As I travel ministering to families and children I am often asked the question about how I became a Christian and why I am a pastor. I can’t give you a testimony of a dramatic conversion or a wandering in the wilderness of the world experience before I came back to the church. Why am I a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Let me tell you.
It all began in the sandbox at Kindergarten Sabbath School at the Mildura Seventh-day Adventist Church where a young teenage leader told me stories using biblical characters in the sandbox. As I watched her and listened to the stories she told about Jesus I thought that if Jesus worked for her then it might for me too!
Then there is my primary school teacher. She taught me in grade prep, one and two (I was in love with her) who didn’t just teach me arithmetic and spelling but she was friendly and took an interest in me personally. She also taught me about Jesus but more importantly when I saw how Jesus worked for her, I thought it might for me too.
There was also my chaplain who probably took some great worships and told some great stories (I don’t remember any of them) but I do remember that he played soccer and cricket with us at recess and lunch. When I saw how Jesus worked for him on the playground, I thought it might work for me too.
I also need to tell you about my uncle who used to be the head deacon of the church. He allowed me to follow him around as he stacked chairs, pulled down blinds, collected the offering and organized the foot washing bowls for the communion. Looking back I must have really annoyed him but he never told me to go away. I idolized him and when I saw how Jesus worked for him, I thought he might for me too.
My Pathfinder leader did more than just teach me at Pathfinders. He also allowed me to follow him through the bush on weekends as he caught and banded birds for the Bird Observers Club. As we walked, he talked and when I saw how Jesus worked for him, I thought Jesus might for me too.
My head elder at Dareton Church was a bus driver/mechanic but he was also my mentor who mentored me into leading out in the adult lesson and preaching a sermon from the age of 12 onwards. I was a placed on the rosters for helping out at church as well as preaching. Dareton was a church where the adults took a great interest in me and consequently the church was not just the adult’s church but was my church as well.
Then there was the church member who lent me a car to drive when I got my license and mentored me as a teenager and young adult. He is a great friend (a bit like an extra Dad). He showed me the face of Jesus too!
I could go on to list a whole host of adult mentors who invested into my life as a child and young adult and showed me what it means to be a real and genuine Christian.
Hebrews 12:1 says that “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked our for us…”
No I don’t have a dramatic conversion story to tell but I do have a whole lot of important people in my life who mentored me into the faith and showed me the different faces of Jesus. One day as a young child I asked Jesus to come into my life and I set my path on His course to work for him.
I have run and I continue to run the race because of the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounded me and I will do my best to be one of those witnesses to my children and our Churchs’ children.
Mentoring the children in our church is not hard to do and yet it appears to be one of the most significant factors in raising our church to grow in the church, remain in the church and contribute to the churches message and mission in significant ways.
Recent research backs up this assertion. Kara Powell and Chap Clark in their Sticky Faith research (2011) found that “more than any single program or event, kids were far more likely to feel like a significant part of their local churches when adults made the effort to get to know them. One student beamed as he said, “We were welcomed not just in youth group; we were welcomed into other parts of the ministry of the church”: - See more at: <http://stickyfaith.org/articles/the-church-sticking-together#sthash.pP0963lt.dpuf>
Mark Kelly (2010) in research by LifeWay (lifeway.com) discovered that children who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives were twenty eight percent more likely to keep attending church. The figure jumps to forty six percent if the same child has five or more adults who spend time with the child and was there for them personally and spiritually. Chap Clarke (2011) calls this mentoring the 5:1 ratio (5 adults to one child). As a parent and a children’s ministries pastor I can do this. I can find those five significant people to invest in my children’s lives in little and big ways.
Ivy Beckwith asserts that, “Adult lives need to be modeled in front of the children. – When the child brushes up against people of faith, they see models of faith. They see adults who struggle, who trust God, who make mistakes and are forgiven, who work for justice and mercy and model kingdom values. This modeling is more powerful than 100 bible stories or the vegie tale videos. Children will remember the people in their faith community more than what they learned.” (Beckwith, Postmodern Children’s Ministry 2004).
We don’t need to be perfect mentors. We don’t need to understand the Bible completely or have all the answers. We just need to take the time or even a moment to get the know the children in our congregations and take a genuine interest in them. Our children need adults who learn their name, befriend them and spend time with them. Who knows, you might be the face of Jesus the children in your family and church need to see that sets them on a course to transform them into world changing spiritual champions.
Ten ways to be a mentor
Daron hops off his soap box an mumbling wanders on into the crowded street.
Pr Daron Pratt is a Victorian who grew up in the Sunraysia area. He is currently the children and family ministries Director for the North New South Wales Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He is also known world wide as the “Balloon Man” on Arnie’s Shack seen on Satellite Television. He is married to Lisa and has two children, Andrew and Maddison.