About 5:30 last night I slowly walked onto my porch and sank down into a chair. It had been a long afternoon and my legs were killing me, so I decided to fix some french-fries for dinner (my favorite comfort food). About thirty-minutes later as I watched sports a neighborhood boy walked onto the porch just at the moment my fries were ready (I would accuse him for coming at that moment on purpose, but have no idea how he could know they were ready). As we sat and talked for a while part of me wanted to keep the fries a secret, but decided to share them anyway. As I was putting the fries on the plate a DIFFERENT VOICE called my name and the temptation to hide my fries was even greater!
I brought the plate outside and instructed them to take five fries each. This began a game I like to call “get Mr. John to chase you around the porch and steal fries while his back is turned.” This eventually turned into another crowd favorite “lashing hat” which involved my chasing the kids and hitting them with a kangaroo leather hat (not too hard) as they laughed hysterically. Somewhere during this a THIRD child showed up and as you can imagine they consumed my comfort food in about five minutes (I did get to eat a few of them.)
Things like sharing a meal and playing “lashing hat” are actually a vital part to ministry with children because it develops relationships, and are teaching moments. Many deep conversations have occurred over pancakes, french-fries, and the occasional vegetable. However it’s extremely easy to get so wrapped up in playing games that the Gospel isn’t shared.
The Lord convicted my heart last night as I thought about how much time had been spent on those relationship development ministries, and then comparing that with how many moments the Gospel was shared in a direct way. I do my best to share the Gospel during those relationship development moments, but as you can imagine the kids only pay attention to the fun stuff. And if kids only remember things like tablet time, juice, candy, and a lashing hat instead of the Gospel when my name’s mentioned there is a problem.
So as much as it hurts me I have to hang up the lashing hat
In other words chasing kids around the porch, lashing them, and sharing meals will no longer be a big part of ministry (only for special occasions), and to be honest Bible stories will probably come to an end as well (they know them all anyways). In it’s place will be teaching about the Gospel, and how it affects their lives.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not going to become Ebeneezer Scrooge and start telling punk kids to “get off my lawn.” I’m sure they will always have fun with Mr John no matter what I do…yet its my responsibility as a Missionary to give them a better reason to come to my house than stealing french-fries.