Thursday, May 21, 2009

Never work with animals or children?

by Carlton Hughes

In show business there's an old adage about never working with animals or children . . . it seems they always upstage the serious actors. But what if God calls you to this work?

Okay, I don't work with animals, but I am the children's pastor at my church. I didn't set out to do this type of work; matter of fact, I vowed that I would NEVER work with children. Not the small ones--too messy. Not the older ones--too sassy. Not any of them. No, no, never-never-nah-nah-nah (incidentally, those are the lyrics to one of my favorite Children's Church songs). Well, God had other plans . . . and an outrageous sense of humor.

Back in Fall 2000, I got "demoted" at church. For three years I had directed the adult Christmas play, but the pastor had been approached by another member who wanted to resurrect a play that she had previously directed. The pastor kindly asked me to direct the children's play instead. Normally, I would have been upset about this action, but a strange peace fell over me. I was even inspired to write my own play for the kids. Even with all the chaos that comes with directing a children's Christmas play (Ever seen The Best Christmas Pageant Ever? Some people think it's fiction, but those of us in children's ministry consider it a documentary), it felt right.

During final rehearsals of the play I learned that the Children's Church Director was resigning her post after New Year's. I started to feel that Holy Spirit nudge, and you can imagine my initial reactions.

"Not me, Lord. I'm not qualified. I'm not good with kids. I've never done that before, except for the one week when I substituted in Children's Church, and You know that didn't go well . . . "
When you wrestle with the Lord, you know you're not going to win. He's MUCH BIGGER. I eventually gave into the nudges and started praying diligently about the position. I told no one, not even my wife, that I was considering it. If it was the Lord's will, it had to come from Him. One Thursday night I was praying while doing some housework, and I told the Lord that, come Sunday morning, I was going to step out on faith and tell the pastor that I wanted the position. Five minutes later the phone rang, and it was the pastor offering me the position (I hadn't even told him I was considering it).

So, with no qualifications, no training, and no budget, I became the children's pastor, and, even though the Lord didn't call the equipped, He has equipped the called. One of the first things He did was to stir my writing gift.

I've always been good at writing, but God awakened that sleeping giant in my new position. I wrote skits, songs, short and full-length plays, and even Vacation Bible School curriculum. I wrote none of these things with the intention of publication--I was simply filling needs in my church and in my ministry.

This year at KCWC, I'll come full-circle as I present a workshop on "Writing for Your Children's Ministry." The guy who didn't want to work with children and who didn't feel qualified will now be helping others to use writing to engage children. I hope you'll join me as we laugh and learn together. Who knows? There may even be an appearance by some of my (and my children's) favorite characters, and there may even be a freebie or two (we under-budgeted children's workers LOVE freebies, don't we?).

My story reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:27--God really does use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, doesn't He? Me as a children's pastor--I'm living proof of that verse!

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