Our twelve year old daughter spent the week on her first mission trip, participating in the 2011 Summer of Service at Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, along with 1,000 other middle schoolers from churches from approximately 20 different states. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I was able to watch the closing service on streaming video. The theme for the week was on making God famous by enhancing His reputation through serving others. Through putting on block parties in underprivileged neighborhoods in the city and engaging in other acts of service, the kids were empowered to take personal responsibility for advancing God’s Kingdom and encouraged to continue to do the same upon returning home.
In contrast to that experience, I was involved in a meeting earlier in the week with a leader who holds a very firm belief that ministry in 21st century America is clearly done best when led and directed by trained professionals with seminary degrees and experience in paid positions on the staffs of local churches. I certainly came away from the meeting with the sense that there was little that I could personally contribute that would be valued by that ministry organization and for Key Ministry to partner effectively with this leader, our efforts will need to be led by one of our team members who also serves as a “professional Christian.” I left the meeting feeling very devalued. I also left with a sense of sadness for the opportunities this organization may miss because of their stance that significant ministry is the work of professionals.
So what happens when kids like my daughter come home this weekend fired up about the opportunity to serve by making God famous and advancing His reputation? Will they be encouraged and supported by the local churches and other ministry organizations? I’d hope they’d be encouraged and resourced and supported…after all, they’re kids. What if their parents are the ones with a cool idea for advancing God’s reputation? How might such an idea be supported in your church?
We regularly hear from parents or family members of kids interested in starting ministries in their churches and in their communities to serve kids with special needs. Sometimes, they call us looking for resources after finding others who want to help them in developing their vision for ministry. All too often, they’ve encountered pushback or resistance from leaders in paid ministry positions.
The church should be different. I can’t find any passage of Scripture in the New Testament that suggests ministry is to be delegated to professionals. I can’t see why God would give gifts and talents and passions to those who make up His church and not give them the opportunity to use those gifts and talents in serving and honoring Him. See Romans 12: 4-8.
One principle we can derive from Scripture that will guide how we work together with other ministries and ministry leaders going forward is this…
Every person or organization with a love for Jesus Christ, a heart for sharing the Good News of His Gospel with kids with disabilities and their families and a demonstrable capacity to do ministry with a standard of excellence that advances God’s reputation in the world gets to “play” with our team.
I don’t want anything I say to be interpreted as a knock against folks who out of their love for the Lord and desire to serve Him spend years obtaining education to prepare them to do ministry more effectively. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone their wages for their faithful ministry. The fact that we at Key Ministry offer all of our services for free doesn’t mean that we’re opposed to consultants making a living doing similar types of ministry to ours. The Bible says they’re worthy of support. At the same time, there’s nowhere I can find in Scripture that says that ministry is an honor reserved only for the credentialed and well-connected.
One of my favorite activities with Key Ministry involves finding leaders from both within and outside the church and helping them to get networked with other folks in children’s ministry and disability ministry. It’s so cool when people feel accepted and are given a voice.
It’s very easy for folks in any line of work to fall into cliques, and folks who work in churches and ministry organizations are certainly no exception. All of us like the feeling of being “insiders.” But at the same time, people who want to get involved with ministry shouldn’t be made to feel like outsiders trying to get a seat at the table with the “popular” kids in a middle school cafeteria.
When we open ourselves to working with folks with different ideas or experiences who may ask hard questions about the methods we use, we can anticipate times when we’ll feel uncomfortable. But I don’t think that’s the way God wants us to work. I want leaders with a heart for God’s Kingdom to challenge us and ask the hard questions. Through working with other like-minded Christ followers, we’ll get better at what we do. We want to share our ministry adventure with other people. I’d also like to think that by pursuing inclusiveness in our trainings and communication, we can expand our influence far beyond what would be accomplished through our own efforts, while modeling a Kingdom mindset.
Want to work with us? Pull up a chair. We’ll make room at the table.