Written by: Pastor Shaun Slauenwhite
My wife Michelle & I have both been working with kids in church and community settings for over 20 years, and I have come to one conclusion: we live VERY complicated lives.
I was reading a great book the other day (“Jesus Is ___” by Judah Smith) and it reminded me again of this very thing. As we “grow up” (or at least for some of us, just get older), life invariably becomes an exceptionally complicated juggling act – going to work, trying to get ahead, need that promotion, gotta make more money, soccer, hockey, baseball, spend a few quality minutes with my spouse before gymnastics, swimming lessons, piano lessons, and the school play.
On top of all this, make our spiritual journey just as complicated – gotta make sure I read my 3.5 chapters in my Bible today (“except I’m 2 days behind, so that’s 10.5 chapters today”), and my devotional book (“which I’m also behind on, so there’s 3 chapters – I really should pray about these “questions” in here . . .” ), and I have to spend at least 30 minutes praying and having quiet time . . . oh, and prayer meeting on Tuesday night too, can’t forget that, and volunteering at church for the painting project, and plan a Sunday school lesson, don’t forget about the mid-week program, and the community outreach next week . . . . you get my point J
I’m pretty sure a checklist of do’s, don’ts and good deeds required to “maintain my current level of spirituality” isn’t what Jesus intended when He came and died for me.
That’s why I love working with kids. It constantly reminds me to come back to the simplicity of what’s really important. Look at Zacchaeus – I’m sure you know the story. He had everything going for him; he wasn’t just a tax collector, he was the CHEIF tax collector, he had money and people at his beck and call. But Zach heard Jesus was coming to town, and everyone was making quite a fuss about Him, so Zach thought he should go check it out. Being the “wee little man” he was, he ran ahead and climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. But then something crazy happened – as Jesus walked by, He stopped, looked up at Zacchaeus and invited Himself over for dinner. The long and short of the story . . . at the end of the day, Zach was a transformed man. What did it? What changed Zacchaeus? Biblical principal & theology? Personal devotions? Religious duty and deeds? Nope – just a few moments with God Himself.
In our ministry, our goal is that by the time any kids leave us, they have 4 things so deeply engrained in them, they couldn’t forget it if they tried! They’re called “The 4 Most Important Things You’ll Ever Need To Know”. Yup, you got it, 4 . . . that’s it, that’s all. These are more important than math, science, history or English (yes, I just said that); more important than the school you go to, the job you have or how much money you make. Because, at the end of your life, none of that will matter, but these 4 things certainly will.
1. God Loves Me! Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or what you smell like. Jesus sees our sin more clearly than anyone, yet He loves us more than anyone.
2. I Have Sinned. The Bible is crystal clear: we all sin! Sooner or later, willpower, education and good manners aren’t going to be enough (sooner than later for the majority of us). We’ll mess up and blow it! So, if our hope is sheer moral fortitude, or a checklist of do’s, don’ts and good deeds, (as a guy I know once put it) scientifically speaking, we’re toast! We like to make it abundantly clear to the kids that even though as adults we try to make some sins worse than others, there’s no difference, there’s no sliding scale of good-ok-bad-awful. Jesus lumps all of humanity into 2 groups: group a) people who think they’re righteous (ok with God, good enough to “get in”) but really aren’t, and group b) those who know they’re sinners and need a Saviour. Either way, we need help! Whose “better or worse” between us really doesn’t matter, we are all in the same boat and can do the square root of nothing about it. That’s why there’s #3 🙂
3. Jesus Died For Me! The good news is that God, in His infinite grace and mercy, came down to our level to rescue us. He came to our level because we could never rise to His – as if our “running ahead” and our “climbing a tree” is what will get God’s attention. That’s not what saved Zacchaeus. What saved Zach was God’s mercy, God’s grace . . . . it was God’s INITIATIVE . He came to restore what we had in the Garden of Eden – RELATIONSHIP with God.
However, we tell all the kids, this is all fine and wonderful, but of absolutely no good to me without number 4.
4. I Must Decide To Live For God! In kid terms, I need to ask Jesus to be the Boss of my whole life! So, that’s all there is to it – no long checklist, no magic formula; Jesus came to be a friend to those who are willing to admit they have problems. You don’t have to be good or perfect to be Jesus’ friend, just honest!
So, am I saying that all the things we get busy with are bad? No, they’re not all bad (although we have a tendency to have too many of these going at once – I’m just saying). Am I saying we don’t have to read our Bibles or practice any other spiritual disciplines, or serve others in whatever capacity we can? Certainly not! Those are essential to growing spiritually.
What am I saying? Prioritize! Don’t over commit; you don’t have to do everything! Pick the things that will have the most eternal rewards first, then fit the other stuff in where there’s time leftover. Most of all, remember what’s MOST important . . . .you’re RELATIONSHIP with Jesus – He told us to come to Him like a little child . . . keep it simple.
About Pastor Shaun:
Shaun and his wife Michelle grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but moved to Essex, Ontario six years ago to accept the position of “Children’s Pastor” at a local church! Shaun has exuberant amounts of energy (yet can still be found drinking Red Bull), owns a red suit (yes red!) and loves living life to the fullest! He is passionate about making Jesus Christ the “boss of His life”, sharing the love of Jesus with children & families, and spending as much time as he can with his family! He’s an amazing Daddy to two special little girls ~ Braeya (3) and Analeigh (5 months).