Monday, March 4, 2024

Be a Good Shepherd; Not the Wolf

There is something God has been laying on my heart lately - other than Grandparenting Ministry :-) - which I want to share with you today. Some of you - happily - will not be able to relate to what I'm about to say. If this is you, please keep reading and take this opportunity to get a glimpse into what others experience and think about how you can be used of God to help and encourage those who do relate.

Over the years I've served in Children's Ministry (53 years to be exact), I've had the opportunity to listen to and help volunteers who experienced great hurt at the hands of church leaders (in other churches). One such volunteer stands out in my mind, because the very first Sunday she and her family visited my church, she told me she was not ever going to volunteer to serve in the Children's Ministry, and to please not ask her to do so. She told me she was so hurt in her previous church (where she directed the Children's Ministry) she did not ever want to serve again.

I just smiled and told her it was no problem. Over the following months, this mom watched. She watched how I interacted with my volunteers (in this particular church I had 120 volunteers). She watched how my volunteers felt about serving. She watched and paid attention to the "atmosphere" in the Children's Ministry. 

About six months after she began attending my church, she came to me and said she had noticed we had started to look for a helper in the three year old's class and she was willing to help. NOT teach, but she was willing to help. So, she began to help in this class each Sunday during the second service (we had three services each Sunday). As she served she was able to experience how I supported and encouraged my volunteers - they each had a "mail box" in their room and every week there was something waiting for them - a newsletter every other week and the in-between weeks there was something, such as an banana with a tag which said, "I'm so glad you are part of our bunch! Thank you for serving in the Children's Ministry".

She served for three months and then volunteered to teach - the teacher who had been serving in this class had to step out due to her husband's health problems. This mom served with joy and at the end of the year when I was looking for a Coordinator for the Three Year Olds, she volunteered. She told me when she started attending my church, she thought she would never be able to serve in the Children's Ministry again, because of how she was hurt in her previous church. But, as she watched she saw the Children's Ministry at my church looked like it might be a safe place. When she began helping, she was ready to run away if it even felt like she was going to be hurt, but she wasn't! She was supported and encouraged! She told me she was so thankful she was able to continue to serve!

This mom is not unique in how she "ran away" from serving, because she had been hurt. There are many people in our churches who won't serve, because they, too, are afraid of being hurt again by leaders in their churches. I understand this, because while I've had the opportunity to serve in wonderful churches over the years, there have also been some not-so-wonderful churches where leaders inflicted great pain as well.

A few years ago my pastor preached from Joshua 18 and talked about casting lots. He said one way we can do this is to go to and enter the numbers 1 and 66 in the box on the top right side of the site. The site will randomly choose a number - in the case of the third service where I was listening to him, the number chosen was 47 - and the 47th book in the Bible is 2 Corinthians. He said he often prays and asks God to direct him to the book in the Bible He wants him to read, and uses in this way to find it. 

So, I read 2 Corinthians to see what God wanted me to know. The very first chapter talks about how we suffer different things in our lives, so we will be able to encourage and comfort others who experience the same things. It goes on to encourage us with the truth of how God knows the truth and He is faithful! These verses encouraged me to know God knows the truth, He is faithful, and I can be used by Him to encourage others!

If you have experienced pain at the hands of those who should be there to encourage you; please know, God knows the truth and He is faithful. He has a plan for you. You can continue to serve Him; you may have to find a different, safe place to do so, but God gave you the gifts you have, so you can serve Him. When you do, you will experience joy! Please know, when you experience difficult times, God is faithful and the day will come where you will be able to encourage others as well!

And, if you are a leader in your church, be careful. Be watchful. Be honest. If you have hurt others; before you do anything else today, talk with God about it and then find the person you harmed and make it right. If you have not harmed others, be on guard and make it a matter of daily prayer, so you do not harm any volunteers in your ministry.

One of the saddest things in our churches is when anyone is harmed by someone in leadership. This can destroy their ability to trust and can eventually damage their ability to trust God. If you are serving as a leader in your church, you have to be a good shepherd. You have to watch out for, and protect the sheep; not be the "wolf" who harms them.

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