Reflections from Ruth

It has been a whirlwind of a year!  I’ve been learning and growing in ways I would’ve never imagined in my wildest dreams. I joined the church staff on November 1st, only halfway through the 1st semester of the school year. I was over the moon with excitement to serve kids and their families; however, I distinctly remember that I had varying degrees of dislike with the titles I inherited from this job: “director”, “minister” and finally the P-word, “pastor”. Ohhh, I had mixed feelings about these titles. The feelings were exactly like when I had to wear the diamond ring that my fiancé gave me. Saying “yes” to the proposal meant I had to wear the ring.  The engagement ring sparkled so much more than my fashion could afford and it drew unwanted attention to my tired and studious face. As a university student, this ring felt unmatched.  Yet, saying “yes” to the marriage proposal made me utterly happy, and even relieved to have finally found the love of my life. In this sense, I loved every bit of what the ring meant and represented– that I was going to marry the love of my life! In the same way, saying “yes” to this job made me feel like I was the luckiest woman alive to have finally landed a job I absolutely love to do. At the same time, I felt so undeserving of the titles the job gave me. They were too fancy for me to carry, but I loved what these titles meant and represented. The titles meant that I was entering into a season of service that I truly loved and was meant to be in, like the way I entered into my marriage with the fancy ring on my finger that I felt like, well you know, had to be worn. So I did with the titles.

As I accepted the titles, I had an epiphany about each. 

First, “Director”.  Anyone that has ever known me for a time would often figure out that I am directing something (or someone) somewhere most of the time. As far as remember, I have loved directing, though not always successful (eg: don’t try it in marriage).  I was also called “Miss CEO” by peers in business school, so in hindsight, I was okay that they thought that the director me was befitting. Ok, I guess I’ll take that. But what about the title of “Minister”? It made me think of government ministers; I never knew what they did, never felt akin to them even though I worked in the government for 7 years. So it was neutral–so I wasn’t too sure. I soon found out, however, that I can say the word “minister” without any negative feelings because the Bible calls all Christ followers to be ministers!  Lastly, “the P word” felt like a swear word in my mouth, however. I could not seem to even speak it aloud for various reasons that I’d rather not go into details about.  As I recall my second interview, after reading the job description for my role, I remember telling Alan, “I can do everything in the job description except one thing; I don’t want to be called a pastor.” To which Alan explained that at Church of Christ we recognize the priesthood of all believers, and encourage all Christians to be “pastors” to others. He graciously called me a director from then on (a wise man he is.).  Reflecting on how I felt about accepting the titles that came with my new job, I realize I was still living in an engagement period for this role, where I was thinking of the “ring” a lot and how I couldn’t believe I have it.  Yes, I often thought about the titles and I couldn’t believe I had the job!  But something happened this summer that changed all of this.

Fast forward to this summer, I was “preaching” to over 70 kids, teens, and adults, referring to myself as the Children’s Pastor.  Yes, that actually came out of my mouth!  I told kids that my title simply means that I love God and children, which wasn’t actually so bad.  Wow, amazing what less than a year (10 months to be exact) can do to your identity! Without people loving me, encouraging me, letting me work up the courage for a Regent college course, and calm my nerves before musicals and Sunday schools, I wouldn’t have been able to settle into my role. Looking back, I feel like I started this job like a new bride, unaware and unsure of my new role, trying to embrace the new season and title.  Embracing the title was a huge task in and of itself.  Slowly but surely you come to love what you are called to be, and called to do.  In the same way, being called a pastor by children was endearing and is an honoured title that kids embraced for me.  It was time for me to embrace it for their sake. I did experience what being a pastor meant during the Kids and Rookie camp more than ever. The kids taught me that the love they have for me was enough for me to be a pastor. There is no doubt in my mind this role is what I was called to by God.  This is what summer camp did for me: I finally accepted being called a children’s pastor.

Needless to say, summer camp was a very special time.

I felt so alive preaching what God had placed in my heart, but so crushed when I missed something and said something wrong inadvertently. I also cried when I looked at the children in awe. These events were all part of one purpose–to fear God while feeling His presence in an unexplainable way. I felt like God’s spirit endowed me to feel how God feels towards each child individually.  I felt so honoured to be chosen and to be there for the kids. I am so undeserving of this honour. God’s lavish love and grace was all I could feel and every time I stepped out feeling inadequate He said, “You already have everything you need. I’ve given you what you need to say. It’s in you.” This past camp season really solidified what it meant to be a pastor and to teach the kids about God was an absolute honour.  At times the responsibility of my role felt really daunting, yet my love and passion for the kids made it impossible not to share what God had freely given me.  The messages had been in me for a long time but it was finally the time to share when God said, “It’s your time to share what I have given you; not before, or later; the time is NOW.” All I needed to do was trust God’s timing and use His words to speak without fear! 

Many thanks to Alan, Cam, Mark, Janaya, and Matthew!  With their help, I was able to outline my talks and become more familiar with the way preaching and teaching is done at our church.  I’ve not taught like this before, but their guidance freed me to roam and find my own vein to deliver the goods in a unique way.  I’m thankful that God has brought me through many trials and tribulations that made me to be an expressive person, so teaching at camp was a very freeing and emotive experience for me.  I am thankful for all the people who supported me all the way through the camp season.  And, I’m thankful that the teaching content was focused and interactive.  Wow!  I’m looking forward to more opportunities like this in the days ahead.

After the summer camp season was over, I had another epiphany.

I have been “pastoring” all my life. My husband has been calling me a pastor for a long time, so did my family, friends, acquaintances, random strangers’ kids and them. The act of being a pastor meant that I actually loved and felt honoured to share messages from God with kids every morning and evening, just like the bible says we ALL should do. “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

More about my Camp messages:

There are literally thousands of lessons, themes and topics for kids to learn, but I needed to know which ones would be good for Grande Prairie Church of Christ kids and for this year’s summer campers.  In June, I prayed and asked God to show me the passages I could use to try an exegetical approach for kids. The passage given to me was 1 Peter 2:1-10. I got the whole 10 verses! As I was discussing this passage with Alan, he mentioned that his doctorate dissertation was based on this passage.  God was teaching me about our church’s theology through this camp by guiding me to preach on this passage- wow!  It was firstly for me to study in depth, then for the kids. God loves that our church is about the priesthood of all believers because Jesus Himself revealed this mission to us.  Prior to camp, I never knew the passage chosen would be so fruitful for children’s ministry as much as it has been for adult ministry at our church. God is amazing.

I noticed that there were many unchurched kids at camp and I was deeply touched by their presence.  It was as if God hand-delivered them to us!  I felt God’s heart and love toward these kids and it brought to my knees many times.  The love of God, seeing Jesus in these kids made me operate and relate to them with holy fear and trembling.  The attitude that I have towards God is what I felt towards kids at camp.

The Kids’ Camp theme was “Warriors of Christ” and for Rookie Camp the theme was “Child of God.” I would like to share some tidbits from the camp messages. We first talked about how people’s words spoken to us define us. That is, if we believe it.  We then explored how lies can define us if we let them, too. I shared my childhood stories and also a biblical story of a blind boy (John 9). Kids are bombarded with two opposing messages spoken to them, sadly, even by their loved ones. I shared with them how my childhood was just like that, even though I lived far away on the opposite side of the earth.  We asked God to reveal the lies that were spoken to us and said sorry for believing in them.  I taught them about the source of lies, Satan (John 8:44-47) and how God’s Word is Truth, because He has no lies in him.  We also learned how Jesus said that He is the way and the truth and the life!  Whatever Jesus said is from His father and who he was and what he did is the truth. I cross-referenced verses about the Spirit of truth (John 16:12-15) and how to discern what truth looks like and feels like.  Several kids and teenage leaders asked me, “can you have both lies and truth living in you?” or “what happens if you have truths AND lies?” Kids were filling in the gaps by asking questions!  So, I asked God what I needed to say in reply.  He showed me how darkness cannot exist when you switch on the light as God’s word is light (John 1:5) (1 Peter 2:9).  We were able to communicate these truths through a newly composed theme song, “Warriors of Christ”, two skits and many other object lessons (including a 3D tabernacle model, breaking bottles filled with lies with “Jesus rocks”, a fire ceremony, temple building blocks, and a “pokey heart”).

Overall, teaching at two camps left me longing to get deeper and spread the mind of Christ to all of the kids; digging out the lies and shedding God’s light on their minds to destroy lies with the truth. One of the most important pieces of wisdom in all of this is that we need to give continual support and training to children and young leaders so that they are equipped to deal with the lies and fight them with the word of God. To fight the lies of the enemy, we taught them the Word of God can be spoken, heard, taught, memorized, whispered, written, sung, and read. At Rookie Camp alone (campers ages 5-8) nine kids responded to our altar call and accepted Jesus as their Truth, Rock and Salvation.  They with many others committed themselves to become children of God and confessed their sin of accepting lies in their hearts.  They asked Jesus to destroy the lies and put into them the Truth of Who God is and who they are made to be– children of God.  It was a real life-changing moment for many.  During the show and tell, some kids and leaders shared how the chapel messages had impacted them.  Some shared drawings, testimonies, new stories, and others opened up their hearts to learning more.

I am very excited to announce that through our Children’s Ministry, the relationships made at camp will be continuing at church.  This fall, we are launching “Warriors Academy”, a mid-week program specifically planned for kids in grades 4,5,6 kids who were/will be attending our camp.  This program will be an extension of the Pineridge Camp chapel times and will give every upper elementary kid the spiritual tools and training they need for living in God’s Truth in regular life.  We will be promoting personal spiritual growth and sharing biblical truths with the other people we encounter every day.  The Kingdom of God needs children who are warriors for Truth, who fight lies with the Armour of God.  I covet your prayers and support in this ministry. When you build into these kids today, you are building into God’s future for Grande Prairie and around the world. GP Church of Christ will move Canada to produce many warriors of Christ for the world.  This is how we do our Great Commission–from Grande Prairie Church of Christ, to Alberta, to Canada, to the ends of the earth!