in history—Jesus could not be found in a cold, dark tomb. He was not there anymore. He is risen.

The story of Easter has so much to teach us, but I think one of its greatest truths is that God has the power to do so much more than we expect or imagine. You think God can’t bring healing to the brokenness in your life? Think again. You think no beauty can come from this hurt? It’s not true. The story of Easter—the story of God—is about light from darkness, hope from despair, life from death. The resurrection is God’s promise that what is lost and broken can be redeemed, that whatever pain you’re experiencing right now doesn’t get the last word in your story.

This Easter, I’m thankful that God does so much more than I expect or even believe is possible. And he that he loves me so much more than I know.

Nothing Could Be Finer

As the old song goes, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.” Personally, I would change the lyrics to say, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Chapel Hill, North Carolina the week after the national championship win.” Not quite as catchy maybe, but man is it true.

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If you’re a sports fan or have any connection to a sports fan or the University of North Carolina, then you watched the game last Monday night. And you know it was ugly.  Both teams were sloppy, no one could hit a shot, and everyone was in the double bonus with fifteen minutes left in the second half. I spent the majority of the game with my eyes closed, mentally preparing myself for the utter devastation of losing the national championship game two years in a row.

And yet somehow (and I still don’t know how), every time I checked the score we were within a few points and sometimes even in the lead. And then Isaiah hit that shot and Kennedy made that block and you could see it in their eyes…they knew. When the final buzzer sounded, it took a few seconds for it to sink in: We won the national championship.  There was plenty of screaming and jumping around as we watched the confetti fall. We watch live coverage of college kids spilling out of bars onto Franklin street. We didn’t go, but we thought about when we did. Later, I may have shed a tear during One Shining Moment. Redemption is pretty sweet, indeed.

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On Saturday we decided we needed to venture over to Chapel Hill to stock up on national championship gear and introduce Finley to one of our favorite places on earth.  And we made sure to pack it all in. We admired Old South and took pictures by the Well. We had blue cups at He’s Not and joked with strangers on Franklin Street. There was something in the air—a certain electricity that’s not there all the time. People were celebrating, yes, but it was more than that. We all got it—how unique this is, how lucky we are to be a part of it.

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I promise that after this post I’ll stop gushing about Carolina—at least for a little while. But there’s something about being on campus in the spring, a few days after winning it all, that makes you want to stop and celebrate. It’s a good day to be a Tar Heel, y’all. Nothing could be finer.

Friday Links

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web. 

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Happy Friday! It seems the cold weather is back, but we’re not going to let that stop from enjoying our weekend. We’re taking Finley to Chapel Hill to stock up on our national championship gear and visit some of our favorite spots. We’re also gearing up for Holy Week activities at church. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend! XO

For your weekend reading pleasure…

 

Currently: April

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Reading: Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard. I love a food memoir, and Bard never disappoints. Stories about life in France accompanied by delicious recipes…what’s not to love?

Watching: The West Wing. Bryan and I are always looking for shows to watch together, and we’ve heard so many people say this is their favorite show of all time. It’s definitely old, but so far we’re really enjoying it.

Crafting: I’m working on some things for our house that I’m excited to share here soon, like some fun gold leaf art for our dining room. Maybe it’s spring or the fact that we’ve lived there almost six months now, but I’m itching to finish some projects and get things in place around the house. We’re hosting a baby shower in May, and my goal is check several projects off my list before then. Fingers crossed!

Anticipating: Spring. I love this time of year. Everything is beautiful and fresh and summer is right around the corner. The weather has been gorgeous the past couple of days, so we’re excited to spend some time outside this weekend and soak up some sunshine!

Celebrating: A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! The Heels won their sixth national championship on Monday night, and it was so, so sweet. I’ll be writing more about that game later, but for now I’ll just leave you this this: One Shining Moment. 

On Being a Tar Heel

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I don’t write about it here often because people tell me that I can be a tad obnoxious. (I prefer to think of it as passion.) Still, when I think about my favorite things in the whole world, there is one thing that finds its way to top of the list every single time:

Carolina Basketball.

I come by the obsession honestly.  I am a born and bred Tar Heel.  My dad instilled in me a love of all things Carolina—especially Carolina basketball—from the very start.  He passed on the kind of love that can elicit the sweetest kind of euphoria and the worst kind of heartbreak within seconds of one another. It’s the kind of love that makes you want to jump over fires and throw things at the tv.  It’s the kind of love that makes you feel a little giddy when you hear names like Phil Ford or Tyler Hansbrough or Dean Smith. It’s pure bliss.

I was a junior at UNC when the Heels won the 2009 national championship. I will never forget that night—the confetti, the noise, the celebration. I sprinted to Franklin Street with a few thousand of my new best friends to jump over fires and climb trees and sing Hark the Sound at the top of my lungs. There’s just no other happiness quite like that.

Tonight the Heels take the court in the title game for the second year in a row.  As I watch tonight, I’ll inevitably be thinking about Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson and the game that could have been. I’ll be thinking about my sister and how much I wanted her to have a championship like I did before she graduated last May. I’ll be thinking about that last second, punch-in-the-stomach buzzer beater (and I’ll try not to cry).

I’ll be thinking about 2009 and reliving the days when I could actually participate in the shenanigans going on down on Franklin Street. And yes, I’ll be thinking about 2005 and 1993 and 1982 and 1957. Because, dynasty.

I’ll be thinking about Luke Maye’s game winning jumper over Kentucky and Kennedy’s incredible performance versus Oregon.  I’ll be thinking about Justin Jackson draining threes like nobody’s business, and unfortunately I’ll probably be thinking about our free throw percentage.

But mostly I’ll be thinking about how lucky I am to be a part of the Carolina family.  I’ll be thinking about how incredible it is that I’ve gotten to watch so many games in the Dean Dome, surrounded by the kind of legacy most programs never achieve . I’ll be thinking about football games in the fall and picnics on the quad in the spring—how the campus changes colors with the seasons, but is gorgeous in every single light. I’ll think about how I feel every time I hear James Taylor’s Carolina in my Mind and how that little town in Blue Heaven holds some of the best memories of my life. I’ll be thinking about the people I spent four years with there and how being a Tar Heel means you have family no matter where you go. And I’ll be thinking that win or lose, it’s a really good day to be a Tar Heel. Always.

Go Heels!

Aware

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I’ve been studying the story of Moses recently.  Our kids are doing a musical about Moses freeing the slaves, and in an effort to help them understand more about the man they’re singing about (no kids, Moses was not one of Jesus’ disciples), I’ve been learning more about him, too. The other day I was reading the story of Moses at the burning bush. I’ve read this story many, many times and heard it told a hundred different ways. But this time, I was struck by something new. There was one word that stood out and changed everything for me: Aware.

God spoke to Moses, and he said, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering.”

Aware. That word says everything, doesn’t it? Often, in times of hurt or fear or pain, we feel like God is absent—like he doesn’t know or doesn’t care about what we’re going through.

But God speaks to Moses in the most miraculous of ways, and assures him that he does indeed see what’s going on:

I know. I see. I’m there. It may not be the way you want right now, but I promise that I’m working in this, too. I’m aware. I’m with you. 

I think that what we want so often is just to be seen. So many people are walking through life carrying massive burdens that know one else can see. And even though we may try to keep these parts of our lives quiet, there is something inside of us longing for someone to come along and say that they see our pain. They get it. They’re right there with us. We want to know we’re not alone.

God’s promise to us is not only that we don’t have to go through it alone, but that he knows and understands what we’re experiencing.  He’s knows every fear, every worry, every hurt—he sees all of it. God is aware. Isn’t that a beautiful promise?

March Reading List

  1. The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close. The Hopefuls tells the story of a young couple living in D.C.  during Obama’s administration. Beth, the protagonist, follows her husband to our nation’s capital to pursue his political dreams and slowly (and somewhat painfully) learns to navigate the world of fierce competition, gossip, and shameless self-promotion.  The novel doesn’t have much of a plot, but I couldn’t put it down. More than anything, it offers a honest portrayal of the day-to-day pitfalls and triumphs of a marriage. Really good.
  2. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. I was excited to read this book because of how much I LOVED Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite live up to it.  Sample’s writing is funny and at times a little wacky, but I just couldn’t find anyone or anything to connect with in this novel. It felt like it lacked direction and purpose. I still really enjoy Semple’s style, but I wasn’t in love with this story.

Friday Links

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web. 

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Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a great week. This weekend we’re spending time with friends, cheering on the Heels, and praying that the snow will stay far, far away. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend, too. XO

For your weekend reading pleasure…

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This One’s for the Girls

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I loved reading all the posts and comments from other women about the bold, beautiful ladies who have changed their lives. I love the idea of taking a day to celebrate women, because I am so deeply thankful for the friendships in my own life.

I am unapologetically a girl’s girl. I love my husband, but the truth is that I would be lost without my mom, my sisters, and my girlfriends. They are my TRIBE. The women in my life inspire me with their courage, compassion, and creativity. They are my confidantes and my cheerleaders. I can count on them to make me laugh, sit with me when I cry, celebrate with me when life is good, and help me finish a bottle of wine. To me, girlfriends are not optional. I need them, and they make my life sweeter and richer every single day.

We celebrate women because of the light and goodness and strength they bring to this world. And let’s be honest…they just get stuff done. Cheers to the wise, fierce, fabulous women we’re celebrating—may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.