It's an old, overused story, but I think the reason it's stuck around for such a long time is that it resonates inside our hearts as a fundamental truth. We can't save everyone, but we can make a difference in the lives of the people in our circles. Those of us who have had the honor of escorting a starfish or two back to the deep can testify to that- and even more so, those of us who have been a starfish can shout a hearty, AMEN!
Too often, we look at a shore littered with lives that seem hopeless and we think that nothing can be done. "This world is going to hell in a handbasket!" (not really sure what the implication is there- is going to hell in a handbasket faster, rougher, fancier?) "Kids these days!" "We are losing the battle"
It's true- as we discussed in church this week- there is always a possibility that an entire generation can be lost. (It's happened before- check out Judges 2:10) Between our generations' apathy/helicoptering, busyness/laziness, selfishness/overindulgences, permissiveness/legalism, and our own sinful natures, we are faced with statistics which are horribly frightening- most kids will walk away from church and from faith as soon as they leave our homes.
Part of me wants to formulate a plan. I want to move in and try to figure out how to affect the most change possible. But when I think about how much time and energy and money I have at the end of the week, I get stalled out of all those big plans because frankly... I feel like I don't have enough left over for one.more.thing.
So yesterday, as Pastor Matt was talking about how it's our calling to reach the next generation (Isaiah 38:19), how God nearly always uses people to reach people, how there is hope for the next generation as long as this one takes the time to tell them about His goodness (Psalm 100:5, 145:4, 78:4), and as he was encouraging us to pray about which move to make- I did just that. I prayed.
God? What's my role here? How can I help? How do we save all these kids?
And that's when God put in my head the picture of that starfish story. I pictured talking to my kids, one at a time, about things that really matter. I recalled the times I've been super real with them and prayed with them and for them. I heard myself saying many times over the years, "I get that you want to sleep in, but this family goes to church every week. Get up and get dressed anyway." I realized that building the relationships and habits with the children who are right in my home is a wonderful place to start- and a step that can't be skipped. It is a constant priority for me to keep picking my little starfishies back up and directing them back to the sea. This isn't about extra time- it's about using the time I already have been given.
I thought about the kids that I call "bonus kids." I imagined the opportunities I have had when my kids' friends come over for a meal or a weekend, and then when we get to bring them to church with us. I think about the times I've sat with crying teenagers and prayed for them, and pointed them to Jesus. One at a time, I've had the honor of placing these little starfish back in the water at least for a while. This isn't about extra energy, it's about caring about the people placed right in front of me.
Then, I noticed a common thread-bringing the kids to church. It's really the equivalent of putting the starfish from the parable back into the ocean- where they can get what they need.
It was about that time that I heard our pastor talking about the uniqueness of the opportunities we have within a church to really minister to kids. In the public forum, we have to be careful- don't want to offend, don't want to push, don't know how cautious we have to be. In church, however, we are allowed to be "unapologetically clear"- it is expected that we will say some of the harder, true-er, more straightforward-y truths from the Bible. We don't have to mince words or be "politically correct."
This sunk deep into my heart. It reminded me why it's important to make sure my children come to church even when they push back. It reminded me why it's important to bring "extra" kids to church whenever they are willing. It reminded me that I need to be sure that I am supporting the children's/youth ministers at our church.
this is how we make a difference to the one, and then the next, and then the next.
this is how we make sure that the entire generation isn't lost...
Here's my challenge to you guys today- if you have been thinking about serving in some capacity with kids in your church but you keep coming up with excuses why you can't- let today be your last day to do that. Go! Sign up! Do it! Be the people who are standing in the ocean welcoming the starfish!
If you are thinking that helping in children's or youth ministry will exacerbate your allergy to kids- then, do something else! Support those who are serving by praying for them, encouraging them, seeing if you can bring something in that they need- pouring into the one can absolutely make a difference to many, many others. Then, find somewhere else you can serve so that those volunteers don't have to come out of the classroom from teaching, then pass the plate, run the sound board, and stack the chairs after. Be a part of the family who cares for its people.
As for me? I think I know what God told me to do next. I'm fixin' to make a bold move. I'll fill you all in on how it turns out :)
keep your eye out for starfish...
We will not hide these truths from our children;
We will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about His power and His mighty wonders.PSALM 78:4 NLT