Every week this year we are exploring the theme of “The People.” Today we jump in with……
“The People I don’t thank enough”
Rev. Anita Laffoon earned her Master of Divinity degree from Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, and is currently the Youth and Children’s Minister at First United Methodist Church in Marion, NC. She is passionate about helping children and youth develop their own unique relationship with Jesus, and truly loves being a part of their faith journeys. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and photographing the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains near her Carolina home.
I am not a superhero. There. I said it. I do not possess special abilities that allow me to be all-knowing. I have never snapped my fingers and cleaned up a glitter explosion in the kindergarten Sunday School room. I cannot run for days on little to no sleep, and no matter how hard I try I cannot read people’s minds. I’m not a super hero, and I thank God that being a superhero is not a prerequisite to being a youth minister, or I’d be looking for a new job. But I think a lot of us try to be superheroes in our ministries, either because we want to think we can do it all, or because we’ve been led to believe we have to be able to do it all. But when I try to be and do it all, I don’t leave room for God in my ministry, and I don’t leave room for other to partner with me in ministry. I’m not a superhero – I need God’s help, and I need the help of those God has placed around me. And while I am grateful for those people every day, I also know that I am guilty of not letting them know just how much they are appreciated.
First on my list are the parents who keep me informed of what’s going on with their youth. Try as I might, I can never keep track of every single band concert, play, dance recital, or ball game for every single one of my students. They’re talented, busy people and I love that they have opportunities to participate in the things they love. And in a perfect world I would get to be there every time they get a chance to shine and show off their gifts. But I often find that the biggest obstacle to being there is simply not knowing, and that’s where these rock star parents come in. I have two or three parents who not only keep me informed of what their child is up to, but also make sure I know about major events at the schools where most of my students attend. They get that it’s not just about the game or the play, it’s about building relationships with the students and letting them know that I care about the things they care about. These parents know that I want to be there to cheer the youth on, and they help me do that, and I don’t thank them nearly enough.
Second on my list are the people who look after our church facilities. This husband and wife team not only keeps the church looking beautiful, they help me in ways that (usually) no one else is willing to. Even though I know my ministry is probably the cause of most of the messes they end up dealing with, these two people are kind enough to help me set up for events and move tables and chairs. They check the calendars I post (something I’m almost certain most of the church members don’t do) and ask if I need them to help with any upcoming events for the youth. But mostly they have taught me to find joy in the ordinary and mundane. These are people who always work behind the scenes, and they have taught me that the humble work I do that no one sees matters. They encourage me every time I see them, and I should thank them at least that often, if not more.
Last but never least are the friends who check in on me, and I am blessed to say that there are many of them. There are friends here in my community that know what’s going on in my life and ministry because they are close enough to see it happening. And they are close enough to see me and recognize when I’m trying to be a superhero and am only succeeding in wearing myself out. Sometimes a simple, “let’s go get lunch, you need a break” is enough to help me through a busy summer, and they always know just when to step in. I also have friends hours away who stay in touch with a call or text. I’ll reach for my phone and see something like this: “I know it’s Holy Week and you’re slammed with church stuff, but Easter is coming! You can do it!” And I’ll take a break from the craziness, talk with my friend, and then come back to the task at hand refreshed and ready, and thankful. Because I’m not a superhero, and I’m so grateful for the people who know this and love and support me anyways.