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.”
I just got back to the office after spending the afternoon doing the very best part of my job—newborn visits. I have to go to the hospital pretty often for work, and it’s rarely for a happy occasion. But newborn visits are different. They’re all celebration and smiles and lots and lots of baby snuggles. I love getting to hold those precious babies just hours after they’re born. I love their sweet new baby smell and their impossibly tiny noses. I love getting to pray with their parents—thanking God for this incredible gift of life and praying that these children will come to know and love him as they grow.
One of the greatest gifts of ministry is getting to be present with people during the big moments of their lives. Often these are happy moments—births, baptisms, parties, and weddings. Other times the big moments are the hard moments—the moments of loss, fear, sadness, and pain. Tomorrow I’ll go back to the hospital, but it won’t be to visit a new baby. Instead I’ll go spend time with another one of my kids, a sweet little girl who was recently diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Another a big moment. Very different, but just as sacred.
When Jesus was talking to his disciple, John, he told him over and over again, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? You say you love me. It’s time to prove it. Love the people I love. Love my children. Feed my sheep.
So much of my job doesn’t feel like feeding sheep. The logistics, the emails, the planning, the day-to-day drudgery of it doesn’t feel like feeding sheep. Herding cattle, maybe. But not feeding sheep.
But then I remind myself that if anyone understood the day-to-day work of ministry, it was Jesus. Jesus was there for the big moments, but he was there for the small moments, too. He knew that life-changing ministry happened just as often in the small, solitary moments that no one else noticed. Jesus was overworked and underappreciated. He showed us over and over again that there is more than one way to feed sheep.
I’m sitting back in my office now (still on a baby high), and I’m noticing that there are sheep to be fed here, too. In the emails to be read and forms to be filled out and planning to complete, there are opportunities to feed his sheep—to love him. Jesus said, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” Today I’m thankful for the task.