Faith Stretch Marks

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Marks of Failure

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Thirty years of ministry to youth and children have blessed me
with lots of moments outside my comfort zone. One uncomfortable
stretch mark that hasn’t come easily–but that’s always resulted in
making me better–is flat-out failure. It’s happened to you too,
hasn’t it? You tried something new but it just didn’t measure up to
your standards or vision. If you think epic failure isn’t good for
a ministry, then you’re not looking at it right. Even the people
around Jesus blew it, but most grew from their mistakes. Peter’s a
prime example. He failed miserably in the early stages of his
ministry, had his literal “come-to-Jesus” moment, and got back on
the right road. Look how that turned out. He was the spiritual
father of the baby Jerusalem church. I’m thinking he had some heart
stretch marks from that whole saga.

Marks of Goodbyes

Let’s talk about one more painful stretch mark on the children’s
minister’s heart: when people leave. Maybe a parent doesn’t like
what your ministry is doing or not doing, or the new curriculum, or
the rooms–whatever the myriad of reasons people have, I’ve heard
them. I don’t know about you, but it hurts my heart when someone
leaves a ministry I’m involved in. I take it a little personally.
It grieves me to think I may’ve done something wrong, offended them
somehow, misguided their child, or whatever other disservice I can
imagine.

But let me share my comfort with you: Even those rough times and
farewells have made me better in my ministry ability. Romans 8:28 promises, “God causes everything
to work together for the good of those who love God and are called
according to his purpose for them.” So when I’ve made mistakes, I
admit them and commit to becoming better in ministry because of the
lessons I’ve learned. On the flip side, my faith in God shows me
when not to take on the weight of something that’s someone else’s
issue. I know that God can do a good work within that person just
like he does with me.

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Marks of Love

So what’s the cost of impacting a generation to love Jesus?
Immeasurable amounts of time, multiple meetings, people who just
don’t get it and don’t volunteer for it, late pick-ups, early
drop-offs, 8,468 personally purchased Crayola washable markers,
hurt feelings, heartaches, maybe even a lost friend or a change in
churches.

But the payoff for those marks you bear? Kids who know and love
Jesus, teenagers who move up knowing they’re loved at this place we
call “church,” families who are blessed because you poured yourself
into their child, churches that grow because moms and dads saw you
faithfully at the door of your ministry each week.

As the mother of seven grown children, I want to thank you from
the bottom of my heart for the impact you’ve had on my children and
grandchildren. Maybe you don’t know which kids were mine, but you
will one day. Now that’s a beautiful faith stretch mark! cm

Stephanie Caro has been involved in children’s, youth, and
adult ministry since…a long time. She’s the author of
Thriving
Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches (Group/Simply Youth
Ministry). She’s also a contributing author to several ministry
resources.

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