And they'll know we are Christians by our Love

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This fall marks the start of my second year co-directing the children's program at church. My mom is the other director. We had a good first year I think. We made alot of changes to the program, which of course a few people in the church had issues with, but by and large, people responded well to all our ideas.

One change we made was to move the children's program from before the church service to during it. This made it a little hard to get teachers willing to miss church all the time. We were very grateful for those sacrificing souls who did so.

At the end of June we held a BBQ lunch for all the kids and parents, and, of course, leaders. We took that opportunity to shower our wonderful support crew with gifts. The teens and children who were in leadership roles recieved a 'cool' gift: a music download of the new Hillsong Kids cd (we love Hillsong Kids :-) Other leaders and helpers recieved flowers or gift cards. So then we had our teachers. What could we say to express our thankfulness?

I enjoy giving unique gifts. Usually, I shy away from traditional, typical gifts. No plaques or books or cutsy little figurines. I wanted to find something different and meaningful. I mused about the teachers and what being a part of our program had cost them during the year. I imagined that their husbands were likely also on the recieving end of this cost factor. As strengthening marriages has been both a personally important thing to me, and something we focused on at church with the showing of the Fireproof movie, I decided to pull a unique gift idea from my gift-giving past and give each teacher a 'date in a basket'.

Now, we had about 12 teachers so I knew this could get costly. So, to keep expenses down, the first thing I did was hit the dollar store. I bought each teacher a woven basket and picked up some lace placemats in packages of 2 to lay inside. Then 2 long stemmed glasses, a lovely frosted votive candle holder (embossed with virtues) and a tea light started out the goodies. A trip to the grocery store yielded a personal favourite for celebrating events in my house: sparkling grape juice.
What else would create a romantic and relaxing night for our most appreciated teachers? Oh yes, can't forget some chocolate. The boxes I found were cheap but yummy.
Finally, tucked in the midst of all these items in each teachers basket was a 10$ gift card to the local video store. Sparkling juice to sip by candlelight, chocolate to share while watching a romantic movie...ahhh, sounded wonderful to me!
Judging from the delighted looks on our teachers faces, I think they all agreed. I was so pleased.

Until....last week.

See, one teacher didn't make the BBQ when we handed these out and publically announced our thankfulness to all the teachers. Try as I might, we never crossed paths ALL summer.

Last Sunday, we had the new team up onto the platform for the pastor to pray over us all and bless our upcoming year. I spoke a few words at that time and took the opportunity to thank that last teacher and hand her her basket. It was important to me that she be recognized in front of the congregation as the other teachers had been. As the others, her faced glowed and I was so glad that she seemed to be pleased.

I thought nothing more of it all until nearly a week later when I learned that our pastor had been dealing with repercussions. It seemed that a number of people had been highly offended by the gift.
After reading my description, I'm sure you're wondering, "What in the world is offensive about a lovely little basket of goodies for a romantic evening with your hubby?"

Well, first off, my church doesn't do drinking. At all. The sparkling grape juice was of course in a bottle that from far off, looked like wine. That people from my congregation could have watched me co-directing the children's program all year, have seen me in various roles over the years as a soloist and musician, choir director and generally devoted member of the church, and think that my mom and I would have the gall to present a teacher with a bottle of wine in the middle of a church that is offensive.
But no, apparently the phrase "above reproach" was even batted around. My goodness, don't let them read about what Jesus did at that wedding in Cana.

I also heard that some objected to the money spent on such a 'lavish' gift. Yeah, those dollar stores are getting more and more lavish all the time. I think I even have to pay $1.25....$1.50....even $2.00 for some items! Even if the gift 'looked' lavish from truly astounds me that a church expects a group of people to voluntarily give of their time and energy to do something that is often a thankless job--challenging, frustrating, tiring...teaching children is HARD, especially these days when 1 in 5 has some kind of delay, learning disability or condition....and then criticizes a lousy $20 gift basket.
They didn't limit themselves to complaints and criticisms however. There were even threats that "if this is what our money is being used for" can imagine the implication there. That really stung. I'm just stunned that people in our church would be so hung up on such a tiny thing, after a wonderful year of successful ministry to the children of the church. They would actually withdraw their support over this? They would hit our ministry where it hurts the most, to the detriment of the children?

I tell you, that was a heart-wounding blow. I had to ask the Lord to deal with some strong feelings towards these people. I knew I couldn't go into the weekend, kicking off our first Sunday back in the children's program with such resentment inside. And He did.

That didn't mean it wasn't difficult to go into the church this weekend and face everyone. I was there all day Saturday and all Sunday morning until about 1pm. When I wasn't completely occupied with everything that needed to be set up, rehearsed, designed, put in place and so many other tasks, I had to fight my growing suspicion. I didn't know who it was that complained....was it that lady walking by the office door? Was it the old guy with the cane? That young mom with the handful of kids? I had no idea. Were they all secretly disapproving of everything I did? Who knows what they might target clothes, my hair...too much make-up!?!

I know, sounds a little over the top. Brains do funny things when their hearts are wounded.

But...the Lord could see all that. And he sent reinforcement.

First off, it was a great morning with hardly any problems. Kids were happy and seemed to enjoy the program. Teachers did great.

After the service, I was out in the foyer when an older lady stopped me. She looked familiar but I didn't know her name. She wanted to tell me that she had met a mutual acquaintance of myself and my husband last week. After that, she said such a wonderful thing. She told me that I had a beautiful spirit. She said that her and her husband have watched me in the church and said again about my beautiful spirit.

You know, I realize that we will never please all the people all the time....but it's SO nice when the pleased ones say so.


J9 said...

It's so true - you can never please all the people all of the time. And those who are usually the most vocally negative are the ones who actually don't have a clue what they're talking about. (which makes them look pretty silly in the long run!) But still, it hurts just the same.

I agree with that lady in the foyer - you DO have an absolutely beautiful spirit! I am SO glad she felt compelled to tell you so!!

As we used to say at FH, "Be Ye Encouraged This Day!"

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