The following post is long and cathartic for me, but likely boring to you.
In my previous life, before becoming the wife of a Children’s Pastor, I spent a lot of time center stage. As a teenager I was very involved in choir and drama… in college I helped lead praise and worship at our church and Campus Christian Fellowship…I’ve served in churches as the leader of drama teams and vocal teams…basically I felt right at home in the spotlight.
When Jonathan first started working as a Children’s Pastor, we knew we wanted to work together as a team. I dove in head first and started teaching preschool classes, organizing Vacation Bible School, learning about crafts (I had touched a glue stick less than 5 times before the age of 25), and generally being the all-around go to gal for anything dealing with preschoolers. That left no time for my previous pursuits on stage. WOW. I have learned so many hard and humbling lessons about myself.
I never realized how much I depended upon the “praises of men” until I stopped holding a microphone and started holding glitter and glue.
Ask anyone on a praise and worship team; after singing on stage, it’s not uncommon to hear “Oh, that song was such a blessing!” or “Service was so great today. Praise and worship was so moving!” or even just a simple “Thank you so much. Great job today.”
But when you work for 2 hours on a Sunday morning with 25 four year olds, the praises don’t flow quite so freely. I’m not really angry or upset about this fact; I have never in my life gushed to a children’s worker, “Oh Wow! What a fabulous job you did this morning! You are so talented! Praise God for your gift!” People don’t “experience” children’s ministry in the same way that the ministry of praise and worship is experienced. I get it.
However…after working with kids for a short time, I was shocked at my own need to be recognized for the job I was doing! After working so hard all week preparing a lesson, arriving at church early to set up my classroom, teaching a rowdy group of preschoolers, I began to get a little upset when there were days I didn’t get so much as a “thank you” from anyone. My pride was revealed. “How can they just pick up their kid from my class without so much as a thank you? How can people leave me here with their child for half an hour after service while they chat with their friends? How can these parents never volunteer to help me when they can see that I’m dealing with 30 kids all by myself?”
The extent of my bitterness was revealed when I was asked to sing a special during a Sunday morning service. After I sang, people were lovingly complimentary. People were graciously saying things like “I was so blessed by that song; you are really talented.” I accepted their praises with a smile, but inside I was screaming, “WHAT?!? I teach your kids every week for hours upon hours, and I’ve never gotten so much as a smile from you! All I did was sing a simple little song for three minutes — working week after week with your kid is immeasurably harder!”
Then, slowly and ever so gently, the Holy Spirit started to reveal my heart to me. On more than one occasion I heard him ask “Why are you teaching this class? Is it for your glory, or for Mine?”
I realized that if I were truly teaching out of love for Jesus, because I desired to teach kids about living for His glory, then I could go my whole life without so much as a “Thank You” and be perfectly content, and even joyful.
Then I begin to wonder why I previously got so much joy out of leading praise and worship. Was it truly just because I loved serving God in that way? Or was it because I loved being recognized for my “gift”? I suppose now I must admit that it was some of both, although I never would have know it if not for my time spent out of the spotlight with preschoolers.
Vacation Bible School is happening at our church right now. There were several roles I could have played. If I had wanted, I probably could have signed up to lead praise and worship time. I decided instead to work in the craft room. God is still teaching me lessons back stage.