You see her with the green sparkly star sunglasses framing her face. A smile spread from one ear to the other as she told about Junior Mints and faith to anyone who would listen in the church atrium as the adults filled up on coffee and cookies and the kids ran about with their bags full of movie treats and popcorn.
Junior Mints have a creamy middle. “You can’t see it,” she says. “The chocolate covers it. But you believe it is there.” What is that called, you ask? “Faith,” she confidently answers. After all, faith is the “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
She nailed it. You smile. Perfect answer.
We teach about faith each week one way or another. We tell kids that God is enough. And He is.
But what about when it feels like He isn’t enough. What about when their faith feels not so much like faith? When they face the first “hard” in their lives.
In the world of kid’s ministry, too often we want to teach a biblical point. Make up a cute saying to help them remember it. Give easy answers to questions that are hard.
You see her write “God never fails.” She is smiling, proud of her work. She shows you.
You smile and nod. Then you ask, “Is that true?” She nods. “Some people don’t think that’s true. Some people have a hard time believing that.” So she thinks a bit. We talk about life. How sometimes it feels like God has failed even though we know He hasn’t. We talk past the easy “God never fails.”
Perhaps we need to do this more often. To acknowledge that sometimes what we believe to be true doesn’t always feel that way.
Recently, one of my twenty something friends said to me, “I desperately want to find Jesus. But sadly I don’t think I’ll find him in church. Maybe I will. But I don’t think so.” Her faith was once rock solid. She was once on fire. Somewhere along the way she found the easy answers didn’t match up with life. And the fire went out.
She is now slowly finding her way back. Realizing those simple phrases that were thrown around her weren’t even all from scripture. Pulled out of context to fit a point. Used to back up a belief. Said carelessly without much thought.
Those of us who teach kids might need to step back a bit. To think deeper about what we are doing. What we are saying. To be honest. To acknowledge that life with Jesus gets hard at times.
My friend, Addie Zierman, has made me think deeper about this. I believe all kid’s ministry people should read her book. Maybe it will help us as we wrestle with this generation of kids leaving the church. Maybe it will help us with those who feel that maybe they will find Jesus again. . . but perhaps not in a church.
Addie’s book, When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over, comes out October 15.
Preorder it now.