“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..”
These are not just the words found on the Statue of Liberty. They are also the unspoken mission statement of every children’s ministry every Sunday morning. I think it is comedy gold to watch families drop their kids off for Sunday School. Some kids look like they have been through a car wash of hair products and perfect clothing, while others look like they just woke from a month-long hibernation in Pillowland. I am so thankful for the staff and volunteers who lovingly receive both of those types of kids each week.
Years ago, when our kids were small, we had the world’s best children’s pastor. She is like Mary Poppins without the carpetbag (although she always had a bag of crafts and snacks at hand!). This woman was cheerful, helpful, loving, and imaginative. She would call each child by name, send them postcards in the mail (they LOVE getting mail), and always knew how to make each kid feel special. Although she no longer serves at the church we do, she continues to pour into kids at a church in Alabama. She creates environments at church where kids can explore the amazing stories of the Bible with hands-on activities, a safe place to ask questions, service opportunities, and FUN.
I am also blessed to say that she is our friend. When we lived in the same state, we would often have her over for dinner, and she would reciprocate (which was a treat for us because she is an amazing cook!). She has a love for Jesus that is infectious and the way she loves kids shows it.
But the thing that struck me was the way that she creatively engaged my kids. She listened to their interests, asked lots of questions, truly cared about the answers, and then referred to them later. She also encouraged them to take responsibility for their spiritual growth. Yes, even at young ages, she would spur them to start journaling, to pray boldly, to serve regularly, to engage with God’s Word daily, and to love others deeply.
The “Penny walk” engagement
She would take them on “penny walks” through our neighborhood. She would bring a penny with her and every time she and the kids came to a place in the journey where there was the option to turn left or right, they would take turns flipping the coin. If the penny landed on the Lincoln side, they would turn right. If it landed on the Memorial side, they would turn left. It made for a nice, long walk and it gave the kids the opportunity to help develop the journey’s path.
I think such an exercise was good practice for our kids. They were safe; they had at least one adult supervising. The children were healthy; the walk allowed their bodies to get outside in the sunshine. They played a part in the journey; they got to flip the coin to determine the direction and that gave them leadership practice, even at very young ages. Sometimes, a flip of the coin lengthened the journey or got them a little lost, but she always walked beside them.
Our daughter takes penny walks with the kids she babysits. It has been a sweet legacy that she has continued, but mostly, one from which she has benefitted. It is a practice she has continued because of the example set before her, all those years ago.
Practising what you witness
Paul, in his letters to the church in Philippi encourages kids and adults alike to practice the things they have witnessed in his life “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9 ESV)
This causes me to pause and ask myself the following questions:
- Is my life’s example one worth following?
- Are there areas of my life I don’t wish for others to perpetuate in their lives?
- Am I creating a legacy of faith?
- What Godly habits am I “practicing”?
- Am I a scholar of the Word of God as well as a practitioner of Its truth?
- Do I celebrate the presence of God and the peace He offers with my life?
Living a life for Jesus and setting an example for my kids is far more complicated than a penny walk, but some of the tenants are the same. Walking alongside others is the best way to speak into their lives. There is a time for leading, but there is also a time for allowing others to make choices, have consequences (good and bad), and learn from those choices. Watching my kids make choices, especially the mistakes, has been hard, but it has also been an honor to watch them “practice” and remind them that God is always with them.
And that just makes good “cents”.
Amberly Neese is a popular speaker/teacher, comedian, author, and all-around encourager dedicated to helping you become the joyful person you were created to be.
She helps people like you experience the freedom found in meaningful relationships with God and others. Her bible study, “The Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive” was released in May 2020 by Abingdon Press.
She and her husband have two teenagers and live in Prescott, Arizona, where they enjoy the great outdoors, the Food Network, and all things Star Wars.
Author of “the Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive” (Abingdon Press, 2020)
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