(an excerpt from Chris’ seminar series The Gospel for Juniors: Not a Junior Gospel)
I’ve met a lot of tired volunteers. It seems like every church has them — the faithful few; the always reliable “soft-touches” who just cannot sit on their hands when there is any kind of need. It’s like they literally CAN’T say no. And the rest of the church is glad. Thanks to this tired troupe, they can feel like the well-being of the church body and its many programs is in good, safe, consistent, same-as-last-year hands.
On the flip side, the volunteers are having this conversation inside themselves. “I was just asked to teach Sunday School again. Should I take it? Maybe I should let someone else have a turn. Oh, yeah. No one else wants a turn. What about that new couple? They’re young! It would be a good opportunity for them! Oh, wait. They were already snatched up for nursery duty. Why does this always happen to me?!? I don’t even know what I would teach! But if I don’t, people will be disappointed (they always say I do such a nice job) and I’ll feel guilty and… what’s that I hear? Oh, yeah. It’s my voice saying “yes” again….”
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my own father many years ago. I was an older teen still living at home who had been placed as a leader in our church’s mid-week kids’ club. In this particular year, we were having a hard time recruiting volunteers to work in the club. As an energetic teenager, this was a new phenomenon to my mind. I know better now. Sitting at dinner, I complained to my dad, who was an elder in the church, that I didn’t know what to do to fill the ranks of leadership for 2 hours once a week. His response rocked my ministry world forever.
“Don’t have it.”
I couldn’t believe my ears! “Don’t have it?!? Don’t have club? But Dad! I grew up doing this! I know the value of it! Think of all the verses I learned! It’s a great program!”
“Exactly. It’s just a program. It’s a tool for the Lord to use. But you can’t force people to participate. If people want the program enough, then they’ll volunteer. People will invest in what they value.”
In all of the scenarios above, the people in them — whether they volunteered or not — lacked one very important component for ministry. Motivation — or, at least the right kind of motivation.
Sometimes I wonder if one reason the children’s programs of our churches are so short-staffed by the same hard-working few as they always have been is because we have lost the primary motivation for sharing Christ with boys and girls which is this: Kids are important to God.
Consider the account found in Matthew 19:13-15:
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away.”
We’ve heard this story before. Clearly, Jesus took at least a little time and dedicated it to children. But a look at the same story in the gospels of Mark and Luke gives us an even clearer picture of what was in the mind and heart of the Lord Jesus when given an opportunity to interact with boys and girls.
Mark 10:13-16, “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (emphasis added)
The Creator was not bothered by children. He was not inconvenienced. His “rebuke” as recorded in Matthew was not given out of some sense of obligation. “He was indignant!” It offended Jesus that children were given a back seat of importance — treated differently than grown-ups, shuffled to the side and made to hush lest they disturb important adults from hearing what the Word had to say. “And he took them in his arms and blessed them!” What would you give for the chance to be a child scooped up into the loving arms of a smiling Jesus?
Now look at Luke’s account in Luke 18:15-17: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’” (emphasis added)
Picture the Omnipotent One holding babies. Picture Him with a gentle, happy face stooped over and beckoning a shy toddler to approach him, laughing with joy to see the comical, tottering steps. See him loving each one; talking to each one.
This is our motivation.
If the Savior of the world insistently took time for little ones, is it any great thing for you or I to invest in the lives of the children God places in our path? Loving children should not feel like an unwanted burden. When we take on the motivation of Christ and allow His love to flow through our lives, the opportunity to interact with boys and girls becomes one we relish.
Now, I’m not saying that every person is called to teach a 1st grade Sunday School class. I’m simply saying that those 1st graders have equal value in the eyes of the Lord as the most “intellectually advanced.” And I’m not saying that you have to be that volunteer who can’t say “no.” Sometimes “no” is the answer God wants you to give. I’m simply pointing out that if the answer is “yes” and you are given the profound privilege of service, let it be a “yes” with the right motivation. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
[For more information about the live seminar The Gospel for Juniors: Not a Junior Gospel please contact God’s Helping Hands or write to Chris Knobloch at firstname.lastname@example.org]