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Inviting the Outcasts

Darren Daugherty

I saw Brittany every Wednesday afternoon during our release-time ministry. Every Wednesday afternoon during the school year, we drive our vans to the public school near our church, pick up a load of children, and bring them back to our church for an hour of Christian education. Brittany was the only child who always greeted me with a smile. She was also the only child without a friend.

None of the kids in our release-time program came from a church-going family. They were tough kids who'd never been taught their own value -- or the value of others. I wish I could say all the kids learned about their value in God's eyes that year; I can't. But I do know one child who did.

It never failed. Every week, Brittany stepped into the van alone. None of the other kids sat by her. In fact, they unmercifully taunted anyone who sat near her. It was heartbreaking. And each week, after we'd put a stop to the teasing, closed the van doors, and pulled away from the school, the van chaperone and I would look at each other with tears in our eyes. We wondered, How could children be so mean and uncaring? Couldn't they put themselves in Brittany's shoes?

The kids' attitude toward Brittany was a big issue for a number of weeks, and its effect was apparent on her. We tried to stop what was happening by talking to the kids about each person's value -- especially in God's eyes. We showered Brittany with verbal affirmations and acts of kindness. Still, the hurtful behavior continued.

During class one day, Brittany drew a picture of a sunset. I watched her draw and then sat next to her and drew a cross. Then I asked if I could write something on her picture.

I wrote, "Brittany is special to us and to God." Brittany's face shone brighter than the sun in her drawing.

Pointing to the words, I asked, "Do you know this is true?"

Hesitant to believe, she shrugged her shoulders.

The other kids gathered around us, and I realized I had their attention as never before. Aware of the many eyes on me, I wrote another message to Brittany on my drawing of a cross. My message said that in Jesus' eyes, Brittany was a treasure.

"Really?" she asked me.

"Yes, Brittany, really!" I answered.

Other voices chimed in: "Can I have it? Will you write on my picture?"

"No," Isaid. "This is especially for Brittany."

How many kids are ostracized as Brittany was? If the way she was treated brought tears to my eyes, how much more does Jesus weep? Jesus' heart aches for the downcast, and he's called us to seek them out. God's Word gives special attention to the responsibility we have to orphans, widows, and others living with challenges and losses. Yet it's so easy to lose sight of the "outcasts" when we're busy programming ministry and attending to details.

Ministry is people. In many cases, the very people we minister to are hurting -- and they'll remember little gestures as momentous events. They attend outreach events; they attend Wednesday evening programs; they sit in children's church every week. Do you know the outcasts in your ministry?

I'd like to say all the kids were transformed that day. On the way back to the public school, the van chaperone asked Brittany if she'd like to sit in the front seat. She sat there like a queen on her throne, grinning from ear to ear. And for the first time, the other kids seemed to understand what we were saying. Their teasing diminished, and no one tried to mar Brittany's special moment. In my heart, I believe Brittany will always remember that day.

Darren Daugherty (www.DiligentFamilies.com) is a children's minister in St. Paul, Minnesota. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.



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