Quick Family Update: We are now working in a church plant ministry in the southwest and have been since March 2016. We hold our services in a local elementary school. We travel around 30 minutes to services on Sundays and meet in the pastor’s home on Wednesday nights. We are still living with my in-laws which is allowing our children special time to spend with their grandparents. My husband serves as the assistant pastor leading music and teaching the adult Sunday School class while also working a full-time job. We are all growing and enjoying the new experience church planting really is… this story is from a “fruitless” Sunday this summer!
The plan was to have a Sunday morning “Fun Day,” a morning Vacation Bible School type service in hopes to meet people in our community. Our little church plant had a group of eight teenagers and four adults come for a week on a missions trip. Throughout the week we went out in the blistering heat and passed out flyers in the neighborhoods surrounding the elementary school where we meet. The teens practiced special music weeks ahead before they arrived and did fundraising for their trip well in advance.
The week before our event…
The sun was wearing us out within two hours of putting out flyers. Water bottles were in high demand. I took all five of our children out two days of four to put out flyers on doors. It was hard to get through those two smaller neighborhoods without sweaty foreheads and pink cheeks close to being overheated even though we stopped toward the end every five minutes for a drink. Our Tres (nickname for 3rd child), who is six years old and learning to read, began recognizing the “No Soliciting” signs that were dispersed along the neighborhood doors. Our baby rode along in the stroller playing with a little monkey key chain, I was constantly adjusting the shade over her to keep her feet from being sunburned. The teenagers did more leg work but came to the end of the mornings just as drained. When the afternoons came, they crashed into a heap taking naps on the couches because the heat had zapped their energy. The flyers were distributed and a few contacts had been made.
The day of our event…
Two hours before the service we were setting up around the school for the fun water games. Water balloons and other supplies were ready, ice in ice chests for snow cones, two lessons ready for younger and older children. We waited in anticipation.
Several people waited outside the school gates to welcome visitors but no one came.
Not one kid, adult, or new guest at all.
My heart had built up an anticipation for multiple visitors so when no people came it was a crash of disappointment. I won’t lie, I am human, and a woman with emotions. I was disheartened. I wanted to cry for everyone who put forth all the effort. I was not disappointed in God but surprised at our results. I tried reading the faces of the other adults as the morning service time came and our services began with just our small handful of church folk.
Were we really okay with what looked like an event of menial proportions?
The answer is yes, we were okay. The group went on with the program with our children (our children plus the pastor’s children = 8) They still played the games planned, ate the snow cones, gave away the candy prizes and did the “Grand Prize” drawings that had been advertised in our flyers. Most importantly they went on with the Bible lesson and the youth pastor spoke about “The Greatest Gift Ever Given.” Almost all of our children have given a profession of faith except our Cuatro (4 year old). We all needed the reminder of Christ’s gift of His own precious life dying on the cross for our sins that day.
The youth group treated our “ministry kids” as if they were just as important as any visitor. The pastor and the group did not just drop the program because guests did not arrive. It could have been easy to throw our hands up in the air and have everyone join in together for the regular church service. Our children were taught ministering to them was important because it’s true: Ministry children are important too.
Sunday night the youth group sang, “If just one more soul were to walk down the aisle, it would be worth every struggle, it would be worth every trial, a lifetime of labor would be worth it all if it rescued just one more soul.” My heart was struck that may not have been our week to rescue one more soul but if in the course of time we see someone saved, a Sunday like that day genuinely would be worth all the efforts.
After Sunday was over…
The thought occurred to me that night as I lie in bed in the twilight of sleep, there was fruit. The fruit of my womb, my children. The fruit of my pastor’s wife’s womb, her children. The fruit of some parents and youth leaders and a pastor in that neighboring state were there ministering to us. The fruit of parents and youth leaders decades ago were there, my husband and I and our pastor and his wife. We are all fruit of labors people invested in our lives for the Lord’s sake. The Lord Himself has been the investor of our lives, nurturing our hearts all along to help us have spiritual growth and understanding. He has been watering, pruning, investing since we were all children to bring us to where we are today. We, the ministers, count as fruit although at first glance the “reward” from the labors for our current day left us seeming empty-handed. The truth was the opposite. The enemy would love for us to discount the Lord’s investment and make us feel like failures.
Church planting is beginning with a bare field and seasons of time include sowing the seed of God’s Word and letting people know you are in the community. To all the church planting families out there I say, keep planting, the Lord will give the increase. Don’t give up on reaching out in the community to all the “neighbors” out there, souls still need Christ no matter your attendance. Compel, sow with energy, pray in earnest with tears, fruit will come in its season.
To all the Ministry Mamas out there I say, even if it is only your children teach the class or run the program! When the church van or bus route is filled only with your children share the joy of the Lord with them and invest in them in a special way. Relish the moments of only watching the few babies in the nursery, laugh and have fun with them for they too need a good experience in learning to love going to church. When your ministry seems to bear no new fruit and no visitors walk through the door or souls come forward in a church service, do your job and leave the rest to God. Value those who are present, they are fruit worth loving and investing in!