Some of you may know that I was a children's minister for six years and a children's volunteer for at least six years before that. (I'm still a children's volunteer, if you want to get technical.) Parent Road Ministries grew out of my conversations and interactions with children and families in those capacities. Did you know that my call to the ministry (which includes my work with Parent Road Ministries) began with an impossible situation?
Who Will Serve?
My senior year in high school, the lady who had organized Vacation Bible School (VBS) for years decided it was time for someone else to take over. The announcement was made at the beginning of the church service, inviting people to sign up as teachers or possible directors. I have no idea what happened during that service because I was arguing with God. I knew I would sign up for another year of teaching VBS, but I had a nagging feeling that I should sign up to be a director as well. "That's crazy!" I answered back in my head. "I'm just 17. There's NO WAY they would take me as a director. Just forget it!" Well, I couldn't forget it and the thought wouldn't go away. Finally, I made a deal. "Fine! I'll sign up to be a teacher and a director. They won't take me as a director and I'll just teach like I always do." A word of advice: Don't make deals with God. He may surprise you. I was definitely surprised (or rather, shocked) to find out that I had ended up on a team of three directors for that year's VBS. There was a mother of young kids, a grandmother of young kids, and me. "Ok..." I thought. "Now what?"
On the Team
The three of us actually made a great team. We revamped the entire VBS and somehow did everything that needed to be done to equip our teachers and kids for a great week. I was elected by my co-directors to teach the closing each day with all the kids, preschool through 5th grade. I enjoyed the challenge and we had a blast! Then it came time to do the closing program, Sunday morning, in front of the entire church. (Not a time slot I'd recommend for a VBS closing program, by the way.) My co-directors and I agreed that music would be part of this program, but we also wanted the parents and church to know what the kids had learned that week. When I asked the other ladies who would lead that part of the program, they both looked me dead in the eye and said, "You, of course." Yikes! I've never been fond of being the center of attention and this was jumping head first into just that. (Breathe. Remember to breathe.)
The Big Quandary
Here I ran into a question I could not answer. The only idea I had for a quick way to show what the kids had learned was to modify the closing program from that Thursday. It reviewed each day's main point in a pep rally fashion, complete with cheerleaders and pompoms. What's the big deal, you ask? You see, I attended a very conservative church. I'm not just talking about wearing suits and dresses (though that applied to us as well). There was a liturgy we followed each week. We stood on cue, sat on cue, recited our lines on cue, and followed pretty much the same formula week after week. Now picture a pep rally in the middle of that kind of service. See my unanswerable question? I knew the pep rally wouldn't work at our church, but I didn't know what else to do. I decided to ask the pastor for advice. I made an appointment and told him the situation. My pastor didn't hesitate. "If anyone can pull it off, you can. Just get the secretary what you want printed in the bulletin and we'll do it." WHAT?!?! That wasn't what he was supposed to say! Plus, now I was committed! What had I done?!?
Bite the Bullet
I took a deep breath and went home to write the pep rally lines for the last day. I recruited two of my high school friends who dubiously agreed to be the cheerleaders for the adults for their sections. I got pom poms ready, sought encouragement from my family, prayed hard, and gritted my teeth. The day finally came. I sat on the front row with my mom (who led the music). The kids were called up and did their music portion beautifully while I shook in my seat and asked God to either spare me from the inevitable or work a miracle. I was sure I'd never be able to stand up, let alone do what I had committed myself to do. The kids finished sharing their songs and it was my turn. I had worn the same big straw hat all week which tied into our theme. That morning, I'd purposely chosen a Sunday-appropriate dress to match, but I'd not yet put on the had. When it was time for me to do my part, I picked up my had and put it on my head. Then the strangest thing happened when I put that hat on my head. My nerves instantly calmed and I felt a total sense of peace. I turned on my microphone, stood up easily, and stepped out in front of the children and the congregation. Even now I am amazed at the way the Holy Spirit just took over.
A Pep Rally in a Formal Church
We rehearsed the lines before doing the actual pep rally. I asked the children to go first, demonstrating how to get excited about the wonderful biblical truths we were sharing. It took a little teasing to get the kids to loosen up and relax, but when they did, they rocked it! Then it was the adults' turn. They recited them in the same way they read other liturgy text printed in the bulletin--very somberly. I asked the kids (with the microphone to my mouth) if the adults sounded excited. They sheepishly said, "no." Then I asked the adults to really think about what they were saying. Jesus is risen from the dead! That doesn't happen every day. It's the greatest miracle because Jesus' death and resurrection are the means through which we are saved. That is good news! When we tried it again, the adults were much more enthusiastic. After the rehearsal and coaching, the pep rally proceeded, complete with cheerleaders and pom poms. Together we celebrated God's promises and what Jesus did for us on the cross. (For more about why this is so important, see this video.)
As soon as the pep rally was over, I walked down the center isle and out into the narthex (lobby). I turned off my microphone, took off my hat, and collapsed shaking into a chair. My mother followed me out. "Are you ok?" she asked. I just shook my head, eyes wide with the fear and knowledge of what had just happened. My friends (the high school cheerleaders for our pep rally) came out as well with looks of awe on their faces. I just kept shaking in my chair. Then the commanding voice of God seemed to speak in my head. "This is what I want you to do." "What?" I shot back. "This is what I want you to do. You had to rely on Me to do this. This is what I want you to do." It was too much. I just shook all the harder. By the time people started filing out of church, I was still shaking, but at least I was on my feet and braced for the fallout. I couldn't believe how many people said it went well and they really enjoyed it. I was amazed at the many ways God used me and this crazy idea. That afternoon I came down with mono. No joke. God's strength had carried me though in more ways than one. I decided if He could do that, I could trust Him to give me what I needed for whatever He asked me to do. That fall, just before I started college, I told God I would do whatever He asked me to do and go wherever He wanted me to go. A word of advice: Don't pray that prayer unless you really mean it. God has sure stretched me as a result, but I wouldn't trade our adventures for anything. (Read more of Nancy Ruth's story here.) Since that day, God has worked on my fear of public speaking. We've also worked a lot on trusting Him. I'm still not perfect and it seems to me that I fall a lot, but I just try to do what God asks me to do. He's proven He will give me all I need to do it (including courage and the words to say).
"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-22 (NIV)
Do you trust God enough to take the leap of faith and do what He's asked you to do? Why or why not?
- Learn more about Nancy here.
- Here are some books and resources by Nancy which include family devotionals and small-group guides.
- Click here to read some of Nancy's blogs.