Two things in ministry have deeply impacted my life and calling as a pastor to kids and families. I feel a deep sense of personal conviction to Reconciliation and Family Ministry.
My journey of reconciliation began in my first year in college. I was 17, excited to leave home and discover what God had planned for my life. I took courses my freshman year that turned my life upside down and shifted my whole perspective on culture, faith and ministry. I was suddenly face to face with Jesus, in the midst of personal pain and trial, feeling called to global and urban cross-cultural ministry. Through God’s nudging, my tripping, and the prodding of people who loved me, I developed a new lens by which to view my faith in light of God’s multi-cultural kingdom. I took steps forward and began a new season of listening and learning and responding. I developed an awareness of privilege and power and discovered in new ways Jesus’ love of the poor and marginalized in our world. It was a time to pay attention to the world around me and be attuned to God’s work- reconciling, redeeming and transforming people. I noticed this in friendships, through listening to other people’s stories; in what I read, in the conversations I had, in the people and places I felt called to serve.
As I sought to live into this new perspective I found my self developing new relationships with people who were different than me; involved in homeless ministry; getting to know my city in new ways, exploring churches and discovering the rich cultural diversity of Seattle; leading a campus worship ministry; serving in inner city Philadelphia, traveling to the Yucatan to learn and serve alongside the people of Merida, Mexico. In this season I met my husband and got to know his bi-cultural Lebanese and Dutch family. Along the way I learned a lot about myself, my family and heritage, and my own identity as a white female who was called to multi-ethnic children’s ministry. What I began learning about myself and others so many years ago, I am still learning.
Faith in my youth years was about personal devotion time, faithfully attending church, participating in worship and serving my church and community. It was about praying and reading the Bible and memorizing scripture and telling others about Jesus. All good things. Overtime though I have seen that all these things- apart from understanding God’s work of reconciliation in my life and our call, as believers, to the ministry of reconciliation- had meant my faith was about me. It was individual and in many ways self-gratifying. If I do the right things, say the right things, pray the right prayers, I’ll be good with God. But if I am truly following Jesus, then I will be not only spending quiet time with God in the early hours of the morning, and participating in the life of the Church every week, but I will be seeking out ways to love those our society rejects, to clothe the poor and feed the hungry, to give shelter to the homeless and seek the welfare of our city. I will be speaking out against the injustices of our culture- these are things that Jesus did and I want to follow his footsteps. This is radical kingdom faith that is not only about my personal relationship with Jesus, but my faithfulness and obedience to a life of radical kingdom living.
Reconciliation is a transforming journey of confession and forgiveness with God and between people that restores broken relationships, social structures and systems.
This is the life of devotion I have been invited in to. And so I began asking new questions. What does it mean to trust God when there is no hope? What does faith look like in the face of cancer? How can I walk along side brothers and sisters of color who face micro-agression, racism, and prejudice daily? What does it mean to truly listen to someone and love them as Jesus would? How do I offer a Jesus-size measure of compassion, mercy and justice in the world? How can I praise God joyfully and still lament with others when confronted with pain, loss, violence, abuse, issues social injustice, racism, and human trafficking? What does it mean to have a teachable spirit? What bold, brave and courageous steps is God calling me to, as I seek to be faithful to God’s mission in the world- to see all of creation redeemed, restored and made new? What am I to stand up for, who am I to stand in solidarity with? How can I be a better listener? Whose story am I invited into- to hold with dignity, value and worth? These questions have formed me, and continue to be a part of my journey of transformation.
This transformational faith is simply about reconciliation with God and reconciliation with others. God invites us into a personal relationship with Him, be we are also invited into the Covenant community of God. This is holy ground. Mercy, compassion and justice are foundational in this place. So how do I live it, teach it, preach it? I am reconciled, and I am called to be a reconciler in the world. This is both terrifying, humbling and awe-some.
Family Ministry is my jam. I love working with kids. But I do not do kids ministry in a silo. Not only do kids need a village of people surrounding them, the village needs our kids. We know that parents are the primary influence on a child’s faith, and that faith that sticks in a child’s life is faith developed in community. I dream of the day that children are seen as full participants in the church. As I have learned over the years, my job is to teach kids, but more than that I believe we are called to create space for kids to learn about and explore their faith. They practice worship expressions and they “do/live/experience” worship, they ask questions, they provide thoughtful answers to questions. They play, they laugh, they cry, they sing and pray. They struggle. They have hope. Family ministry is about laying a firm foundation and allowing kids to experience their faith in the safety of the church community, and go out into the world to practice it and live it out.
I also am called to the multi-ethnic or multicultural church. I see the multi-ethnic church as joyful expression of God’s love for the world and the Church. We more fully reflect God’s kingdom when we worship God together- all ages, all ethnicities, all abilities. This is the beauty and gift of the family of God. There are many barriers in the US to multiethnic ministry, but Jesus came to break down those barriers. Jesus is our role model in this. Jesus did not only heal the most faithful, Jesus did not only teach the teachable, Jesus did not only minister to the religious people. Jesus loved those whom no one else wanted to love. Jesus invited the “sinners” to a life transformed. Jesus praised the sacrifices of those who had little. Jesus reached out to the poor and called them faithful. Jesus honored the faith of those who genuinely desired to believe, even when they struggled to believe. Jesus broke down cultural, social, ethnic, gender and ability barriers. Jesus invites us to follow Him.
If we are to follow Jesus, then reconciliation must be woven into the fabric of children, youth and family ministry. What it means to be reconciled to God and the people must be taught, practiced and lived out in our homes and churches. Intentional conversations, awareness of our cultural identity and faith identity, how we treat other people, how we grow and learn from those who are different than us, how we listen and give dignity to people’s lives and stories, and the ways we live out the gospel; all of these are transformational and faith shaping. I am learning how to be a practitioner of these things.