It had been a tough week. I had more kids than usual at my home daycare, my own kids were sick, and my husband injured his back the night I was supposed to go practice the lesson at church. Oh yeah, and I had a blister on my heel. On top of all that, I got the ridiculous idea that I should cut back on my coffee consumption. I was tired, flustered, and worn out in more than one way. My prep work for Wednesday night’s Large Group session suffered. I knew I could buckle down and get it done. I knew I should cram a little more practice in, but instead, I thought, “Oh well. One night won’t hurt. We’ve had bad nights before, and we’ll have them again. It’s no big deal.”
I can’t believe I thought that. What is even more shameful is that I followed through on the thought.
I justified, “It’s the crucifixion story. Seriously, how many times have I told this? I don’t need to practice.”
I reasoned, “We’ve done almost all these songs before, and one is a video. I can wing it!”
I didn’t write down what props I needed to get out. I didn’t rehearse. I basically gave up and squandered an entire week.
Oh yeah, and one of my small group leaders got stuck in traffic on the way back from a business trip and couldn’t make it.
I decided to not scramble to find a small group sub. I’ll just take the group– how hard could it be, right?
I’m sure you can guess the ending of the story.
I gathered the kids up, sent them off to their small groups, and told the Sharks they’d be with me for the night. The opening activity was going great (see, I tricked you! You thought things were going to crash and burn!). The kids were engaged, they were picking up on the intro to the lesson, they even prayed for one another (which is impressive for this group of 5 year olds).
Then two new families walked in. Late. One of elders had brought them to the gym and I heard him saying, “Um, I don’t really know how they get divided up from here.” I tried shouting directions from across the gym while maintaining the momentum I had with the Sharks. It didn’t work.
Thankfully, I had a Jr. Helper nearby and he jumped in and did a splendid job with the Sharks. I greeted the new families, got them a registration form and tried to rapidly explain how the night worked. I was torn between making them feel at ease and getting back to my group, and it showed. I’m sure I was not sending the “You Are Welcome and Valued” message. It was more like a “Gosh, you really interrupted my program” message.
I invited them to watch our Large Group lesson and then join a small group if they felt comfortable. Of course, the parents wanted to stick around for the first night. Of course, this made me extra nervous.
As the kids gathered for Large Group, suddenly I realized I hadn’t assigned anyone for the parts of John and Peter (the disciples). Since this needed a little planning, I couldn’t just call some kids up. As we ran the first song, I was lost in thought about how to pull this lesson together correctly. I messed up the motions, I missed lyrics. I’m sure I looked like a general mess. I forgot what order my slides were in. I stumbled over my words. I’m sure I sounded like a general mess.
I plodded on.
I managed to secure a John and Peter during a drink break and proceeded with the lesson. Since I hadn’t rehearsed, my timing was all off (I’m not a good fly-by-the-seat of your pants kind of girl). I got more nervous. I couldn’t give the gospel presentation. I couldn’t find my rhythm. I cut the lesson short. I sent the kids to hang out with their small group leaders.
Then, I remembered I WAS a small group leader.
I gathered the regular kids and two new guests, one of which had a totally unknown name to me. I could not remember, even though I had already asked three times. I decided to call him “Sir” for the rest of the night.
I did the only activity I had planned, which went………….okay. Then I flagged down the nearest grown-up to ask him what time it was. I still had 15 minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES! I glanced at the new moms and smiled nervously.
This is not exactly what I would call a good first impression.
I had a deck of animal cards I had used for the opening activity, so we ended up playing a very odd game of Go Fish, considering there were 20 cards and 8 kids.
Eventually, the night ended.
As I drove home, I earnestly repented to the Lord. Each night with these kids is a gift. Tonight was an especially important night because it was all about the hope of eternal life. And I blew it. Big time. The Lord brought new guests our way and I was too busy trying to fix my ill-planned lesson that I couldn’t give them the attention they deserved.
So, apparently, “just this one time” will hurt. One week of not planning will matter. One week of slacking off will make a serious difference. Perhaps someone in that crowd really needed to hear the night’s message, in an effective way — not in some thrown together half-baked way.
Don’t buy the lie that one night doesn’t matter. It does matter. It all matters. You matter as an ambassador of Christ and these kids matter. Now, go start practicing for next week! I know that’s what I’ll be doing!
Feel free to leave me a comment if you’ve had a similar experience!