“Why did you become a children’s pastor? Of all the things you could have chosen why ministry?” It’s quite coincidental that Sharon O’Neill should ask me this question when just last weekend I had a few of our new Godzone leaders over for dinner, and I was asked that exact same question!
It was the night of the 30th March 1980, when I first became acutely aware of God tugging on my heart. I was just 9 years old. My mum had allowed my sister and I to go to our very first night service at our church to hear our new Youth Pastor speak. Funnily enough, I don’t actually remember a single word the pastor said. All I remember is my heart beating wildly with the sudden realisation that God could see me, knew me by name, and that I belonged to Him. As a child touched by divorce and my parent’s remarriage, that realisation changed my world at the time and ever since then I have known that Jesus was walking beside me.
Maybe it was that childhood experience that put a passion in my heart to lead other kids to Jesus, so that they too could know that they are completely loved, known intimately by God, and belong in His family?… I have just always felt called to ministry with kids.
I completed my Primary Teaching degree in 1992, and absolutely loved my new job at a school in the Western suburbs of Sydney. But I remember many mornings crying on the way to work because I still felt there was something unfulfilled in my heart, and it frustrated me that I couldn’t tell the kids in my class about Jesus. A couple of years later when I met my husband, I remember telling him as we walked along the beach, that I felt a call into Children’s Ministry, and although I had no idea what that was going to look like down the track, I needed to know he would support me before I could agree to getting married.
As I look back, I can see so clearly how God has directed my paths. Even though I was so passionate about Kids Ministry, I was also very scared about what God would ask of me. When my husband and I first came to Gateway, it wasn’t long before I was helping out in the Bubs Room and Playgroup, and I remember telling the lady who coordinated the Bubs Room at the time (now a dear friend!), that I’d be happy to hide in there for the rest of my life! So funny! Obviously, God’s plans were a little bigger than mine!
I have been so blessed to have such a pastoral team around me that have continued to encourage, challenge, inspire and believe in me, even when my steps forward have been on shaky knees. Their wisdom and loving counsel has allowed me to grow beyond what I could have ever imagined, and walk a whole lot more confidently into the plans and purposes that God had for me all along.
I love my role as Children’s Pastor, and still feel the same passion in my heart to let kids know that they are loved by God, that they are significant, and that they belong in His family. Although there is very rarely a day that I don’t feel stretched and where I’m not learning something new, I can’t think of anything else I could do that would fulfil that longing in my heart to lead kids to Jesus!