Lesson #4: Sometimes, you have to fix other people’s mistakes
The people who lived in this house before us were smokers. They were kind enough to replace all the carpeting and drapery before they left, so we didn’t get too much residual smell, but the walls were a different story. There were little bits of tar buildup and stains everywhere. You didn’t notice it too bad while the walls were still paneling, but slap a coat of White Chocolate on, and those tar drippings suddenly became quite an eye sore.
Now, this was not my fault. I didn’t smoke, and I washed the walls regularly, but still here the gross stuff was, ruining my fresh paint job. I’ve already mentioned I chose to go the “no primer” route (mistake!), but here I was, faced with a decision. Do I keep putting layer upon layer of paint on the walls, hoping it will cover up the tar? Or do I go BACK to the hardware store, buy some primer, and apply it over the newly white walls? I chose primer. A small can.
Sometimes when we get into Children’s Ministry, we don’t notice the “stains on the walls” from those before us. We might start into some wonderful project or program only to have the dirt from the past come seeping through our fresh idea. Some old baggage. Some burnt out volunteers. Some hurt kids. Some hurt parents. We get bitter. “Why do I have to deal with this?” We’re tempted to brush it off as “not my problem” and continuing applying our paint. We’ve got work to do — a fresh vision! However, our new paint program doesn’t cover up the old stuff. It might even make it stand out worse. We might try a new approach. However, it’s all in vain. Unless we address the old stuff, we’re going to waste a lot of time trying to cover up problems of the past.
Lesson #5: Paint gets everywhere
You know how it is when you paint. You try your best to contain the mess. You put down tarps, or old sheets. You wear your paint clothes. I did all that. I put on painters tape. I even put the baby gates up to avoid any messes the little ones or the cats might decide to create. However, despite all these things, I have been finding little paint patches throughout my house. On the trash can lid. On the faucet. On the baby’s crib (what?). In the baby’s hair (oops). Etc. Etc. Etc.
Now, here’s a positive spin on my painty mess. Children’s Ministry gets around. Sometimes I feel like our church is not making a difference. We get the same kids week after week. Our VBS program didn’t draw any new faces, our outreach program tanked… you know the feeling. Then you hear that someone at your friend’s workplace said “Oh, I hear that church has a great children’s program.” You begin to see families that haven’t been around for ages trickle back in through the door, and stick around. You see kids who’ve been through the ministry returning from college as grounded young adults, alive for Christ. And you realize.. it’s spreading. The ministry is working. It might not be where you expect it to show up. It might have even spread by accident, but the love of Christ is getting around. So keep it up.
I’ll admit it. I’m not a good painter. I really don’t know why my husband continues to allow me to splotch up our house the way I do. He says he doesn’t want to “squelch my creative spirit”. That’s Cute.
The point is, I try my best and I keep getting better. The same is true in ministry. It doesn’t always work out perfect. Sometimes the color is wrong, or we’ve got to clean some old stuff up, but in the end, Christ is glorified, and we’ve got a beautiful experience to reflect on. So keep it up.