Friday I went over to the preschool where Erin teaches to talk with the pre-K classes about being a pastor. They are having a series of these presentations about “Community Helpers” in which various moms and dads come in and talk about their jobs. I felt no small level of competition with the doctor and firefighter who had come before me!
I brought a bible, my robe, and some stoles with me, so that I’d have some “props” to show off and the kids would hopefully not be bored to tears. I started out by asking if anyone knew what a pastor did. “Help people,” said a girl. Which is actually a great answer, but it was also the whole premise of the “Community Helpers” thing – i.e. everyone coming to visit them helps people in some way and “Help people” is how they answered that question every time, no matter whom it was asked about.
So I said, “Yes, pastors help people. We help people learn about God and also about what God wants them to do. One way we do that by teaching them stories that are in a special book. (go to prop!) Does anyone know what book I’m talking about?”
“The BIBLE!” said more than a few of the kids. And after the first wave, the rest of the kids said “Bible” so as not to be left out of the fun.
So we talked about some stories out of the Bible and they told me some of the ones they knew and that was pretty fun for a few minutes.
Then, sensing attention spans drifting, I went for the next level and picked up my robe. Putting it on and zipping it up, I told them that I wear a robe to remind myself that the things I say are not supposed to be about me, but about God. Then I got to the stoles. I have a bunch of stoles, and a lot of them are pretty cool. I have never purchased a stole for myself; all have been given to me by others.
Putting on a stole with the faces of children from around the world, I told the kids that I wear a stole to remind myself that God is with me when I talk. I said it’s like God’s arm is around my shoulders. (Cheesy, huh? But they got it, I think.) I then took the children around the world stole off and asked a kid to hold it for me while I got another one out.
My plan was to let them hold the stoles so they would feel connected to what I was saying, and it worked out pretty well. However, as I put on another and then another, who would get to hold the stole quickly became a point of contention amongst my little 4 year old audience.
“But I want a scarf!” said one little girl. I made sure that she got to hold the next one. Since the “scarves” are long, three or four kids could hold one together. At least two of my stoles have now been the primary tool in a preschool tug of war match. (How many preachers can say that?)
Erin asked if any kids had any questions for Pastor Andy. I am happy to say I was able to clear up a couple of misperceptions. I was asked what I did on the “other days.” “Other days?” I replied. “Like what do you do when it’s not church day?” “Yes, I work more than just on church days. I help people during the week, too.”
“Do you live in the church?” was another excellent question. And with regard to this one, I was able to astound them on two levels. One, I live in an actual house in Springfield. (“Hey! I live in Springfield, too!”) And two, I live in the same house as Mrs. Erin, because she is my wife. This remark elicited a moment of silent puzzlement, then a burst of giggles as realization bloomed. I’m not sure if the giggles were more about Pastor Andy having a wife or Mrs. Erin having a husband, however.
I could tell things were coming to a close, mainly because the wiggly factor in the room was beginning to rise noticeably. So I told them that the best part of what I get to do as a pastor is tell people that God loves them, “just like God loves all of you” which was going to be my big ending! But I’m not sure how many of them actually heard it because they were bringing back up all my stoles and fighting over who got to carry it and someone had to go to the bathroom which of course meant that everyone else did, too.
But before I left several of the kids came up and gave me hugs, which was really nice. Except for I guess I may have hugged one little boy a bit awkwardly. As I was packing up my robe and stoles, he began to cry. His teacher asked him what was wrong. “Pastor Andy hurt me,” he whimpered.
I rushed over to him and told him how sorry I was, and kneeling down, gave him a much gentler hug. I guess that in the press of kids coming up to me I must have reached out to him and kind of lifted him up in a way that hurt his neck. I felt terrible.
I’m pretty sure the doctor and the firefighter didn’t injure anyone during their presentations.