It started out as a normal Sunday morning. I had arrived to service just in time for my praise and worship set after picking up my mother from her house. As usual, I struggled to come up with appropriate song choices. There are only a few songs that work well during praise and worship at my church, but I often find myself growing tired of playing and singing those songs every week. Unfortunately, introducing new songs comes with another set of challenges, which include issues with clapping on beat and remaining on key. As a result, I chose to go with some “old favorites.”
After finishing “Lord You Are Good” by Israel and New Breed, I decided to go into Karen Clark Sheard’s arrangement of “God is Here.” It’s a song that makes me miss my little cousin who has been estranged from most of the family for several months now. She was always my praise and worship partner. When she would sing with me, praise and worship always seemed to flow more effortlessly. However, a combination of her surprise pregnancy and preexisting family tension led to her deciding against coming around as much anymore. Singing “God is Here” wasn’t as easy without her, but I had managed to get through it a few times so I figured there was no harm in trying again.
A little while into the song, I realized that there was strong voice singing with me that I didn’t recognize. Since my church is so small, I have grown accustomed to the strong voices in the congregation. I normally hear a combination of the Pastor, First Lady, and my nephew-in-the-ministry. Everyone else sort of falls in line behind them. This voice was different. It was strong and full of emotion. I snapped out of my usual praise and worship haze to figure out where the voice was coming from. To my surprise, it belonged to a little girl who was sitting right in front of me. She was my nephew-in-the-ministry’s youngest daughter.
For the record, this wasn’t the first time that I had heard her sing. There had been a few other Sundays when I remembered her voice standing out. Still, it meant a lot more to me on this particular Sunday because I wasn’t in the greatest of moods. I had a lot on my mind. Between navigating the conflicts within my group of friends, finishing my remaining assignments for class, and dealing with the issues surrounding my father’s illness, I was having trouble remaining upbeat. I was also having a great difficulty believing that my presence in service made a difference. Sure my mom has been a constant source of encouragement in that respect, but she is my mother. It’s her job to be my number one fan. I needed something tangible to let me know that my ministry was actually making a difference.
It’s no secret that working in a church plant can be frustrating–especially when you’re related to the majority of the membership. My friends have become accustomed to me talking (meaning ranting) about how isolating it is. Being in ministry is isolating enough without the added complexity of working with family. It sometimes feels like we are not as effective as we could be. That’s why it was so important to me to hear that little girl sing with so much passion for God. It was proof that we were doing something right.
People often underestimate the power of children to make a positive impact on a ministry, but I believe that children have a distinct ministry that is all their own. It is hard to explain it, but I have seen it in action several times prior to last Sunday. A few weeks ago, I was having an interesting time at my friend’s going away party (for reasons that I won’t go into…at least not in this post) when by some strange turn of events, I was surrounded by children. They all were asking me questions about everything ranging from the business strategy behind video game systems to the fact that Chick-Fil-A fries their chicken and fries in the same oil. (Yes, one of the little boys was a vegetarian.) While I was busy conversing with them, I forgot about how awkward I was feeling.
This effect is not limited to me. When I talked it over with my friends and relatives, I realized that we all had similar stories. God used the presence of children to change our outlooks on situations that we had deemed impossible. Her father and her grandmother were especially proud of the example she set for the rest of us. Last Sunday, the whole church was clearly encouraged by the little girl’s emotional worship. The funny part is that I am doubtful that she was even aware of the impact that she had on the flow of our worship service. She was too busy singing freely and with great sincerity to notice. Maybe we should take a cue from her and learn to do the same.
Israel & New Breed – “Lord You Are Good”
Karen Clark Sheard – “God is Here”