Wednesdays with Women in Kidmin is about bringing together some of the leading
women in children's ministry to share their knowledge and passion.
For us to gather and learn from each other...to sharpen each other.
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
My Greatest Influencers
- Katie Wetherbee
When Wendy asked me to participate in this series, she asked that I address this question: “Who has most influenced you as a woman in ministry?” While I have been blessed by teachers, pastors and colleagues who have greatly enriched my faith and guided my ministry, the greatest influencers have, undoubtedly, been children. Please read on to meet a few of the children who have shaped my perspective, deepened my faith, and inspired me to help churches understand and welcome families affected by disabilities…please note: names marked by an asterisk have been changed to protect privacy.
As we turned left into the church parking lot, I saw the orange cones, flashing lights and serious parking lot team, clad in florescent vests….all of the requisite components of outdoor “welcome” team. We took our place in the line of mini vans and sedans, waiting to be directed to the correct row. Creeping forward, I glimpsed an unexpected sight: a small boy with a large grin, proudly wearing a man-sized orange vest as he happily greeted churchgoers.
“That’s Alex*!” I said to my family. Once inside the church, I found Alex’s mom, and mentioned how Alex’s bright grin outshone his bright vest. “What a wonderful welcome!” I enthused.
Alex’s mom smiled. “Well…that’s his ministry.”
And it was. I knew that Alex, a child with special needs, had been having some difficulty with Sunday School. The 75-minute class was simply too long to stay in one place, listen and sustain attention. After much discussion and prayer, it was decided that Alex would stay for part of Sunday School, and then join the parking team to help welcome those arriving for second service. And every week, I tried to steer my car into Alex’s line to experience the sheer joy with which he greeted each and every visitor.
Similarly, Margaret* felt the call to serve at her church…much to the surprise of her parents. Margaret struggled for years to manage the hour-long church service. At times, her mother wondered, “Is it even worth it (to go?) I am doing anybody any good?” Meltdowns were frequent, often beginning before the family even left for the service. Still, Margaret’s parents persisted…for years. And one day, this young lady, who was rooted in faith by loving parents, decided—on her own—that she wanted to be an altar server. She faithfully takes on this role each week that she is assigned, willingly and, in her dignified, quiet manner, helping her church family receive the Lord’s Supper.
And then there’s Lucas…lanky and loud, with big eyes…and a big heart. Lucas recently went on his very first mission trip, along with his high school youth group. What was once too difficult for him to manage became possible with some well-planned modifications. He loved it…and his ability to serve others transcended his disability. As we chatted one morning, Lucas told me, “You know, Mrs. Wetherbee, I used to have autism…but I don’t have it anymore.” Truly, Lucas does not feel hindered by his diagnosis because at church he feels accepted and wanted and commissioned to serve.
Alex. Margaret. Lucas…and so many more faithful, beautiful children have influenced me in my ministry, because they teach me and remind me that while we are ALL broken, we all have gifts that are necessary to the Body.
And finally, the children who have influence me the most are these two:
My own children, Annie and Bill.
They stretch me with their questions and astound me with their observations…and challenge me to deepen my faith. And I know they are watching me as they work out their own faith…and I pray, oh, I pray, that my life and ministry will be a proverb of wisdom, and a Psalm they can sing.
As Director of Education for Key Ministry (www.keyministry.org), Katie Wetherbee helps churches to welcome and include families affected by disabilities. In addition, Katie writes for several publications, including Standard Publishing and K! Magazine, and blogs at http://katiewetherbee.wordpress.com. She lives in Chagrin Falls, OH with her husband, Tom and their children, along with a quirky mutt named Mitzie.