God Knows What We Need

Last Sunday, we talked about how God knows what we need… and how God provides for our needs! Well, I got a first hand experience in God providing for my needs on Sunday, the very day I taught this lesson!

To start, our projector hasn’t been working and we had to do without! Since our lesson was on the Israelites wandering in the dessert and complaining to God during that time, I decided to make the kids act as Israelites… and each small group was to be a family. It felt pretty chaotic having kids walk around in circles (and few that just couldn’t walk but felt the need to run) and their whining and complaining getting louder and louder. Well, when our time was over, I had both leaders and kids come up to me and say: “that was so fun!” “i had so much fun today.” “i wanna come back here.”  Initially I was just thankful to get this feedback and felt encouraged despite all the technical issues we had that day.

When I went out to the foyer to get lunch, I happened to be standing across from a parent that I talk to once in a blue moon. I, of course, started with a small talk: “How are you? How’s work?” Then she proceeded to tell me how much she appreciates our children’s ministry… and she said, “I can’t wait to read this months’ parent newsletter. I read it cover to cover… In fact, I save it every month! Thank you so much for putting that together for us. I absolutely look forward to reading it. In addition, I just want to tell you that my kids tell me what they have learned every Sunday… and I love that they get excited to tell me about it. We love coming here. Thank you!” To be honest, I was caught off-guard because my church doesn’t have a culture of giving feedbacks (positive nor negative) and sometimes I wonder “does anyone read the newsletters? why do parents like bringing kids to our church? why do kids like coming?” I actually told her that her feedback meant so much and her words were my God Sighting for the day because it was one of the most encouraging things i had heard in awhile at the church.

By now, I’m feeling pretty encouraged… and feeling like I’m on Cloud 9, filled with gratitude and great joy for getting to do what I do! Well, that feeling was quickly changed that afternoon as I met with few leaders. Don’t get me wrong… I believe some of our leaders do the best they know how… but I found myself feeling flustered and discouraged in the middle of our meeting. People often tell me that I think very differently about children, youth, & family ministry… and most churches are not ready for that paradigm shift. I always think “how different could I be?” Well, I finally really felt it… and I started to feel crazy trying to explain how I feel about children, youth, & family ministry (I won’t go into too much detail since this isn’t the point of this blog but if you’d like to hear my thoughts, I’m always open for discussion–i just love talking about KidMin, Student Min, & Family Min… so just message me!)

Anyhow, I left that day very deflated. This one incident had erased my joy and excitement… and all of a sudden, I found myself asking a bunch of unhealthy questions. That evening, two of my pastors texted me with encouraging words… When we came into the office on Tuesday, my campus pastor said, “I actually left that meeting feeling more thankful for you and your heart and your vision. As challenging as it is, I am so glad to be doing ministry with you.” Those were the words of affirmation that became medicine to my soul.

Often times, discouraging words and experiences can completely erase all the highs of emotions. As I spent some time processing through the events of this weekend, I was reminded that God bookended that meeting with encouraging words of affirmation that I usually don’t hear for a reason! God knew I needed to be reminded of my calling. God knew I needed to be affirmed of our kids transformation. God knew I needed to hear that parents are in this journey together. God knew I needed to hear that I was an integral part of the team. That moment, I was reminded that the truth of the lesson came real and alive to me!  How cool is that???

One more thing… if you’re a parent or a volunteer or even an attendee, do practice giving feedback to your leaders… both positive and negative (but negative should be done in love and with careful words)… encouraging feedback means so much to a weary soul… and constructive criticism will only help your leaders and ministry grow in a good way!

Embracing Criticism

Yesterday, I went to downtown to meet a friend for lunch… and I actually found street parking (granted it was $4/hour) right in front of the restaurant.  I was very vigilant about making sure my meter was fed because I know how vicious parking enforcement people are.  When I came out to my car after lunch, I found a notice on my windshield.  Yuck!  I had that yicky feeling of “what in the world is that on my car?” as I walked to my car.  When I looked at it, it was a notice from the safety officer.  It read “Your bid safety officer found: visible GPS device on dash, secure belongings to prevent crime.”  I immediately cringed and thought “Are they for real?  They’re wasting their time giving out these notices on the streets of LA?”  I still had that yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach, and drove off hating this faceless public safety officer.

As I was stuck on the freeway, I kept staring at this little piece of paper thinking “what am I suppose to do with this thing?”  I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to call the number on the bottom or just toss out this notice.  I kept thinking of an action plan.  I was bitter that one of few times that I didn’t put my GPS away, someone noticed and had to say something about it.  It really irked me… As I kept staring at this index card sized notice, it hit me that I was getting all worked up for nothing.  This is just a notice… I don’t have a pay a fine; I don’t have to prove to them that I fixed anything.  And it’s a reminder to always keep my vehicle safe from being broken into.  It’s well-intentioned.  After I had some time to calm down, I started to think why I reacted the way I did initially.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that nobody likes to be criticized.  Most people don’t like to be told what mistakes they made or that they need to change.  I am like most people.

In my ministry, I have always asked for feedback, both positives and negatives.  I have always proclaimed that I welcome all concerns, even criticisms; and I really meant it!  However, when negative feedback or criticisms are voiced, I always resort to feeling really, really yucky.  I think that’s just human nature.  It’s okay to feel yucky initially.  But what’s important is how I react to those criticisms.  I need take time to calm down and think rationally about those criticisms.  Often times, people are quick to react to criticisms, and I am one of them.  But I’ve come to learn that few steps are necessary before reacting out of hurt or bitterness.  Afterall, it’s a lot harder to take back your actions.  Below are steps I’ve learned to take:

  1. Take time to calm down, pray, and check my heart.
  2. I think all feelings are justified, however I try to understand why someone made those criticisms.  Perhaps they said what they said out of their own hurt or circumstances.  Maybe what they said is true, and I just failed to see it.
  3. If action plans are difficult, I seek counsel from my pastor or someone else I trust.
  4. I come up with an action plan… I make sure I address these concerns in a loving way.  If I believe someone misunderstood the situation, I talk to them and help them understand where I’m coming from.  If I do need to make changes, I thank them for bringing their concern to my attention and ask them to be part of the solution/change.
It’s not an easy thing to do… but I do believe that embracing criticism is part of growing process.  As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  🙂