So I was invited to Career Day at the school where my kids attend and my wife teaches… No pressure!
What’s especially interesting is how differently wired my wife and I are. She was honored this year as “Teacher of the Year” for her school—which was a nice way to honor her love of her students and joy in teaching. She is exceptionally gifted with young children.
I—in contrast—get the back sweats whenever I’m up front with kids.
Of course, I regularly make presentations in front of adults, but kids—to me—are a totally different ballgame. You see, adults learn to mask their responses. They’ll fain to listen and disguise their boredom. (I’m not that innocent either. I’ve learned to cleverly camouflage my yawns and techniques to avoid drifting off. I really should give a class on this skill.)
But kids… They are painfully obvious when they’re not able to focus. They fidget. They yawn, with style! They don’t fake laugh over a bad or mistimed joke… Just thinking about it, I feel my back starting to sweat.
So my challenge was to share with them what a “Pastor” does in a way that respects the setting (a public school) and is interesting. I choose to frame my talk around three aspects of being a Pastor: I learn. I listen. I lead.
Listen; the Art of Relationship
“How many of you live with a sibling?” (Several hands go up). “How many of you live with other family members?” (Rest of hands go up and I thank God that there’s no need for me to make up another category). “How many of you have trouble sometimes getting along with the people you live with?” (Every hand stays up)
Relationships are hard. In fact, getting along with others is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Relationships—especially those one that are closest to us—can be the source of our greatest joys and our greatest pains.
What I do as a Pastor is I listen to people who are having trouble getting along. I sit with them and listen to their stories. I listen to moms and dads who are having a hard time together. I listen to families who having trouble with healthy discipline. I listen to siblings who fight a lot.
I listen to them and try to help them hear each other. I also listen to the Lord, who at the same time I’m listening to these families, is speaking to me and offering me wisdom on how to help them get along better.
I didn’t share this part with the students, but one missing piece from most people’s church experience or understanding of the Christian Story is relational discipleship; the art of loving one another.
One student asked, “So are you like a counselor or a therapist?” I said something like, “I’m not that smart but sort of. I try to help people get along better.” I try to encourage them to love, which is a massive part of the gospel.
Jesus said, “All the world will know you are my disciples, if/how you love one another.” In other words, there should be a tangible difference in the way people who say they know Christ as Lord get along! Our marriages should look different. Our relationships within our family should be different. Even our friendships should be different in the wake of knowing God’s love in Christ.
And forgiveness is also a very high value in the scriptures. Over and again, we’re reminded that we will be forgiven as we have forgiven those around us. But so many of us who say we’re Christians can walk with bitterness and unforgiveness. This is not the way of Christ.
So I listen (to people). And I listen (to the Spirit). And then I share what I’m hearing and hope that the friends around me will learn to love different. Just as Jesus said we should.