A Christian coach witnesses crises in his personal life, his professional life, and his spiritual life. He doesn’t see God at work. A godly prayer warrior tells him about two farmers who desperately need rain. Both farmers pray for rain, but only one of them goes out and prepares his fields to receive it. “Which one are you?” asks the godly man. “God will send the rain when he’s ready. You need to prepare your field to receive it. “
I love this scene from the Christian film, Facing the Giants. It spoke to me during a time of spiritual drought in our ministry.
Before the drought our mission church was small. We had about thirty-five to forty people on a Sunday morning. Though we were small we had core families with kids in a wide variety of ages. We had teachers and workers. We seemed to be making good progress. Then, for a variety of reasons, we lost seven families in a few years. Suddenly we had no kids coming to Sunday School. We had dairy workers who would bring their kids to the morning service sometimes. We had a few kids who would attend our Discovery Club if we supplied all the transportation. We had a nice group of four to six kids who would come to youth group until two more moved away. As we started 2012 we really didn’t know what to do for the coming February-December school year.
Any church planter will tell you it’s hard to get kids if you don’t already have kids. Families with kids aren’t usually eager to attend a church that has nothing for their children. With sporadic attendance we hardly had enough kids for a kids’ club and we hardly had enough youth for a youth group. A few of our youth had attended youth group for years but never came to church on Sundays. We wanted to give them more Bible than they were getting in short devotionals on Friday nights, but we have learned one truth about people and church planting. You can’t make them come.
In past years I began in January planning a year of Discovery Club with exciting themes, crafts and awards. Not long after DC started in February I’d begin planning the Mum-Daughter Nite, then the Christmas Program. But how do you plan programs when you don’t know who, if anyone, will come?We had to pray that God would send us kids and youth, and then be prepared for anyone who came. This year would not be a plan-ahead year. This was a year of faith, a step-by-step year, when we could only plan a few weeks ahead at a time.
After much prayer and thought we totally reinvented our kids’ and youth program. We combined them into one Friday night program that included both age groups. Each week I taught a Bible story with applications that would target the larger age group.
It was risky. Would the youth quit coming when the younger kids joined them? Would the younger ones be overwhelmed by the higher athletic ability of the youth? How could I teach the six-to- eighteen year age group effectively?
This might not be the ideal program in most situations, but the Lord led us into it and we followed. The Lord blessed. Our particular blend of kids and youth accepted the broader age range. Some nights we had less kids or less youth, but with the combined group we always had enough to play games. The youth we had were mainly unsaved girls who needed to learn the basic Bible stories that also worked for younger kids. It was unusual, but it was working.
In the beginning, none of the Friday night youth and kids came in time for Sunday School on Sunday morning. In recent years I had invited this group to Sunday School, but they had never come. We had essentially moved our Sunday School to Friday night. But I told the Lord if he brought families to our church who actually came during that Sunday School hour when adults had their Bible study, I would teach a Sunday School class.
In April a new family from South Africa started coming regularly. They enjoyed our Discover program, but also came during the Sunday School hour. Now I had a class with an age range from three to fourteen. It was different, but it worked.
Just recently another new family moved here from Australia and started coming. They have three children, two of which really need a nursery. Now we need to reinvent some more church programs.
We prepared for rain during the drought season so we were ready to receive God’s showers of blessing. We had to be flexible. Sometimes we drove to church prepared for plan A, B, or C.
That’s my story. What about you? Maybe you’re an organizer like me and you’d like to plan all kinds of exciting events but you are in a drought period. Maybe everything is changing and you can’t plan ahead because you don’t know how many workers you’ll have or how many kids will commit to program practice. Maybe you’d like to start a Bible study or new ministry but you’re afraid no one will be interested. Maybe your ministry is in crisis and you wonder if it will even continue. You can only see a faint glimpse of God’s leading and you’re afraid to take the next step. What do you do?
Take the next step that God leads you to take, praying for the Lord to direct you step by step. Be flexible. Be prepared for anything. God may prosper your present endeavor or he may use the things that don’t work to move you in another direction. But he will lead you if you sincerely want to follow him.
Faith is that next prayerful step into a dark future. It ‘s the farmer who prepares his field during a drought. It’s the servant who labors on when her work seems to be in vain.
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)
How’s your faith today?