Know, Love, Serve … Christ (Part 1 of 5)
Know, Love, Serve … Kids (Part 2 of 5)
Know, Love, Serve … Leaders (Part 3 of 5)
Know, Love, Serve … Families (Part 4 of 5)
What If I Don’t Like Oysters?
Are you familiar with the phrase, “The world is your oyster?”
I’d never given much thought to this idiom until recently. Due to a travel interruption, I was delayed in San Diego waiting eight hours for a red-eye flight back to Chicago. Knowing there are worse places to get stuck, I made the most of it and found a cozy corner at a local restaurant to write. I’m not sure if it was my appetite for adventure or a momentary lapse in judgment, but I decided to try my first raw oyster.
Seafood is one of my favorite things. As it turns out, I’m just not as big a fan of slimy uncooked mollusks. The taste didn’t bother me; it was the texture. While I won’t be ordering another one of these “ocean delicacies” for a while, I have to say – it was worth the risk.
Raw oysters are typically loved or loathed by people. So why say, “The world is your oyster”? This expression comes from William Shakespeare’s play, The Merry Wives of Windsor. It refers to privilege and opportunity. The phrase is used to indicate that a person can take full advantage of all that’s set before him or her. And so, since circa AD 1600, this endearing term has endured.
But … what if I don’t like oysters (or the world that comes with them)?
As you consider the world in which you live, it’s possible that you don’t appreciate all that’s set before you. It’s also probable that there are problems, and even people, near and far that you would prefer to avoid. Given all the opposition, strife, and clashes between camps these days, turning off the TV and tuning out the news and your neighbors makes a lot of sense these days. On the other hand, if the world repels you so much that you recoil as a believer, you are limiting your reach as a kid-influencer and disciple maker.
One solution? Avoid the oyster. Keep your guard up against the world and stay close to home.
Better solution … Know, love, and serve the world as your ministry oyster.
Rather than allow disgust to draw you inside, walk closely with God and choose to be like Christ both near and far. Expand your engagement with all that your heavenly Father made for the sake of lifelong discipleship.
Children of all ages need godly leaders like you to be globally minded, servant hearted kid-influencers in the way of Jesus. This requires you to be a discerning risk-taker, one that’s intentional about your ministry’s interactions outside your walls. If you’re up for embracing the world as your ministry oyster, you can know, love, and serve the world in eternal life-changing ways.
Take a Risk! The World is Your Ministry Oyster
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. (John 3:16-17)
- Know the world beyond your backyard.
Many churches and children’s ministries limit their focus on the here and now. The week-in, week-out, programmatic grind saps most, if not all, of their attention and resources. The world out there is far from their minds. With kids, students, and leaders storming through ministry doors constantly, safety measures and consistent curriculum quickly becomes king.
It’s true; families bring the cares and concerns of the world with them (if and when they show up). For better or worse, they’re affected by the dominant culture and it can be infectious. It’s difficult to address all that’s happening in human hearts, and honestly it is more than one ministry is called to carry. Simply put, it’s easier to run a program than reach the world with the Gospel.
There’s good news, friends. You don’t have to reach the whole planet – Jesus already took care of that! However, you do have a responsibility to go beyond the small patch of earth God entrusted to you. This means wisely paying attention what’s going on and who’s “out there” beyond your backyard in need of Christ’s hope.
If you know your world – the one God loved so much that He sent Jesus to save it – your mission as a ministry can and will grow. Listening and learning is an important first step. This might lead you to raise funds for a cause, gather and send out resources to meet a need, or partner with your church’s compassion efforts. It could mean equipping kids, students, and leaders to present the message of salvation in a clear, urgent, and personal way.
Get to know your neighbors, both nearby and around the world. Find out what’s happening in your local community and make connections with cities and countries beyond your backyard too for the sake of global lifelong discipleship.
- Love the world one child’s face at a time.
As you take a risk to intentionally know the world around you, what you discover can become overwhelming. Honestly, the globe and all the pressing issues that come with it are just too much to take on. Every family has needs. Every community, city, and country has needs. There’s another cause to adopt and defend around every corner. Keeping up with today’s kids, families, and global crises can be daunting and complicated.
When your heart gets discouraged by the weight of the world’s problems, revisit Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Your disciple making potential is already empowered to go beyond your backyard. And one of the best ways to move forward is by loving the world one child’s face at a time.
In order to make a heart-to-heart connection with children in the way of Christ, you need to start with face-to-face interactions. What are the first names of the kids and students God has called you to love? If you don’t know, finding out is step one. Write them down on a 3×5 card and carry it with you. Honor moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers by letting them know you care beyond your children’s ministry program and church walls.
More specifically, take time to interact with kids and students regularly. Resist the temptation to rely on name tags – memorize each child’s name and watch his or her face light up when you use it! Play with them. Talk with them. Celebrate their strengths and uniqueness. Encourage them. Find out about their families, hobbies, and pets. Discover their individual joys and sorrows, their distinct dreams and fears. Pray for and with them. Share what God is teaching you as a follower of Jesus too. Enter their world in unexpected, God-honoring ways so that the character of Christ overflows from your heart into their lives.
You don’t have to love the whole world to start loving the world around you. Make ministry personal by taking face-to-face connections with children seriously. Your heart for the globe will grow in time as God expands your world to include more and more kids Jesus came to claim as His own.
- Serve the world that Christ came to save.
Do you know how many children and youth are in the neighborhoods surrounding your church? Check your city’s stats – it’s probably way more than you think. How about specific community issues in your town or region? What ongoing widespread challenges are present in the lives of kids, teens, and families? One way to find out is by tapping into local news stories, surveys, studies, and even public police reports. Another approach is to drive around and see what’s obviously impacting your community. While relying on broad statistics and what you see firsthand may be informative, merely recognizing issues isn’t what it means to live out Christ’s heart of servanthood.
To serve the world that Christ came to save, you’re going to need to get your hands dirty. Find out for yourself what needs are surfacing so you and your ministry can step up to serve. Head over to the local schools and ask the teachers and administrators what’s really going on. Then, talk with kids and students that God places in your path of daily life and ministry. They’ll be honest with you if you honestly take time to hear what’s on their hearts.
Based on what you discover, take action. Do kids need winter coats, school supplies, or meals? This might be a simple way for your children’s ministry to show the love of Christ to families. Is unemployment a growing issue among local parents? Perhaps your church is called to help with job placement services. Tutoring, coaching sports, hosting free family-friendly events, visiting the elderly, stocking a food pantry, providing incarcerated prisoners with care packages … the ways to serve people in the way of Jesus is endless. Christ didn’t come to condemn the world, He came to save it – and He invites you and me to join Him on His redemptive mission!
When you start taking risks to serve the world Christ came to save, it will cause you to cross barriers and borders like never before. You may begin with serving needs in your own backyard, but eventually you’ll begin to see what’s needed worldwide. Your church is probably already partnering with God’s work around the globe to reach kids, students, and families with the Gospel and engage them in lifelong discipleship. Keep your eyes and heart open to where the Lord may lead you and your ministry to impact next.
By the way, if you want to know, love, and serve the world around you in the way of Christ, Awana has a great free curriculum resource for you to explore and implement … check out Awana GO today: Awana.org/GO.
Have You Had a Change of Heart?
You still might not like raw oysters, but perhaps your desire to know, love, and serve the world has shifted. God longs for your heart to break for what breaks His. Jesus traveled all over to reach people – children of all ages – in need of a Savior. As He did, His compassion levels increased to overflowing.
Remember what happened in Matthew 9:35-38?
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
Kid-influencers who are global-minded and servant-hearted are regularly asking God, “Where are you sending me on your behalf today?” The ministry of Awana is passionate about knowing, loving, and serving children and youth all over the world so they will come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ for life. We encourage you to keep inviting God to transform your heart and guide your steps. Kids, students, and families need the Gospel … and the Lord of the harvest wants to send the willing.
The world is your ministry oyster if you’re up for the challenge.