Four years ago I was at the lowest point in ministry and at my greatest time of self-doubt. I had just recently closed down a church plant where I had spent the last five years of my life. It kind felt like God was done with me, and for some reason I was okay with that.
For the first time in my life I was not in ministry.
It was kind of surreal, but also kind of liberating. My identity was no longer attached to my ministry.
In my devotions, the morning after we shut down the church, I was reading in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus said, “Father if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
I paused and asked God some questions. “God did I just waste five years of my life? Are you done with me?”
He took me back to a phone conversation that I had with my good friend Jim Wideman in 2012. I had called Jim and told him that I made a decision to resign my position of Kids Pastor at Living Word. Jim’s response was “Well, we just need to find somewhere else for you to go.”
I responded to Jim “No. I don’t want to work for somebody else. I want to work for myself.”
The Lord, said to me, “You didn’t ask Me about that. You just decided that you didn’t want to be a Kids Pastor again.”
I recognized the self-will in my statement to Brother Jim. “I don’t want to work for somebody else. I want to work for myself.”
More than anything else confidence comes from identifying what God wants you to do and then doing it.
It’s a simple lesson: “Not my will but Yours be done.” But it is the most important lesson.
The Lord began to talk to me about being a Kids Pastor again. I really didn’t want to do it. I was 58 at the time and pretty sure there were not a lot of churches looking to hire 58-year-old Kids Pastors. I did not want to send out resumes and deal with the rejection simply based on my age.
I prayed, “Okay, Lord, if you want me to be a Kids Pastor again, then you send somebody to me. You know the kind of church that I would be good at. I’m not going to go looking.”
The next day, Jodi Ruch reached out to me on Facebook. (Jodi was one of my puppet team kids in the 80’s and her husband Nate was the lead pastor at Emmanuel Christian Center in Minneapolis.) To be transparent, Jodi’s message was a life line to me that started me on my journey away from self-doubt.
I began to gain confidence that I could still hear from God.
Pastor Nate and I met and he hired me to do a Kids Ministry consultation at Emmanuel. I completed my assessment and then I was hired to oversee the Kids Ministry for all three campuses. Pastor Nate was looking for a seasoned Kids Pastor to mentor a group of young pastors.
My time at Emmanuel was a fulfilling time for me as I mentored young leaders and watched them grow in leadership. My confidence began to grow.
After two and a half years, I then passed the KidMin leadership baton at the main campus to a new Kids Pastor, and I was still there in a consulting role for all three campuses.
I felt a little lost, because one of my strengths is my teaching gift, and now I was in a role where I couldn’t use my gifts. I wasn’t teaching kids anymore. We wanted them to look to their new Kids Pastor, I understand this concept, but it began to affect my confidence.
I talked with Pastor Nate about the possibility of going part time and then consulting with another church or two. I thought at least this way I could scratch that teaching itch and still be a help to Emmanuel.
Nate then asked, “Have any churches reached out to you?”
My response was, “No.”
“If that was supposed to happen, wouldn’t there be a demand?” Nate replied.
“Good question.” I thought.
The next day I was talking to the Lord. I had this inner sense that it was time to move on, but didn’t have any specific direction or requests.
“Lord, what about what Pastor Nate said? I feel like it’s time for a change, but nobody is reaching out to me.”
I heard these words in that still small voice, “An offer is coming and I want you to take the offer.”
The only thing you can do at that point is to wait. There is no harm is waiting. I either heard from God or I didn’t.
Then out of the blue, I received an unexpected phone call. It was Pastor Mac from Living Word. Mac has always been a “direct, to the point” kind of leader.
“Mark, I need a Kids Pastor and you are the best one I ever had. Are you interested in the position?”
To be honest, because of the emotions I was feeling, I didn’t know how to respond. Pastor Mac is one of my spiritual fathers, and when your spiritual father calls and asks for help, you want to say, “Yes”.
On the other hand, I did have some questions. We agreed to meet and talk about it.
After I hung up the phone, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what the He had said to me 30 days earlier, “An offer is coming and I want you to take the offer.”
The reality is, I didn’t want to go back to Living Word, but then this it isn’t about what I want to do. This is about, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
- The bottom line is that confidence comes from knowing the one thing that God wants to do and doing it.
- Another word for confidence is faith and faith begins where the will of God is known.
“Now faith is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see.”
I met with Pastor Mac and was able to get my questions answered. I accepted the position of Kids Pastor at Living Word. I was both excited and cautious. This would be my third stint at Living Word and while I knew that Mac wanted me on back staff, I also knew there would be people who wouldn’t understand.
I am at Living Word for two reasons, to help Pastor Mac and to obey God and that’s all that really matters.
One thing I was excited about was the opportunity to be a Kids Pastor again and teach on a weekly basis.
I came on staff in March of 2020 and then boom, COVID hit. I kind of felt like I was parachuted into the front lines of World War II. I was on staff as Kids Pastor for 3 months and I still hadn’t met the kids yet.
When we did start up with on-site services it was hard to get any traction. Like everybody else, we had to cancel all of our 2020 events, Lock-In, Kids Camps, VBA, etc. I had lots of ideas and vision, but it was challenging to get volunteers for anything.
I was leading in the only way I knew how to lead – doing things in the way that God had led me, but people were not responding.
While this is normal with any leadership change, it does have a negative effect on your confidence.
On top that, because of COVID and other things there was a lot of turnover of staff. I had four different supervisors in 15 months. There were many mornings where I questioned God, “Lord, why I am here?’ Ultimately, it comes back to this, I had a Word from God.
That one Word from God kept me stable during a very unstable time.
In December of 2020, I was talking with my supervisor, Brain Kelly about what types of events we could pull off in 2021.
I was reminiscing about some of our successful VBS programs in past years and I said, “There were a few years where we had over 1,000 kids at VBA. I don’t think we can’t do that this year ….”
Brian interrupted me, “I think we can hit 1,000.”
I paused for a moment as thoughts floated through my head…
- The church was a lot bigger then. In 2008 we had 1,000 kids on the roster and now we have about 350.
- We will be just coming out of COVID.
- Will we have to socially distance? That will impact our numbers.
- Will volunteers need to wear masks?
- It’s hard to recruit volunteers if you require them to wear masks.
I’ve always been the guy with the big vision, this time I wasn’t so sure and here my leader is telling me “I think we can hit 1,000.”
I had no idea how we were going to do it, but this became my mission – to reach 1,000 kids at our big summer event.
We named our summer event, Kids Summer Bash and we had this big, audacious goal of 1,000 kids.
We did everything we knew to do to create a lot of buzz and inspire our kids to invite their friends. We rented the “Hippo Inflatable Water Slide,” which was 4 stories tall. We had a “Bring a Friend Contest” and gave out some really cool prizes.
We opened on-line registrations for KSB and registrations started flooding it. The weekend before the event we had 900 kids signed up. It looked like we were going to make our goal.
Then panic hit me!
- Will I be able to hold the attention of 1,000 kids? (I have taught that many in the past, but that was 15 years ago and I had more energy.)
- I’m 62 years old now.
- Will kids want to listen to me?
I was struggling with self-doubt again.
Well, we just completed Kids Summer Bash last week.
- We had 1300 kids register and 1100 kids attended Kids Summer Bash, the vast majority do not attend our church. The worship was amazing.
There is nothing better than watching 1,000 kids sing, jump and dance for Jesus.
- We did a “Joey Skit” every day and the kids loved it.
(Joey was a character I developed back in the 80’s where I would dress up as a 10-year-old boy. I found something out this week – kids still like Joey. I’m not sure why it works when the 62-year-old guy dresses up like a 10-year-old kid, but it does.)
- I taught the kids one of my favorite subjects, “How to hear the voice of God.” At the end of three days, 558 kids gave their life to Christ.
Wow! What a week! God did exceedingly abundantly above what we could ask for.
Not sure what the future holds, but I’m heading into the future with a new fire and new vision.
Yes, I’m 62 and there are not a lot of 62-year-old Kids Pastors, but God’s hand is still on my life and it’s not time to retire.
I don’t get to decide my retirement age anyway. That’s up to the Lord.
I’m going to keep going as long as He keeps giving me assignments and I’m going to do it with confidence.
- Keep running your race.
- Don’t listen to what church culture says, “You’re too old” or “You can’t do that with kids.”
- The church growth experts don’t know the things the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart.
- Obey God.
That’s all that matters.
At KIDS SUMMER BASH I taught lessons from Super Church 2.0 – Holy Spirit curriculum on “How to Hear The Voice of God”.
You can teach these same great lessons at your church.
Yes, I want the Super Church 2.0 Holy Spirit lessons!