Today’s guest post is from my friend Gloria Lee. Enjoy!
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12
I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children. However, God called me to be a children’s pastor.
When I first started out as a children’s ministry intern 20 years ago, I was intimidated by parents. They were all older than me. I was just getting my hands wet in ministry. I knew I had a lot to learn.
I went to seminary and received my masters in Christian education. I spent three years studying how I can better minister to children and families. I still felt intimidated by parents. They were still older than me with more life experience. I was young and timid. I knew I needed to build confidence, but I thought it would just come with age, life experience, marriage, and kids.
Approximately 10 years into ministry, I was convicted that my role as the children’s director included starting conversations with parents about being the primary faith leaders for their kids. I also knew my role wasn’t just about teaching the kids but it was ministering to the families, including matters pertaining to parenting. I started sharing with the parents separation anxiety tips when they drop off young children, resources to help parents lead their kids in their faith, and other information I had read in books and articles.
One Sunday, a group of parents started attacking me verbally. They told me that my job was teaching children, and I had no business telling parents what to do. I was completely taken aback by their comments. They continued to tell me that everything I had to say showed my lack of experience as a parent, and I wouldn’t be telling them these things had I been a parent. I was in a state of shock because I was only sharing with them what I had learned working in public and private schools for years, from reading many books and articles, and from classes I had taken in school. Confused, hurt, and shocked, I went home that night and cried myself to sleep convinced there is no way I could be called into children’s ministry as a single woman without children.
I was ready to throw in the towel. Things got worse, and I didn’t want to disturb my senior pastor with church matters during his sabbatical. I had weathered through some tough ministry times before… I had been attacked for being a female leader in the church, I’ve had to carry the children’s ministry through months of ugly leadership division that resulted in a church split, and I even had a pastor threaten to “blacklist” me if I didn’t do as I was told (his demands had more to do with my personal life than ministry such as not being allowed to have a roommate because parishioners shouldn’t see how pastors live outside the church—yes, ridiculous I know!). But this time, my confidence was completely shaken… and I was convinced I had completely misunderstood God’s calling and entering ministry was a big mistake. I must have misheard His calling.
I wrote my letter of resignation and got up the courage to call my senior pastor on his sabbatical. During our meeting, he looked at me directly in the eye and said “My wife and I trust you with my own children. You have played a big part in my kids coming to know Christ. I call you when I need parenting advice. I believe with all my heart that God has called you to minister to children and families. I want to affirm you of your calling. I have no doubt in my mind I hired the right person for the job.” Tears kept streaming down my face, but I wasn’t convinced. A couple weeks later, my pastor affirmed my calling from the pulpit. The group of parents that had attacked me left the church silently.
But the story doesn’t end here. That experience alone left a huge hole in my confidence. I found myself apologizing for not being a parent when I talked to parents. I found myself quoting authors and speakers, but not speaking from my own knowledge or experience. One day, a missionary I respect said, “How are your kids?” I answered back, “I don’t have any kids.” She said, “Of course you do. You have hundreds of them. You care for each one’s spiritual health, sometimes more than their biological parents. Your interaction and experience with hundreds of kids make you more experienced than most parents.” Her words were medicine to my soul, and I started my road to healing and regaining confidence in God’s calling for my life.
Since then, I have worked hard at connecting with other children’s pastors who have excelled despite not having their own kids. I have worked hard at being confident in my role. I have worked hard at leading and encouraging with God’s authority rather than apologizing for my status. I have worked hard at honing my knowledge and skills.
Earlier this year, I was at a gathering of children’s ministers in my area. During introductions, I caught several newbies saying “I don’t have any children of my own so I’m not sure if what I’m doing is correct.” I felt the strong urge to empower them and tell them to embrace God’s calling and be confident in their roles.
Today, I know with confidence that God has called me to minister to children and families. I have 20 years of experience in children’s ministry, and I have had the privilege of ministering to hundreds of children and parents. I am confident of what I know, and I continue to learn more. I don’t pretend to know and feel as parents do. But I know that God has given me the gifts and authority to equip, encourage, and support families.
I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children, AND God called me to be a children’s pastor. What is God’s calling for your life? How have YOU found confidence in His calling for your life?