It has been a NASTY winter here in NYC!There was a day about a month ago that had a high of about 9 degrees, and when I woke up that morning I wished that I could just turn the covers over and go back to sleep.As I was getting ready for the day, I started thinking about all of the homeless people in our city who had no place to go in such bitter temperatures.I decided to grab an extra fleece blanket that I had lying around my house, thinking that perhaps on my way to work I would see someone who could use it.As much as I wanted to disappear as quickly as possible into the warm subway station, I decided to walk a little bit further to the next stop, hoping that I would see an opportunity to give away my blanket.I walked down Flatbush Avenue, intently looking in every direction for someone in need, and as I was walking I started to notice things that I had never seen before.There was an old building with beautiful architecture hiding in the distance behind the Barclays Center that I had never seen before, despite living just up the block for 10+ years.There was a small garden with artwork drawn by children that I had probably passed hundreds of times without ever realizing that it was there.Traffic signs, small shops, misspelled words on bodega signs [pet peeve!]… I was chuckling to myself at how many things I was noticing for the very first time in my quest to deliver my blanket simply because I was actually looking around, instead of assuming my usual head-down-let’s-just-get-there mentality on a cold morning.And then suddenly I felt the Lord begin to speak to my heart.
I’ve found that one of the most dangerous temptations in working in children’s ministry is the temptation to COAST.To come in on a Sunday, perform our roles and leave until it’s time to do it again the next time we serve - getting into a predictable and familiar rhythm that can become as routine as a daily walk down Flatbush Avenue.And as I walked in the freezing cold that morning, I felt a challenge rising up in my heart.The reason why I noticed all those buildings and structures that I had never noticed before is because I was walking with my eyes truly open.I was paying attention to my surroundings.I was intentionally, deliberately, proactively LOOKING for someone in need of my blanket – and it completely changed my walking experience.And I started to wonder what our children’s ministry would look like if every single worker approached their Sunday service as I did with my quest to give away my blanket – by intentionally and proactively looking for God-ordained opportunities to give away whatever He had put in their hearts for that day.Maybe, if we served with our eyes truly open, we would look past the slightly hyperactive boys in the front row and see the little boy with his head down right behind them who stays quiet and goes unnoticed in the shadow of his more energetic peers.Perhaps we would become aware that the preteen girl whose bubbly laugh used to be heard every service during check-out now sits on the opposite side of the room by herself.Or maybe we would even notice the tears in a fellow worker’s eyes that she is trying hard not to let anyone notice as she serves diligently every Sunday.How many opportunities to minister, I thought to myself as I reached my office, have we missed because we simply weren’t looking for them?Which children have slipped right past our watch because it’s just easier for us to stay in our comfort zones and "do what we know”?
This type of ministry isn’t easy.It certainly wasn’t for me that day walking in 5 degree weather with my blanket!I wanted to duck into the safety of the subway, but my mission kept me pressing forward into the bitter wind.Our flesh and even the devil will fight tooth and nail against this type of approach to children’s ministry, that’s for sure.Constantly looking for opportunities and God-ordained moments takes a great deal of mental, spiritual and even physical energy… but it is exhilarating and fulfilling and exciting at the same time!There’s no better feeling than to leave a service feeling happily exhausted – knowing that the Lord has specifically used you in some way to affect the hearts and lives of His precious children.
I didn’t find someone in need of a blanket that day on my walk, but I found our new statement of focus for BT KIDS! 2014 instead.Every week before we begin our services, all of my workers join together in praying just one prayer: “Lord, would you help us to serve today with our EYES OPEN?”In just two months of serving EYES OPEN, I’ve heard more praise reports from our teams than ever before.Opportunities being noticed.Comfort zones being abandoned.New friendships between volunteers being cultivated.Prayer burdens being given in the middle of lessons.Children being noticed who had previously slipped in and out unseen.What is your “blanket” that God has placed in your hands to give to His children during your next service?Whether it’s encouragement, comfort, wisdom, correction, or just a listening ear – I encourage you to join us in praying that the Lord would help you to look for opportunities to give it with your eyes wide open.
-Amy Nuttall, BT KIDS! Elementary Director