Increase Your Receptivity to “Remember When” Discipleship Moments
As followers of Jesus live out their day-by-day, moment-by-moment relationship with God, life-changing experiences happen unpredictably, but more often than expected. In the realm of children’s ministry, this has the potential to happen frequently as we minister with kids and families. It is encouraging to look back together and share “Remember when…” discipleship stories. Do you realize you and the community of kid-influencers you lead can increase its receptivity to life-change? Guiding kids and families to be ready for “remember when” discipleship moments is a gift you as a leader can offer.
My Unexpected Camping Adventure
Roughing it in the woods is not my favorite pastime. A couple nights at a two star hotel without a pool is as close to camping as I typically get. Several years ago my stepdad Stan and my stepbrothers Brett and Jordan talked me into heading to the U.P. in Michigan to go fishing. I wasn’t sure if there was an ulterior plot behind this, but I decided to take the risk anyway. It was worth the opportunity to build relationships and see if a city slicker like me could actually catch something bigger than a bluegill.
After a few days, the trajectory of our adventure was better than I anticipated. Yes, there was more rain than sunshine. And, there were legions of mosquitoes. And, we certainly didn’t eat or sleep like kings. But, we did catch A LOT of fish. We caught two hundred feisty bass between the four of us. Prepared (more or less) to face whatever conditions came our way, we launched out into an unscripted adventure together. Skeptical at first, I now believe it turned out to be totally worth it in the end.
There’s one particular story from this trip that stands out from the rest. As Stan and I paddled back at dusk across one of the bigger lakes, he decided to drag a lure deep in the water. We were returning to the campsite after an already a successful day of fishing. The water was still. The moon was on the rise. We recounted our day together. Then everything changed.
“I think I’ve got something.” Stan, an accomplished angler, clearly had a fish on the line. Unlike the others we had caught, this one was causing the canoe to sway. Our forward momentum came to a halt. I’ll never forget the serious look on his face as he said, “Danny, make sure the boat doesn’t tip.” My mind and heart started to race. If Stan is looking to me, a novice in every sense of the word, to keep things stable, we’re in deeper waters than I thought.
We could hardly get the fish into the boat when it finally got reeled in within arms reach. The fact that we snagged anything felt like a fluke. As Stan heaved his catch over the edge of the canoe, I was in awe. He held up the most amazing 31-inch Lake Trout. I quickly snapped a picture to capture this unexpected experience. The lighting wasn’t great. The flash got obstructed. But proof is still hanging on Stan’s wall and in the archives of our hearts. This is the “remember when” moment that we proudly revisit time and time again.
Are You Ready for “Remember When” Discipleship Moments?
“Remember when” moments generally come as a surprise. Life changing circumstances are most often spontaneous not scripted. Stan and I could not predict when we’d get the big catch of the trip. We certainly didn’t expect it when we were winding down from an already full day. The beauty of this story is how a veteran fisherman and a beginner were swept into an extraordinary encounter side-by-side. I can’t imagine that giant trout had been in a boat for a long time, if ever. Catching it was an unpredictable gift. However, had we not been prepared, we wouldn’t have seized this “remember when” moment.
Life-changing experiences can be captured but never contrived or contained. Trying to fabricate something significant is usually silly. Best-laid plans get derailed; reality falls short of expectations. And, when something miraculous does happen, trying to bottle it up is impossible. Time moves on and so do people. Yet, how often do we try to create memorable moments in our relationships? How often do we attempt to freeze time with a snapshot?
Parents get caught up in trying to create memories, yet what gets remembered most is what didn’t go as planned. In children’s ministry, leaders desperately work hard to grab kids’ attention but it turns out that it’s in the open-ended conversations where their hearts and heartache is revealed. “Remember when” moments that stand out are relatively few and far between, though real life change does happen in relationship with God frequently. We can’t force these moments to happen, but we can be ready and guide others to be ready as well with a slight adjustment in attitude as disciples.
“Ready, Set, Grow” Is the Way to Go
Now that you’re familiar with my boat story, let’s take a look at some discipleship footage between Jesus, Peter and the disciples. In Matthew 14:25-32, we learn that Christ’s closest followers headed out on the lake after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Jesus sent them on their way and then caught up with them later…walking on the water! Can you imagine being with them at this “remember when” moment? Would you have let Peter stand up and step onto the water? Or, would you have grabbed his arm and tried to talk some sense into him? It’s true, Peter didn’t make it very far before he started sinking. But he still took a few unprecedented steps. In the end, the disciples recognized Christ’s identity and worshiped Him as God’s Son. They arrived on the opposite shore with a powerful “remember when” discipleship moment to share with the world. Had Peter not been ready, it is possible he and the others would have missed it altogether.
Having a “ready, set, grow” attitude as a disciple, regardless of your age or stage in life, is a fantastic way to be prepared for “remember when” discipleship moments. As a leader, you can pave the way in this by taking and guiding others in three important steps.
1. Launch Out
The disciples could not experience life-change without launching out. When Jesus told them to head across the lake, they needed to trust Him by actively taking steps forward. They needed to embrace an attitude that was open to anything that might come their way. If someone had mentioned that Christ would meet them while walking in the middle of the open waters, they would have laughed and dismissed it as ridiculous. Yet, when Jesus confronted them face-to-face, their openness to life-change skyrocketed. And why? They launched out.
Launching out is as much an attitude as it is an activity. Peter left the shore with the disciples, but when it came time to walk on water the state of his heart toward God was revealed. In the children’s ministry you lead or serve in, it is important to model what it means to live in relationship with Jesus. This includes stepping forward in faith as one who trusts God and is open to whatever comes your way. You probably won’t be asked to walk on water, but overcoming the hurdles you face will feel like it. When it comes to launching out with God in the way of Christ, is your attitude “ready, set, grow”?
2. Take a Risk
On my fishing trip, Stan and I launched out; we left shore and started paddling. Then, when things got turbulent, we each took risks to catch the fish and keep the boat steady. In the disciples’ situation, they all obeyed Jesus’ instruction to cross the lake even after getting caught up in a storm. Peter, in particular, took it a step further and left the boat to be with Christ. His level of risk went way up.
In every account, taking a risk is both an action and attitude of the heart toward God. Letting the Lord lead is not easy in life, but things get uncomfortable before lasting change happens. Is this something you, your leaders and the kids and families in your ministry are familiar with? Are they encouraged to take a risk in their relationship with God? How can you help them learn to let the Lord lead them with a “ready, set, grow” attitude?
3. Release Control
The response of the disciples after Christ got back in the boat and the wind and wave died down is remarkable. Even though they were afraid, doubted and exhibited little faith, Jesus loved and remained with them. They demonstrated their restored belief in Christ by worshiping Him. They surrendered their will to be in charge. The disciples rightfully reminded themselves that there is only one God.
Stan and I didn’t meet up with Jesus walking on the water in the middle of the lake. And, fortunately, neither of us was called to get out of the boat. However, we did need to let go of our compulsion to be in charge. The fish was going to do what it wanted to do. The canoe could more or less be stabilized, but going into panic mode would not have ended well for us. Releasing control is hard for humans; Jesus knows this and still invites us to let go.
In your own walk with Christ, are you grabbing onto the reigns in some way? In your children’s ministry, is being in control holding your leaders, kids and families back from walking freely with God? What way(s) can you begin to release control in favor of a “ready, set, grow” attitude?
Do You “Remember When…”?
It’s possible that you will be able to reflect back on reading this article in a month, ninety days or six months and say, “Remember when….” The way you fill in the blank will be different from others, but the common thread will be life-change in relationship with God. I’m sure there are decisions you can make today, personally and professionally, that will positively impact the “ready, set, grow” attitude of you and those in your disciple-making community. The kid-influencers around you are committed to Christ and coming alongside kids and families so they will come to know, love and serve Him. In as much as you set the example and guide them to launch out, take a risk and release control in relationship, they will begin capturing “remember when” discipleship moments more than ever before. Their receptivity to life with God will go way up. Are you up for the challenge? Are you willing to launch out, take a risk and release control in the children’s ministry you lead? If you are, in the future you’ll be glad you did.
Dan Lovaglia | Awana® Director of New Ministries & Parent Engagement
As Director of New Ministries and Parent Engagement at Awana (awana.org), Dan Lovaglia and the team he leads are finding fresh ways to equip kids, families and ministry leaders to know, love and serve Christ. He brings 15 years of discipleship ministry experience to the table and a passion for life-changing teaching, training and team building. Dan and his wife Kate live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with their two fantastic teenage sons, Avery and Aaron. Follow Dan’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram @DanLovaglia or his blog at danlovaglia.wordpress.com.