Ask any kid what special day is in February, and they'll tell you Valentine's Day! So this month is all about LOVE. Yep, you know exactly where I'm going: 1 Corinthians 13. Let's look at the first 3 verses. It's pretty straightforward. Summary: It doesn't matter what your talents and/or spiritual gifts are; if you don't have love they're worthless. Wow! Paul spends most of chapter 12 telling us the appropriate way to use our gifts and talents. Then he immediately follows it up by saying don't get the cart before the horse. Before you can use the extra tools God has given you, you need to be paying attention to the basics. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. Just in case you're not sure what love looks like, see verses 4-8.
Let's examine these verses while thinking about our kids in club. Specifically envision the kid that pushes your buttons every week. I want you to see his/her face in your mind. Go ahead; I'll give you a minute.
Got it? Good. I'm going to highlight the things that I believe really apply to an Awana club night.
Verses 4-5: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.
Yes there are times when we have to keep to a schedule. But we can be nice about it. I'll be right up front. "Because I said so" is one of my most frequent responses at home. My kids need to know that I am their parent who answers to God for how I train them, and I have more experience to make informed decisions they may not understand. However in club, we are many times dealing with kids who have no clue what real discipline from a true authority looks like. When we use this statement, they see it as arrogance or bullying. "You do what I say because I'm bigger than you are." Anybody who has been to one of my trainings knows that I am a stickler for discipline. I fall on the side of stricter rules almost every time. Here's the key: T-I-M-E. If you have not taken time to build the relationship necessary with these kids for you to be seen as a true authority in their lives, NO type of discipline that you apply will be seen as love.
Verse 6: It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
I think this part is pretty much true in the majority of clubs.
So far we've been in the ESV. But for this final section, I'm going to switch over to NIV. I think it's just a little more plain in this verse.
Verse 7: It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. So many times we meet with the leadership of churches getting ready to close the doors of their Awana club because all of their leaders quit. They couldn't handle the kids. Let me ask you a question. What would Jesus do if He walked into a room of rowdy kids? Your answer may be different from mine, and that's just fine; it's all speculation. I believe He would walk in and start a fun teaching activity with a small group and let the rest join as they see they're missing something. I believe He would work with the willing. Let's face it, Jesus ministered in the face of much rowdier adults - folks that wanted to kill Him! When is the last time you walked into club and faced a death threat from one of the kids? I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but it's definitely not an every week occurrence. Jesus protected those who chose to stay with Him (Lk 8:24). He trusted His disciples to follow His instructions (Mt 14) when they could see plainly with their eyes there was not enough food to feed the entire crowd. (Again, He had already put in the TIME to earn His disciples trust). Jesus still had hope for His disciples even when they fell asleep in the Garden rather than praying. He didn't say, "You hopeless lot of laziness, I can't take this anymore;even my closest friends have failed me - I'm outta here!" He persevered. He kept on keeping on - right up to the cross. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 KJV
As commander, it's your job to convey a vision of reaching kids with the Gospel. I've been in your shoes. I've had leaders claim burnout. For that matter I've been the leader who was claiming burnout! That's exactly why we say commanders are not supposed to have any responsibilities on club night other than to encourage people. Encourage your leaders. Encourage the parents. Encourage the kids. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Mt 5:14-16 KJV