By Wendy Berghane, Hearts Alive Curriculum Specialist
We all have had people in our life that have made an impact. Many of us can think back to those who have mentored us, taught us, passed on wisdom, held us accountable, or loved on us with such godly love that it left a mark on our hearts. Mr. Foley was one of those people for me.
Mr. Foley taught Bible (I went to a private Christian school), and he had such a determination to share the Gospel with his students. He led chapel once a week with a guitar in his hand and funny stories to share that engaged our middle-school minds. He woke up early to take groups of kids to breakfast where he would not only pay, but also slip the Bible into conversations as we were enjoying our French toast. He invited us to youth events and took us on retreats. I can’t speak for my classmates, but I do know that I really didn’t spend a ton of time mulling over the discussions we had, nor did I commit fully to sharing the Gospel with others at the tender age of 12. But he continually pursued us, loved us, and shared Jesus with us, despite our attitudes, inability to fully comprehend, or straight up lack of interest. As I have grown in age (and wisdom), I often find myself thinking of Mr. Foley and making connections to many of the experiences he invited me into and the things he taught us. And I realize that God has used those memories and experiences to continue to shape me, mold me, and draw me close.
It can be so easy to think you aren’t reaching anyone as the kids struggle to listen or focus. It is so easy to doubt your plan and even your ability when your students aren’t responding the way you had hoped. Maybe you feel frustrated because your children’s ministry isn’t growing and it’s a challenge to get kids in the door. If you are feeling any of these things, then this message is for you… Keep planting seeds.
In our vocation, reaping what we sow is not our call. Unlike a farmer who plants seeds and waits expectantly to harvest their crop, we are simply called to plant the seeds with humility and radical perseverance. As children’s ministry leaders or volunteers, we need to understand and accept that only God can draw someone’s heart to himself. We can teach, model, discuss, and brainstorm all we want, but at the end of the day, we are on God’s timeline. We must set aside our pride and realize it is not our perfect plans that capture hearts for Jesus, but rather it is Jesus who does the capturing.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t work hard in our jobs. We absolutely should! That is where the radical perseverance comes in! We need to be willing to continue to work with joy, enthusiasm, passion, and drive despite the possibility of never seeing the complete fruit of our labors. We need to pursue the students and families God brings to us with such love and care, even if they don’t seem all that interested in the “meat” we want to offer. Those kids who are there because they don’t have a choice, those little ones who you feel like you just don’t know how to reach, those families who use your program as a babysitting service… pursue them, plan for them, love on them. And trust that God will use this work in his way and in his time.
I still have restless nights when I quiet my mind with a chapel song I learned from Mr. Foley. Or moments where I have a flashback to a verse that he introduced me to as I gain greater understanding of the context. God is still using those seeds that were planted over thirty years ago to grow me and draw me closer to him. And I am grateful for Mr. Foley’s humility and perseverance that continued to work hard and share the Gospel with me, even when he didn’t necessarily see the fruit at the time.
So go out and think big! Continue to sing songs, help children memorize verses, play fun-filled games, and plan thoughtful lessons. Put Bibles in little hands. Tell them how much God loves them. And don’t worry if it’s one or one hundred. Don’t get side-tracked with doubt. Keep moving forward with the understanding that God will not let your efforts go unused! Your job is to plant the seeds and trust God to do the rest!
For more encouragement to “not grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9), check out our Hearts Alive Online Network, where you can connect with other children’s ministry leaders and volunteers to share ideas and encourage each other.
Hearts Alive Sunday School and Children's Church provide liturgical congregations a highly-anticipated children’s curriculum that combines captivating content, lectionary alignment, and Gospel focus for children ages 3-12. For those seeking to engage children in a fun, age-appropriate application to the Revised Common Lectionary, Hearts Alive is a three-year course of study to give children a strong overview of the story of salvation and how it ties to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hearts Alive supports and elevates liturgical traditions and the church calendar while using clear, contemporary learning techniques to present the Word of God. Learn more in our online community.
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