If you read my January 11 post, Last Night We Crossed Over, you know that our church decided to invite the Boys and Girls Club kids that meet in our church to join our members for our regular Wednesday night fellowship meal. We would pay for about 40 kids to eat dinner each Wednesday night with our church family. Things were fine for the first two weeks, but after that they went “pear-shaped” as an Aussie friend of mine says. “Pear-shaped” is not good.
What Went Wrong
Here’s what happened: The third Wednesday of our joint dinner, I was gone to Fuller for a DMin seminar. Apparently, things were bad at supper that Wednesday night. Imagine 40 kids that nobody in our congregation knows running through the fellowship hall, pouring Sweet-n-Lo on food, selling school candy, yelling, and generally acting like kids. One member said, “It was chaos.” The news reached me by email in California.
After I returned, we met and talked about what went wrong. Our congregation identified several mistakes we made:
- Supervision. Although the kids came to the church for the Boys and Girls Club, when they came upstairs for supper, the Club staff left. We didn’t know the kids, they didn’t know our folks, and nobody was in charge.
- Expectations. Nobody prepped the kids by telling them what to expect or how to act during the meal. We hosted a Christmas party for these same kids and they were very well-behaved, so given proper information things would have been different.
- Purpose. What had been a fellowship meal for our members, changed to an outreach project without proper thought or preparation.
What We Learned
I then asked our members, “What have we learned about ourselves?” I thought this was the most important lesson in this experience. One person said, “We expected the kids to act like us.” Another said, “I was really aggravated.” Another confessed, “I felt really angry.” One member said, “Ministry is hard.” And finally someone said, “I’m too old to deal with so much noise and confusion.” We all laughed, but that’s an important thing to admit. We also talked about the difference between charity and hospitality, and next time we want to be more hospitable, not just charitable.
The bottom line — ministry is hard. Just because you try to do the right thing doesn’t mean it always works out. But learning from the experience, regrouping, and trying again is very important. During the meeting last night, one of our members asked me, “So, do you want us to keep doing this?” I think he expected me to say, “Yes, of course, it’s the right thing to do.”
Instead I replied, “No, we need to take a break, learn from our mistakes, and try again.” Relief spread through the group. So, for now we have gone back to our regular routine, but we’re smarter and wiser from having this experience. The next time we’ll do the right thing in the right way. Our people want to and that’s what counts.