This week my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Batte, “friended” me on Facebook. I will be honest. It made my day! She was one of my favorite teachers and I was immediately thrown back in time, remembering that classroom. It was the year that I misspelled “restaurant” in the spelling bee – a mistake I never made again. Our student teacher that year had us paper mache light bulbs. After it dried, we got to break the light bulbs and make maracas (not sure that would even be allowed in classrooms anymore!). Mrs. Batte sat with us in the cafeteria and taught us the proper way to eat soup, scooping the spoon away from us. She was very concerned about my nail biting and would hand me a nail file. She gave us each books at Christmas, and she gave me a copy of my very favorite book at the time, which I still have. I don’t know if she knew it was my favorite book, but I felt special. And she knew me. Much to my frustration, she knew that if I sat next to my best friend, I would get myself in trouble with talking too much – and so we were seated on opposite sides of the classroom most of the year!
This one friend request also got me thinking about all the different adults, besides my parents, who invested time and energy in my life. School teachers, Sunday school teachers, the Christian Education Director at my church when I was growing up, pastors in my church and those I crossed paths with at Glen Lake Camp, parents of my friends, friends of my parents, one of my dad’s clients who I only met once and she continues to be interested in my life and supportive. I may not remember everything, but I remember these faces and how each of them made me feel: valued, loved, important and capable. Some planted seeds that didn’t bear fruit until way into my adulthood.
All of this happened on the same day our Confirmands had their last “official” night with their Faith Partners. I have watched these relationships grow over the last year. Some have known each other since the confirmand was born. Others met each other for the very first time in September. They have eaten together, played games together, talked together, prayed together, worshipped together and questioned together. Last night we discussed how we keep our vows to “uphold the United Methodist Church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness,” and the adults shared the different ways they serve the church and God.
It hit me that these are not just things we do; they are investments we make.
Our time and energy gets pulled in so many different directions. We have to make choices. But these vows we make and renew each time a person joins the church represent investments in the lives of people for the sake of the Gospel. With some of these we are closely connected, others we may never meet. With some we will see how our direct involvement impacts their lives immediately, others we may not see it for years. With some we will see our return on our investment, others we may not – but it doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
The Search Institute, through thorough and committed research, has identified forty building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets—that help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. For a number of years we talked about these in children’s and youth ministry and, while the research has been around for years, it still holds true. HALF of these assets are external and represent investments in the lives of young people, including relationships with adults other than their parents.
Relationships. We believe in a God of relationships. Our God models relationship and connection. The Trinity – three in one: Creator/Parent, Son, and Holy Spirit – IS relationship.
I often hear from adults that they don’t know enough about the Bible to lead Sunday school, VBS, to be a Faith Partner, to help with youth on Sunday evenings. It’s not about what we know. It’s about WHO we know (God!) and how we love.
On my office door there hangs a plaque. I have no idea who gave it to me (possibly a parent of one of my students when I was a classroom teacher) however, I read it daily and it continues to impact my life and my ministry. It reads: A hundred years from now it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove, but the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child.
I can’t think of a better return on an investment!