“Oh and by the way,” I had to tell her. “Tonight the youth group is going to be serving you dinner.” I could tell it didn’t really matter to this single mother of three, who was probably just happy to have a place to stay, and to at least have someone providing dinner. But I had to tell her anyway. It meant more to me than anyone else.
See, my job at Trinity Church is two-fold. I am pastor of youth and pastor of outreach. For the one I work alongside parents and leaders to disciple students in their journeys of faith, and for the other I seek out opportunities for the church to impact our community, and mobilize them to do so. (Add in the occasional worship leader role, and I have somewhat become the triple threat I always wished I could be in my days of doing theater.) In all honesty, though, I do not always see my two main roles–youth and outreach–having much to do with each other. I would like to see that change, and Family Promise is a great place to start.
The way I see it, Family Promise can be dangerous. It could wreck you for the better, or it could wreck you for the worse. It could cause you to see people in a way you did not before, or it could thicken the scales over your eyes. It could soften and humble your heart, or it could reinforce stereotypes and prejudices. It could bring you closer to the heart of God, or it could make you think you are closer to the heart of God, just because you have gone through the motions.
Every time our host week comes around, my prayer is that God would use this ministry to wreck Trinity Church for the better, that we will never be the same, that we really would be closer to God’s heart and more like Jesus. And I pray that for no one as fervently as I do for the next generation. How wonderful would it be if they could, at their young age, develop a sense of compassion and empathy, an identity of Christ-likeness? How world-changing would it be if they took that to their schools, their friends, their futures?
I have to remind myself why I always sign up the youth to serve the people of Family Promise. No really, I have to remind myself. When they start complaining about having to wash the dishes, or suddenly disappear when we give them a task to do, or say something immature and rude right in front of a guest–I do sometimes ask myself, “Whose idea was it to have teens make dinner for these families?” Then I remember: God’s plan is for this experience to wreck these students for the better. To wreck them like it has wrecked me.
There was a time when I thought I was doing enough because I gave my loose change to the homeless guy near the off-ramp. There was a time when I thought homeless people were mostly single men with scraggly beards and shopping carts, instead of often times whole families with kids, even newborn babies. There was a time when I pretended to care, but in reality I did not. But Family Promise was deadly to the type of person I used to be. Following Jesus has proven deadly to the person I once was.
The next generation and their sense of compassion matters to me all the more these days, as I look at my daughter and son, still in their very early years. I want them to see their mom and dad living out our commitment to following Jesus, not just talking about it. Sure, I want them to be all they they can be in this world, all that their Creator made them to be. But I don’t believe they can do that without living dangerously, letting their hearts be broken for those in need, and becoming more and more like The Lord Jesus.
May you too be ready to expose yourself and those you love to the dangerous, and let God wreck you for the better.