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Heart Matters: Mrs. Bateman's Pressure Cooker

Some time ago, Reverend and Mrs. Bateman invited my wife and me over for lunch. When we arrived, set before us was a huge meal and more than a dozen other people from our church for a little, "light" lunch. That's the way the Batemans did everything. "Whole hog" wasn't an impolite description when you were around this couple. Whether it was lunch for a few friends or a church dinner for a few hundred, the Batemans were always up to their knees in potato peelings. And did I mention that they were both 89 years old when we had lunch?

That day was kind of a celebration for Mrs. Bateman. She'd just finished her canning for the year. When we commented on the enormity of the task, she said something that had me laughing then, but has since had me thinking. At 89, Mrs. Bateman said she did a double batch of everything because it was probably her last year for canning. Why? Because, in her words, "You don't want to put a 90-year-old woman in the same room with a pressure cooker!"

We moved before the next summer's canning season, but my guess is that Mrs. Bateman did a double batch the next year as well because, after all, you don't want to put a 91-year-old woman in the same room with a pressure cooker.

The Batemans had been living in pressure cooker situations their entire lives -- and thriving in them. They never waited for a better time to do anything. Now was always the right time. They looked at ministry the same way. Things needed to be done; age had nothing to do with it. And when they saw a need, they did literally anything -- from changing a diaper to laying bricks to "putting things by" for those in need. The pressure cooker was never the reason to slow down, back down, or quit. It was always the reason to get it done now.

When I think of the Batemans, I'm encouraged...and a little ashamed. Encouraged because, while I sometimes feel like I'm in a pressure cooker in children's ministry, I realize that's where things happen. Ashamed because at 40 years younger than the Batemans, I often allow the pressure cooker experiences to give me an excuse to slow down rather than press on in children's ministry.

But the pressure cooker of children's ministry is where things are happening. That's the place to be -- not watching from the sidelines. That's why we do it, after all: There's a precious harvest to be taken, a pressing need for hands to do this important work.

I've passed by many apple trees full of fruit rotting on the branches because there was no one to harvest it. I've seen tomato plants loaded with tomatoes, ruined from the first hard freeze because there was no one to pick them. Jesus says, "But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!" (John 4:35-36)

Your dedication to your ministry children is really an extension of God's hands, gathering his precious crop. Sure, children's ministry may sometimes feel like a pressure cooker, but just like the Batemans, God is in the room with you, right there where the pressure cooker is. So tighten your apron strings, and let's join him there.

Tim Miller is a children's pastor in Hamburg, New York.

What's on Your Heart?

Send your 500-word story to "Heart Matters," Children's Ministry Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481. If we publish your article, we'll pay you $125.

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