Now that my son, Michael, is in the sixth grade he has moved from the Children’s Ministry at church to the Student Ministry. He’s participated in the Children’s program since 1st grade, so he’s become very comfortable with what to expect. He was looking forward to moving up with the ‘big kids’ but nervous at the same time. The new unknown can make anyone feel anxious.
He’s now been to a few Sunday night youth group meetings. The first one he insisted I walk him up. Now he gets out and runs up the second the car stops. I barely have time to tell him to have fun.
Once a month the youth participate in helping out at a local soup kitchen. The adults cook, the youth help prepare the food, set up and serve. Both of my daughters have helped at the soup kitchen, but it wasn’t cool to be seen with mom, so I didn’t get to go. Fortunately, Michael still enjoys my company and help, so he let me go too.
Every Sunday afternoon a different group shows up to prepare, serve and clean up. I think they serve about 200 each Sunday. There’s a lot to get done in a short amount of time, but it always gets done. The meal prepared always depends on what food has been donated that week. It’s pretty awesome to see the adults and youth working side by side to serve.
This particular Sunday, which was Michael’s first experience with the soup kitchen, the Student Director decided to challenge the students. Usually, the students take turns serving during the two hours while people are coming in to eat. This time, when not serving, they were asked to sit at a table, without other friends, and be a servant to those at the table. You could tell they were all nervous and trying to wrap their heads around what being a servant was suppose to look like. Many of them had questions, wanting to know what exactly they were suppose to do.
The greatest among you shall be your servant ~ Matthew 23:11
At first I didn’t realize what they had been challenged to do, because the Youth Director had taken them outside to go over the plan for the afternoon and I was helping in the kitchen. Then as soon as the students came back inside, Michael made a beeline for me and asked if I would sit at a table with him. Of course I said yes, but I hadn’t heard about the challenge yet. I figured it out quickly though, because everyone was talking about it and making a plan of action. It didn’t sound like the adults were a part of this plan, so I checked in with one of the leaders who confirmed this. The adults either worked on cleaning and putting things away or supervised the students while they served.
Michael had a look of panic on his face when he realized I would not be there to help him and he was going to be on his own. I immediately reassured him of his ability to serve those who were coming. I also let him know how confident I was he would do a great job.
It was time for everyone to take his or her place. I went back into the kitchen. I thought it would be best to be out of sight so he wouldn’t be tempted to look to me for guidance. I knew he was capable of meeting this challenge and didn’t want to be a distraction. It was so hard though. I wanted to watch and cheer him on.
A couple of times I did peek out to see how things were going. Once I saw him getting drinks for those at his table and another time he was taking a turn serving those in line for food. Then a little later, I took a break from cleaning in the kitchen and went out to watch the flow of things. This was my first time there, so I wanted to see everyone in action. I did a scan of the room looking for Michael. I found him sitting at a table talking with the other people there. I smiled as my eyes quickly began to tear up. My ‘little man’ had conquered the fear of the unknown and met the challenge. I was so proud of him, and all of the other students there. They were being the hands and feet of Christ, serving those with less than them.
For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ~ Mark 10:45
I was impressed how the Student Director challenged the students. From what I saw, he encouraged and motivated them and then stepped back so they could step outside of their comfort zone. I was also impressed by the students and their willingness to step out and try something new. They trusted someone would be there if they got in a tough situation and then went full speed ahead. They embraced the challenge and once they realized how easy it was to be a servant to someone, I think most of them enjoyed it. I know Michael did.
I think we need to challenge our youth more often. I believe they’re braver, stronger and smarter than we give them credit for. I think they’re capable of more than we expect of them. Why don’t we expect more from our youth? Maybe because then more would be expected of us. We would need, should want, to be the example for them to follow.
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people. ~ Ephesians 6:7
Where has God challenged you? Have you taken the step of faith and accepted the challenge or are you waiting for God to challenge you to do something you’re more comfortable doing?
My prayer for us today ~ Father God, thank you for the youth and their willingness to step out in faith and the example they are to the adults around them. Lord I pray you give us the heart of a child, so we wont be held back by fear to serve others, Amen.