Good Friday Prayer Lunch is a thing we do every year with our youth group.
It’s always a great event. We have done everything from collect congregational prayer requests and pray for hours in the church sanctuary to going to see a Christian movie and praying alongside a discussion over ice cream afterwards. We have prayed on an “adventure lunch” trying a new restaurant no one had been too. We have prayed over towns as we drove around with pizza in our laps. We have stuffed a bajillion Easter eggs for the kids at church and prayed over each of those children by name.
My absolute favorite year was the one where we went to the Toledo Museum of Art and searched for sacred art that depicted parts of Jesus life. When we found two in the record that were missing on the wall they took us into a special room, brought the paintings out from restoration, and let us have a private viewing. World, officially rocked. The Good Friday prayer lunch, while super casual from year to year, has always felt like one of those cornerstone pieces to our youth ministry.
Then, this year, no one could come.
It wasn’t a huge dramatic deal. It just was. Everyone had something else on their schedules, appointments to keep because they were off school, family to visit with from out of town, and other life stuff. The only person who could come, in fact, was my daughter.
I turned to my husband late one night, “I’m so disappointed. No one can come to the Good Friday Prayer Lunch. I guess I’m canceling it.”
Dave, ever the wise one between the two of us, replied, “What about Macee? What would you do if it was any other youth? You would have it if any other youth could come, even if it was just one of them.”
Valid point. Usually if only one of my youth could come I’d let them pick the outing. We’d do whatever they wanted to do that day. We would bond and have some one-on-one time. Dave had a really good point. How had I missed this, just because she was my child? She needed youth ministry too. What an opportunity!
God had just gifted me with an excuse to shower some love on one of my youth, and that youth happened to live within the walls of my own home.
Almost twelve years ago, when Dave and I started doing youth ministry, I read a book aptly named, Youth Ministry in Small Churches by Rick Chromey, published by Group Publishing. I felt overwhelmed by the idea of youth ministry with only a handful of students. How do you design programs for such a small group? I was used to the 20-30 youth or more at an event, when I was growing up in a large church. What did you do if no one came? I remember very little of the book except this one piece of advice-
if one youth shows up, you minister to them.
I remember the author saying something about taking them to lunch or getting ice cream and the opportunity that this moment gives to grow together, to love on them in a whole different way than your average youth ministry program.
Dave and I went on to embrace that concept wholeheartedly in our ministry with youth and adults. Over the years we have been blessed to know our youth in a completely different way than I ever expected. We have laughed with them, cried with them, gathered around impromptu campfires on lazy summer evenings, held spur of the moment road trips, and eventually held their babies while their tiny little foreheads were marked in baptism. These special relationships I would never trade for anything in a million years.
Dave made an extremely valid point – Why wouldn’t I offer my daughter this same ministry? Why wouldn’t I accept this gift of time and energy spent ministering to one of the people closest to my heart, and do it in the name of the youth group at St. Luke Lutheran Church, Wauseon, Ohio.
I wanted her to know that she was worth a whole program. That if she could show up, so would I, and so would the Church. She was worth not canceling for.
I think sometimes we overlook the faithful children of the church standing right in front of us. We tuck them in at night, we kiss their foreheads, and we forget that they need parents, but they need pastors and youth leaders, and faithful Churches too. They need to know that they are a valuable piece of the whole.
How many of you deal with this struggle? Your kids are the only ones in Sunday school? Or in youth group?
They are worth ministering to, I promise. I know it’s tiring and can feel disappointing when they are the only consistent ones, but they are no less the Church because they live at your house.
And churches, these PKs or DCEKs or TeacherKs, they are all worth a programming budget and time spent by you and by those who you have called to lead. Just one youth, no matter who they are matters to the Kingdom, to the Living God.
I went to my daughter that day and simply asked, “Macee, what would you like to do for the Good Friday Prayer Lunch? Your choice. No one else can come, so it’s me and you!” Her face lit up. “Fun!” she said, and gave my shoulders a squeeze.
We ended up going to see a movie. We cracked up and cried big fat tears together. We ate copious amounts of popcorn with ridiculous amounts of butter on it. We shared the largest, most unhealthy pop I’ve ever seen. We prayed for one another, our lives, our friends, and God’s plans. We came home and deemed it a very successful Good Friday Prayer Lunch.
I’m so glad I didn’t cancel. I’m so very glad for the privilege to minister to a precious child of God, no matter who she calls Dad and Mom.