The Power of Imitation

I recently had an inner struggle concerning my work as a children’s pastor. I had some down time recently, but I was conflicted about how I should spend it.

Why Not?

I realized that I needed to reach out to someone to help me with this struggle. So I decided to e-mail a well-known Bible scholar and author I respected and trusted. I was not sure if he would respond, since he had no idea who I was. In addition to teaching and writing, he is also a sought-after speaker, a “celebrity” in the theology world because of the books and commentaries he has written.

So I typed out my e-mail, read it over, and hit “send,” hoping he would write back. But I also felt like I was getting my hopes up, thinking, “Why would a popular Bible teacher, author, and speaker take the time to write back to some random children’s pastor who wasn’t his student?”

So I closed my e-mail and did what many people do—I checked it again about 10 minutes later. And to my surprise, he had already written back! His response was not a couple of hurried sentences, but some thoughtful ones. This blew me away. He had taken the time to read an e-mail from someone he didn’t know and chose to help me.

The next morning, I e-mailed him back, thinking, “surely he will not write back again.” But I was wrong. He had responded once more, providing me wise counsel and honest, truthful advice.

Why Does This Matter?

So why am I telling this story? Because my interaction with this man made me realize the importance of imitating those who live and act like Jesus. I wanted to imitate him because even though he did not know me, he saw my email as important and he believed it was worth taking the time to respond.

His thoughtfulness reminded me of how I had recently received an e-mail from someone I didn’t know who inquired about how we conducted some children’s programs at our church. Since I didn’t know her, I put her email on the backburner—I had other things to think about.

But the response I received from this scholar made me realize the importance of imitation; it reminds me that the Apostle Paul said he wanted his spiritual children in Christ to imitate him as he imitated Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 11:1).

When this Bible scholar and teacher e-mailed me back, giving me a thoughtful response, it was obvious that he did not dismiss my struggle as unimportant or a waste of his time. This in turn made me want to do the same with others. I was convicted to respond to the person who e-mailed me about our children’s ministry practices.

Imitating Those Who Imitate Jesus

Why is this important for children’s ministry? Because as anyone who works with kids knows, they imitate people—the things they see, feel, and touch form them. Their hearts are shaped by their observations of the ways adults and others live and act in relation to them and the world.

If we work with children—whether as a children’s pastor or children’s ministry director or a volunteer—we cannot do it alone. We have to be intentional about imitating those in our lives who look and live like Jesus. As we do, we grow to be more like Him—and the children under our care will grow to be more like Him as well.

Cameron Tarrh

Cameron Tarrh is the Pastor of Children’s Ministries at Cary Alliance Church in Apex, NC. He and his wife live in the Raleigh area.

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