Two weeks ago, I was able to spend time with my favorite community of people at the Children’s Pastors Conference (CPC), put on by the International Children’s Ministry Network (INCM). Three people from my team were able to attend the conference this year, and it’s safe to say that all of us came away with an overwhelming positive experience. I’ll probably be writing about the conference for weeks because I am still processing the amount of speakers that I heard, both in small break-out sessions or in general sessions with 1800 people. It was truly the “drinking from the fire hydrant” experience, but I am so grateful for every minute that my team and I spent learning and connecting.
One of my favorite moments of the entire week was during our first general session, the first time that all of us gathered in one room for a time of worship and learning. Our speaker was Albert Tate, who is a pastor in Southern California, and he brought us a powerful story to us that has stuck in my mind since that Tuesday night. This story was a look into the world of mental institutions, and some of the tests that used to be used to see if a patient was fit for release or not. How the test was run is that the patient would be placed in a room (think janitor’s closet or something similar) with a sink, and the doctor or nurse would plug the sink so it would begin to fill with water. They would give the patient a mop, close the door, and come back in 10-15 minutes to see what had happened. The test was run to see if the patient had used the mop and was working to clean up the water that had spilled on to the floor, or if they had simply turned off the water to stop the flow all together and prevent anything from spilling on the floor.
The point of the story here is that, in ministry, we often fail to identify the root of an issue, and instead use our time and resources and gifts to “mop up” the result of the issue. Or, we take the “band-aid” approach to our questions and issues, looking for the quick fix to clean up instead of looking for the actual problem. Sometimes, in children’s ministries, we give kids the “Sunday School answer” to their questions, without really looking at where their questions are coming from. We help them to learn songs about the order of the books of the Bible instead of helping them understand what is included in its pages.
Sometimes, as humans, we spend all of our time putting the band-aids on our wounds that we forget to look at why we keep getting hurt in the first place. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, which is why this story was so powerful to me. I am no stranger to having issues and struggles in my life, but often times, I turn to a band-aid or a mop to clean up my mess instead of looking at where the mess came from in the first place. Realizing this came as a “slap in the face” moment to me, because it was exactly what I needed to hear in that chair in the midst of the crowd that night.
In the weeks since the conference (I’m still having Orlando withdraws!) I’ve tried to live out the lessons that this story taught me. When different situations arise, whether at home or in my personal life or at work, I try to recognize when my first instinct is to grab a mop or a band-aid and clean something up and cover it so I can move on. Instead of doing that, I try to see where the problem is starting. Whether it’s from me or from someone/somewhere else, this is super helpful. Especially on days where my anxiety is bad and everything feels overwhelming, it’s nice to know that I can do something more that just do quick clean ups here and there. I can prevent the “catch up” game by finding the source of the problem and going there, instead of spending time trying to clean up something that (more often than not) is preventable.
So, that’s what is on my mind today. I hope this story impacts you in some way like it did for me. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll start looking for ways to turn off the sink before you dive in to just mopping up the water. Don’t just use the mop.