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Heart Matters: I Know Your Name

I Know Your Name

We were ready for the kids; our ministry team had been busy. We'd stuffed every mailbox in the nearby apartment complex with a flier advertising our summer kids' worship program. We'd rehearsed our skits and fashioned decorations to perfectly fit our theme. As we set up for our service, the wind whipped our canopies and the sound system made an annoying buzz. It didn't matter, though, because standing in the park that first Sunday morning, our children's ministry team anticipated a summer we'd never forget.

The night before, my eyes danced with visions of swarming kids who'd flock to the park Sunday morning to hear about Jesus. Our team would share God's Good News with them. We'd have amazing reports for our church.

As we made it through setup, church parents arrived. They mingled excitedly as I greeted familiar faces. I looked anxiously at the apartments. No one came from that direction.

Then just before the first song started, a chubby, awkward boy sauntered onto the grass, raised his hand, and to no one in particular, yelled at the top of his lungs, "Do you want to know what my name is? My name is Stephen!"

With a laugh, I greeted Stephen, who looked about 10, and he joined the other kids.

Our church kids all knew the songs, the actions, the memory verse, and the Bible story. They knew how to listen when the leader spoke and when it was okay to wiggle and talk.

But not Stephen. Stephen spoke out of turn, knocked over kids while attempting the actions, and just couldn't sit still. He was a handful -- but we couldn't have been happier to see him.

The summer flew by. It wasn't long before we could see telltale signs of another Canadian autumn coming. Over the summer I'd seen God's hand at work. The rain had always waited until closing prayer. The sound system stopped buzzing. And kids did eventually filter over from the apartments. But not a flood; only a trickle.

Our team looked forward to September when we wouldn't have to cart all our supplies to a park and the kids would instead come to us. In the midst of planning for our return to church, there was an important detail no one wanted to overlook: Who would transport Stephen?

Stephen had become a fixture, faithfully showing up every Sunday. We all knew without a doubt that it was he -- not a swarm of excited kids -- who was the reason we'd come to the park that summer. Stephen wanted to know someone knew his name and loved him, and we were there to tell him that we did.

It's easy to get lost in the details of ministry and forget the real definition of success. So this year before my pen touched my planner, I started by redefining success in ministry.

Stephen taught me that faithfulness is the only way to be successful in God's eyes. Long ago God required that I shed all appearances of ego, forgo the praises of man, and be found faithful to his calling in my life. I promised God that when the resources were tight and helpers few, I'd still be faithful. I'd leave the numbers to God. If God brought a flood of kids, I'd leave my pride at home and humbly tell of his love. If God brought one child, I'd share his message as if meant just for that child...because it is. I promised I'd remember that the essence of children's ministry is letting every Stephen know without a doubt that someone, indeed, wants to know his name.

Cheryl Stanley is a children's ministry director in Listowel, Ontario, Canada.

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