The Culmination of My Weird Week: Getting Hit By A Shopping Cart

10 08 2010

It started last Sunday evening, as I stepped outside my apartment doorstep on a balmy evening to take the dogs out at midnight before I hit the hay.

I took one step before I landed right on top of it.

A folder.

Nestled right outside my front door.

In this neat, color-coded file folder was a whole collection of assignments from one of the kids in my confirmation small group.

Apparently, my dear little friend Ashley had been too embarrassed to knock on my door that late at night–so she just ditched her folder on my welcome mat without saying a word to me.

All I could think about was a movie I saw one time, in which a disgruntled ex-boyfriend kills his girlfriend’s dog and leaves the poor puppy’s head on her front stoop to terrify her.

I don’t think that was the kind of message Ashley was trying to send to me, don’t worry. But of all the things to have left on my welcome mat, I never expected to see homework assignments there. Sort’ve like my work truly followed me home.

Hm. Strike one on the Weekly Weirdness scale of my life.

Strike two followed swiftly after that–the very next evening, in fact.

I was preparing myself for a highly stressful week, so I had invited some of my ninth graders over to my apartment to watch a movie that evening. At the last minute, they all backed out on me, so I was left with a gloriously empty evening, stretching out in front of me–one filled with wasteful hours of eating dry Fruit Loops and watching “Criminal Minds” reruns while lounging in my pajamas.

Suddenly, my dreams of doing absolutely nothing were shattered by one forceful “bang-bang-BANG-BANG” on the door.

My first thought was, “That’s gotta be a neighbor. My ninth-grade students can’t drive yet–there’s no way I have to worry about them just showing up at my door randomly.”

I cracked open the door, and found out just how wrong I was.

Apparently, while my students can’t yet legally drive themselves to my house without any warning, their parents still can.

Within half an hour, I found myself managing the utter chaos of having five unruly teenagers goofing around in my apartment. I never really realized how many breakable things we own until I saw two of the biggest klutzes I’ve ever met handling these objects.

Hastily, I drove them to the only place I knew where they couldn’t break anything:

The church parking lot.

Bingo. Sometimes, it does pay to be a church worker.

Strike three was even weirder, as hard as that seems to believe. It’s a long story, but it involves a handful of kiddos eating a frozen french silk pie in my car, late at night. I still have the crumbs on my dashboard to prove that it actually happened–it wasn’t just a sleep-deprived hallucination.

Strike four occurred just yesterday, as I was at Walmart.

I know, I know…that place is a magnet for all things bizarre. You’re not phased by me telling you that something strange happened at Walmart.

In fact, Lady Gaga looks downright normal compared to some of the people I’ve seen at that store.

So it should come as no surprise to you that I actually got run over by a cart at Walmart yesterday.

Yep. Poor me, looking for thank-you cards for my confirmation leaders…I step around the corner cautiously, and get nailed by a suburban housewife looking for school supplies.

I kid you not. She rammed her cart right into me.

It's out to get me...

My eyes must’ve been as big as saucers as I backed away from the Killer Cart Lady, listening to her apologize profusely for her carelessness. I managed to squeak out, “Oh, no, it’s ok! I’m fine! Really!” before I practically sprinted over to another aisle to get away from her.

I think I was in shock that I actually managed to get hit by a shopping cart–especially considering that I had been peeking around the corner so carefully…a habit I’ve learned by watching other people almost get run over by these metal monsters.

I walked over to the scrapbooking supply aisle in a daze. I turned and stared at some stickers, and suddenly heard an ominous sound behind me.

I spun around, only to see the same lady–Killer Cart Lady–about to run over me again.

Like I’ve said many times: I can’t make this stuff up.

She dragged her eyes away from the display and locked eyes with me, startled. When she realized it was me again, she froze and screeched her cart to a stop. I literally backed away, palms up, to another aisle.

We didn’t say a word to each other. It was a mutual agreement that we’d never meet again in this fashion.

As I hastily left Walmart, I began to realize the truth:

I’m on someone’s hit list.

Come on–that has to be it. There’s simply no other explanation. Who almost gets run over by the same lady twice, other than someone who’s on a hit list?

Now, I just need to figure out why I’m on that list…and who else in nice, quiet, suburban Oakville is going to come at me this week…


The Lightning Bolt to My Brain: Informal, Organic Ministry

19 07 2010

I’ve been working in youth ministry full-time for just over two years now, and according to all the research I’ve ever read, this is a dangerous quitting point for the majority of people in youth ministry. Why? No one can put a finger on it and figure it out completely….it’s apparently just the average shelf-life of a youth worker.

Two years in.

Am I in danger of quitting?


I spent the majority of my weekend with students, carting several of them to Six Flags with a few other leaders and taking them on an all-day excursion to area thrift stores. I think most people would balk at that. But I can’t think of a better weekend, honestly.

In college, I was trained in all the ideals of ministry–how to lead, pray with, counsel, and set an example to kids. I was even trained in how to appropriately hug students–the “side hug”, initiated only by students.

My college training was invaluable. But in the two years since I graduated from that formal setting, I’ve seen a different side of things.

A more organic, informal side of ministry.

Quite simply, I’m seeing the value of just inviting these kids into my daily life. And coaching other leaders to do the same.

It’s making all the difference in the world as to how I really do ministry, I think, by allowing people to just see the Holy Spirit working in my life, without me getting in the way.

One of my friends recommended for me to read the book “mY Generation” by Josh James Riebock. I’m currently halfway through, and felt that figurative lightning bolt to the brain as I read these words:

“I thought about how our world often only pushes people out, about how rare it is to be invited into someone else’s life, and about how I often feel like the only people that invite me into their lives are those on television–some late night talk show host or weatherman. I thought about that feeling I sometimes get that I don’t know some of my closest friends from Adam, anything about them, what they’re thinking, what they like or why they like it–that feeling that they won’t let me in.

I realized that, maybe, the greatest thing I can do for someone is not try to convince them that I can be trusted or that Glorious God is who they hope for, but maybe the greatest thing I can do for someone is to invite them into my life to see Glorious God in me and let them decide those things for themselves. I realized that, maybe, the greatest thing I can offer someone is what Glorious God…offers to me–an invitation in.”

Unintentionally, I’ve already started to do this in my own life, with my students:

Letting them see me outside of my formal 9-to-5 role as their youth leader.

Allowing them to pick my brain, read what I’m reading, think about what I’m pondering, feel my frustrations and joys.

Giving them a glimpse of the real me, as I pick through old clothes and ratty tennis shoes at the local Goodwill stores.

After all…I doubt that the disciples’ lives were changed more by the meaningful stories and lessons that Jesus taught them more than they were changed by actually being with Jesus–seeing His absolute holiness and power seeping out from every pore.

And hey, if Jesus did it…

Just sayin’.

172 Hours, 30 Kids, and WAAAAAY Too Many Bathroom Stops

4 07 2010

Last evening, I returned home from our middle school mission trip to Loveland, Colorado. I think my brain is still recovering. I sure hope it returns to normal capacity soon.

Our new "family"

You see, I spent the last 172 hours straight with 30 kids under the age of 15. 

Ah. Now you get it.

I slept barely four hours a night, sharing a slowly deflating air mattress with a fellow leader, crammed in a tiny classroom with 15 other girls–three of whom talked in their sleep. I nightly attempted to fall asleep to the sound of boys running down the hall and body slamming into each other.

I ran around and played with little kids at a Boys and Girls Club in Colorado, where I had kids sneezing on me and crawling on my lap to whisper their breathy secrets to me. Naturally, I’m now sick.

I have a hard time hearing anything because my ears have been plugged since we left the Rocky Mountain National Park, where I walked around in a constant state of fear as 30 kids scampered around like Bigfoot running from a camera, flying through the woods and scrambling up and down rocky ledges, craning for a view of the unguarded sheer cliffs. 

In the last week, I’ve only had three showers. And, at one point, I joined the desperate kids in bathing in a local lake–in full knowledge that the toddlers a few feet away were probably tinkling in the very water I was washing my hair in.

I’ve basically lived on sandwiches and water–sometimes not even that much, as I had to share my lunch one day with a kid who forgot his.

I’ve helped sweep, mop, wipe down counters, empty trash cans, pick up infinitesimal pieces of paper off the ground, serve food, cut paper, hand things out, pack and repack vans, inflate air mattresses, hand out medicine, balance our budget, plan our routes, hold cameras for kids, juggle phone calls, break up fights, comfort crying kids, direct leaders, discipline kids, and say “because I said so” more times than I can count.

I’ve been alternately sweaty, freezing, sore, ticked off, mischievous, lackadaisical, angry, sobbing, awed, shocked, organized, disorganized, and exhausted.

But, I’ve never seen God so powerfully at work.

While on our trip, we found out that one of our student’s young cousins had been in a car accident and passed away. It was devastating, and beyond heart wrenching to be the one trying to figure out how, when, and where to inform this student about the tragedy that will forever affect his entire family.

It was heartbreaking to inform the entire group, and to see them tearfully embrace each other as they hurt for their friend, but the way that God worked through the kids is something that touched me deeply and will forever impact my own faith.

Seeing these young kids, some of whom have dealt painfully with death already in the last few months, cling to God in their sorrow–praying for each other, sobbing into each other’s shoulders, holding each other, taking care of each other, praising God in the midst of some of the most challenging moments of their lives–it was beyond moving. Every single person in our group cried together.

Without spending the twelve hours I could spend writing about this entire trip–sharing countless inside jokes, insights into the incredible kids on our team, and the gory details of being inside a car with half a dozen teenage boys who just wolfed down Taco Bell–I really just want to give glory where it’s due.

The Holy Spirit moved powerfully in our kids and leaders this week, in undeniable ways.

There’s something special about our group–and I see them now as part of my family. It sounds like such a corny thing to say, like something that would be written in a senior yearbook by the homecoming queen…but I really mean it. 

Our church is special, our leaders are incredible, and our youth are even more amazing. Our kids were willing to do anything–including leave halfway through our trip and driving straight through the night to get to St. Louis–to get their friend home for his cousin’s funeral.

Some of the students even volunteered themselves up to fly home with their friend, offering to pay for part of their ticket by themselves. Anything it took to help their friend. It was incredible to see how they absolutely paid no attention to themselves, but only strove to do everything they could for each other.

Part of me really feels like I was blessed more by this trip than anyone else–interacting with so many kids who poured out their hearts to me, who challenged me in my own faith, and who ran to me when they were hurting was quite an experience I’ll never forget.

I’ve never felt so connected to a group, many of whom I’d never had a significant conversation with at the beginning of the trip.

I’ve never interacting with leaders who I was so sure were the perfect leaders for this trip.

And I’ve certainly never, ever been more impressed with any group of kids. Ever.

God is good.

The Night My Youth Group Almost Got Attacked By A Knife-Wielding 8-Year-Old

21 06 2010

It’s every youth leader’s worst nightmare:

Leader: “Hey kids, how did your scavenger hunt around the neighborhood go?”

Kids: “Wowie, it was great! We almost got attacked by an insane little Asian boy wielding a 10-inch butcher knife, yelling and compulsively pulling his pants up over his bellybutton!”

Yes. As I often say, I’m not creative enough to make this stuff up. It actually happens.

Let me rewind a minute for you. Last Friday, after a grueling week of Vacation Bible School in which I made a fool of myself in front of hundreds of kids and parents (and furthered the personal torture by somehow managing to get interviewed on camera by our video team while wearing my bee-bopper costume and bouncing Styrofoam antenna, which naturally ended up being selected from the hundreds of other interviews the teams did…which meant that my sweaty mug was plastered all over the screens at our 3 sites and thousands of people on Sunday), I had a youth event.

Our youth event was our annual “Bigger and Better Scavenger Hunt”. The premise is simple: kids split into teams. Each team gets a small object–like a straw or little coffee creamer–and races around the neighborhoods near the church, knocking on doors and asking for anything “bigger or better” than what they have. All the donations either go to the church or to charity, so people are more than willing to give us their junk.

We take whatever we can carry and hike it back to our church, where we gloat over our spoils of war like brave and tired little soldiers.

This is the third time we’ve done this event. Two years ago, the winning item was a ping-pong table. (Yes, that’s right: we carried a full-sized ping-pong table all the way back to the church. Uphill. Past a police officer, who didn’t even blink upon seeing a gaggle of kids pushing a ping-pong table down a busy street at dusk.)

Last year, the winning item was a large sandbox, full of sand and sand toys.

This year, however, topped the charts with weirdness.

To begin with, the group of boys I was with got a fence.

Yup--they hauled these babies all over the neighborhood!

Yes, a fence. They pulled it out of the ground themselves.

By the time we finished our 2-hour scavenger hunt, our group had managed to procure two large sections of fence, an exercise ball, a large fake Christmas tree, several electronic toys, a plastic fire truck, 3 rusty nails, a yoga mat, a purse, a candle, a brand-new tennis racket, a box of brownie mix,  envelopes, and a car vacuum. We almost got a dog, but had to turn it down at the last second.

Despite my personal feeling that nothing could ever top the sight of 6 boys slowly dragging all this rubbish through the neighborhood on a 95-degree night, I was wrong.

Upon arriving back and meeting up with the other teams, I discovered that they had dragged suitcases, a bathroom stall door, and boxes of European chocolates with them back to our headquarters.

But, that wasn’t all they dragged back. They dragged back a wild, almost-unbelievable story about a little Asian boy with a knife.

Of course, this happened to be the group of kids who took off with my husband, Tyler. The weird things seem to stick to him like sprinkles on honey (sorry, latent VBS joke…I’m still trying to get it out of my system.)

Apparently, they had knocked on the door of a large suburban house, only to have the door creaked open by a small but fiesty Asian boy around 8 years old. He shouted at them in a language they couldn’t understand, and then screamed something about how his parents weren’t home and they had to leave him alone. As the group turned to leave, the boy whipped the door open again to reveal the said shiny knife and the pants pulled up over his bellybutton, a la Steve Urkel.

At this point, the entire group backed away slowly. The boy flashed the knife around, saying, “Come in, one at time! One at time, inside!” while the group shouted their apologies and made a hasty exit to the street.

No harm, no foul–but boy, was I cringing as I listened to the kids tell their parents how they “almost got attacked” at the youth event. It was one of those rumors I wasn’t too excited to have posted on Facebook that night.

When the kids clamored around me, shouting their versions of the story, my knee-jerk reaction was to pretend I hadn’t heard this. It’s the same sort of feeling I got after finding out that one of the high schoolers had shimmied up the very slick roof of our student center to chase after a loose frisbee–like if I just pretend that I didn’t hear it, I can continue to revel in my ignorance.

And I wonder how I earned the endearing nickname “The Fun Stopper” from my dear husband?

Thankfully, in the end, no one was stabbed by that pesky 8-year-old with the knife.

But, if they had been attacked, they could’ve used the bathroom stall door to defend themselves.

I guess next year I’ll just have to send the kids out with army tanks….

God in the Midst of our Community Tragedy

24 04 2010

I’m struggling with how to possibly start explaining the events I’ve been through in the last week.

To begin with, I was already swamped. Our gigantic confirmation banquet is this weekend, so my schedule was packed every day with meetings with confirmands and more things than I could actually do in a workday (i.e. I didn’t eat lunch every day this week). Add to that the fact that all of the pastors and two-thirds of the rest of the staff were out of town at a conference, and you begin to see where this is going.

On Wednesday afternoon, one of my confirmands came in from school with the news that his cousin–a seventh grader named Chelsea who attended school with him right down the road from our church–had committed suicide.

I was shocked. She was only 13 years old.

In the ensuing hours, my cell phone buzzed with texts and phone calls. All afternoon and all evening–until 11:00 at night–I fielded phone calls from parents and students, Facebook messages, and texts. Students were incredibly shocked, and many didn’t even know how to process.

No one understood why…and no one had a clue that it would be this girl.

As I took a moment to breathe, I heard the church bells from the chapel across the road ringing out one of my favorite hymns: “Abide With Me.” I listened to that song, with a fresh understanding of what it meant. Abide with Jesus. Be in constant communication with Him as you go through something like this.

In the most chaotic moments, and in the moments in which I was comforting upset students, I truly think He was guiding me–without me even realizing it.

In the course of that evening, an idea began to take shape in my head. I felt compelled to open up our student center, the Hangar, as a safe place for students to come and grieve together. After a few phone calls to the staff in Florida, we set things in motion. I posted a message on my Facebook page, inviting students to come to the Hangar after school the next day.

By the time I woke up the next morning at 6:00 am, several of my students had reposted that message on their own page. I hastily sent several emails to staff members, explaining what was going on, and sent an email to my confirmation leaders, asking them to come pitch in that afternoon. I then headed to the middle school to see if they needed any extra help.

I hadn’t even pulled into the parking lot when I saw one of my seventh grade boys sitting on the playground, bawling his eyes out. I rolled down my window and talked to him, and then parked and ran inside.

As much as I had steeled myself for what I would likely face, I wasn’t even prepared.

The school was like a war zone. Students were sitting on the floor, standing, draped in stairwells–all sobbing. Some kids were just blindly wandering around, crying by themselves. I ducked into the office, and could barely squeeze in the door with the number of students congregated there with tears streaming down their faces. The secretaries were frantically answering call after call.

I sought out one of the adults standing in the office and managed to say, “I’m Cassie, I’m here from Faith Luth…”

They didn’t even let me finish. I was immediately grilled for information about the after-school open Hangar time, and then led downstairs by the guidance counselor.

As we were walking down, she quietly said, “This is nothing, upstairs. We’ve told everyone to come downstairs to process, down here in The Pit.”

I walked into The Pit, and was floored. All I could see was a sea of middle schoolers in this cafeteria, all in various stages of grief and distress.

I barely made it in the door before I heard, “Cassie’s here!” and had a whole swarm of Faith kids launch themselves at me. Even my eighth grade boys threw themselves at me and hugged me fiercely.

Literally every kid who had ever stepped foot at Faith or attended a youth event there came up and hugged me. Several wouldn’t leave my side.

I cried with them, seeing how devastated and heartbroken they were. In my mind, I pleaded with God to give me the right words to say to these kids.

I spent most of the school day there, comforting not only the Faith kids, but plenty of total strangers. The school was doing a great job handling the chaos. Everyone I saw, from the teachers to guidance counselors to the school police officer to even the janitors, were busy talking and counseling kids.

All day, I heard kids talking about coming to Faith that afternoon. Before I left school, the principal actually got on the intercom and made an announcement about it. I was stunned–not only that an announcement about our church was being made in a public school, but what I pictured as a small gathering of students was turning into something the entire school was talking about.

That afternoon, we had hundreds of students pour into the Hangar, and dozens of parents come in. Some arrived even before school had ended. In the end, Chelsea’s father and one of her brothers even came.

I was so thankful for our incredible staff and amazing leaders. The tiny staff that was left–Mary, DeeAnne, Andy, Steve, Wayne, and Dave–pulled together and made signs, slides, assembled tables and chairs, and prepared the Hangar for the giant onslaught of kids. The preschool sent over all of their staff to pitch in. Pastor Tim Wesemann came and brought tons of helpful resources for kids and parents. Randy King came and was our in-house counselor, and was able to give me some great advice on handling the kids. We had tons of middle school leaders–and a few high school leaders–come and spend time with these hurting kids. With little notice, they did an awesome job and were a great help.

I was drained–but so strengthened and appreciative of the many leaders who came up to me and whispered, “I’m praying for you!”

It was an amazing event, and we were able to pray for and connect with so many kids. God was so clearly working through so many people, and a lot of hurt kids were able to hear the saving Gospel message–straight from Chelsea’s grieving father himself.

To me, one of the most powerful ways God worked through this whole experience was how He prepared me. Several weeks ago, the editor of the LCMS youth ministry publication, the ESource, asked me to help her out and write a resource for suicide. The person who was going to do it apparently backed out at the last minute, and she needed it done in a week. She actually offered up two different topics I could write about–either suicide or handling grief in general. For some reason, even though I knew it would be the harder topic to research and write about, I was drawn to choosing the suicide topic. I researched like mad for a week, talking to every expert I could get a hold of to write this piece.

Originally, it was only supposed to be a Bible study on suicide. Instead, I opted to write an additional resource, a guide for parents and leaders to help youth cope with suicide. At the time I was writing it, a few weeks ago, I remember thinking that this would be the most helpful resource I could picture handing out to parents and leaders, if I were ever to encounter a suicide situation.

Amazing how God works, isn’t it?

I wrote the resource, and ended up being the very first one to use it.

Just a few weeks earlier, and I would’ve been wholly unprepared as to what to say and how to answer the “tough questions”.

We printed off copies of that resource, and every single parent I saw walk through the doors took one. Just being able to offer something to confused and emotional parents was evidence to me that God was so powerfully at work through this whole experience.

As I write this, exhausted and emotionally drained, I still marvel at how I’ve seen God work through all of this–in our leaders, in our staff, in our students, and in the situations that have played out. I know this is just the beginning of a long healing process for many kids and families, and my heart goes out to them. It’s no easy thing to handle suicide at any age, let alone when you’re as young as 11 or 12.

As I write this now, the church bells are softly ringing out, “O God, Our Help In Ages Past”. I know from memory the most poignant lines of that song:

“O God, our help in ages past,

our hope for years to come,

our shelter from the stormy blast,

and our eternal home.”

As one of my leaders said simply yesterday, “God is good.”

Like Newborn Kittens In the Ocean…

19 04 2010

I’ve said it time and time again: our youth are facing incredibly huge issues today.

Over the last few weeks, our 8th grade confirmation students have been writing and preparing their faith testimonies–their stories of what they believe, how they’ve seen God work in their lives, and what sort of relationship they have with their Savior.

As the confirmation program director, I daily tackle the complex issues surrounding the leadership of 100 youth and over 30 adult leaders in our confirmation program. But, for these brief few weeks, I get to sit back from the heavy administrative side of that job and spend some serious time with many of these kids, as they walk through their testimonies with me.

Hearing what these kids have gone through in their relatively short lives is inspiring, and sometimes jaw-dropping. I’ve sat in stunned silence, listening to kids tell me about the death of parents and the impact of divorce on their lives, about diseases and depression, and about dealing with constant bullying and aggression directed towards them.

I’ve been shocked to find out that some of my biggest “headache” students (those that my kinder friend, Tam, would label “EGR” people–“Extra Grace Required”) have walked through situations that would likely rattle my adult faith. Yesterday, I met with a student who confided to me that he has spent his life dealing with Asperger’s, a syndrom that he tells me feels like he’s “constantly searching for a missing file in his brain” to come up with even the simplest response to a question–but since he’s been in school, he’s been mercilessly taunted and shunned for this. Yet, his identity rests so securely in God that he told me he refuses to respond to these cruel bullies, and instead reminds himself every time they tease him that “he’s a child of Christ” and it’s a “privilege” to suffer on this earth just like His Savior did.

Wow. Get me a box of Kleenex.

The more I immerse myself in the youth world (even when it requires painful things, like listening to teenie-bop Justin Bieber songs), the more clearly I see the challenges that our youth are facing daily. It’s like throwing a newborn kitten into a dangerously murky ocean teeming with ravenous sharks–they are doing their best to save themselves with their limited knowledge, but everything around them tempts them to succumb to the dark waters and the carnivores waiting for them.

Does that mean it’s any easier for me, a 24-year-old? Not necessarily. I had to tread a lot of those same dark waters–as did the many generations before me.

But do I think it’s gotten worse? Judging by the middle schoolers I spend the majority of my time with, yes. When I was in 8th grade, it wasn’t normal to have friends who cut, tweens who were suicidal, and boys who had access to porn on their cell phones. We didn’t have our own private lives via Facebook, and didn’t spend every waking second texting our every thought and emotion.

But, at the same time, I see so many of these kids navigating these dangerous waters and keeping their heads above the water. I see them clawing at those sharks and slowly looking heavenward more and more often.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of these kids’ lives. They’re growing up so fast, and grabbing hold of their faith as their lifeline right now. As one of my boys put it, “It’s like my faith used to be a little piece of yarn…but in the last two years, it’s grown to a giant coil of rope that you can’t cut easily.”

Now, if only I could convince them to listen to some real music…and now I sure sound like a crotchety oldster, don’t I?

“You’re Not Mrs. Moore.”

11 03 2010

Today, I was greeted by a fifth grader at Point Elementary with the words, “You’re not Mrs. Moore.”

My response: “What do you mean?”

Her: “You’re not Mrs. Moore. Even though everyone calls you that.”

Me: “Uh, ok…what’s my name?”

Her: “Cassie.”

Me: “Yes, my name is Cassie.”

Her: “Yep. That’s what we get to call you outside of school, when we’re having fun at church.”

Me: (thinking to myself–“She said she has fun at church! Sweet!”)

Our church recently started a tutoring program in the local public schools here in Oakville. We see it as a service to our local community–after all, our goal here at Faith is to be “transforming communities and changing lives”. Our schools are in desperate need of extra help around the classroom. A few months back, our church responded by gathering a group of nearly 40 people together to talk about how we could help by tutoring in classrooms on a weekly basis.

Our thought? “Hey, we actually get to be in the schools, working with kids and teachers–serving our community with the same love and compassion that Jesus demonstrated for us!” No other motive.

We all went through training, background checks, and school initiations in order to be fully prepared to serve.

The schools absolutely love us–in fact, we’ve had schools from all over the St. Louis area contacting us to see if they can get involved with our tutoring program. 

The first day I arrived at Point Elementary, where I’m stationed to serve twice a week for about an hour each time, the guidance counselor introduced me to the entire office staff and pretty much every person wandering around in the halls–and they all knew already that I was a “Faith tutor”. In fact, their guidance counselor was raving about how she couldn’t wait until next year, when we could really build this program up because it’s filling such a crucial need at their school. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so excited about a church program–and the fact that it’s a public school welcoming us with such open arms is pretty significant.

I’m currently tutoring  in a fifth-grade classroom. On the first day, the teacher introduced me and gave me a chance to talk about Faith. When I mentioned the church, several kids excitedly yelled, “I’ve been there before!”

Since then, as I work with the kids by coaching them with their writing assignments, many have asked me questions about the church and about what I do. Several of the kids have commented on how they’ve either attended or been invited to Fusion 56, our Sunday morning Bible study and monthly themed event night for fifth and sixth grade kids. Today, the teacher even asked me specifics about what I do.

Even though I don’t know what the beliefs of these people are, and even though I’m not pushing Christianity on them at all, they’re curious. And open.

As one student today said, “Why are you here? You don’t have to be, right?” I responded truthfully, “No, I don’t have to be here. I have a full-time job. But I want to be here, to meet new people like you, and get the chance to help them.”

He flashed me the biggest smile I’d ever seen from this student (a quiet, somewhat morose boy) and simply said, “Cool.”

Today, several students stayed in from recess to talk to me. And they wanted to know all about middle school ministry at Faith. Talk about an exciting opportunity–by merely having our team of volunteers in the schools, we’ve tapped into an entire population of kids hungry for a connection with church.

And the little girl was correct–at church, I’m just Cassie.

Not “Mrs. Moore”.

I like that.