The spring after my sophomore year of college, I signed up to substitute teach in my hometown. I was busy planning my wedding, but I was also preparing for the monthly bills I knew would come with my new, grown-up life. Spending a few days as the cool college student come back to her old school seemed like a decent way to make a little money.

It was. Until the day I got called in to sub for the middle school music teacher.

I don’t remember much. My memories have been blessedly blurred until the only parts I truly remember are standing on a chair and yelling at the adolescent animals to please, for the love, BE QUIET – and then later declaring, “I will never, EVER teach middle school students again!”

{I guess this one is kind of the anti-fairy tale – a story of what I never, EVER wanted for my life!}

That vow has been pretty easy to keep, mainly because I did not become a teacher. And despite threatening to quit several difficult full-time jobs in exchange for the “easy” job of a substitute teacher, I never did that, either.

But nearly a year ago, I broke my 15-year avoidance of early adolescence. I volunteered to work with the middle school students who serve in our children’s ministry at church. AND I LOVE IT.

Every Sunday morning I go to church about 30 minutes early. I walk to the very back of our Kids City area to the high school choir room that we transform into Praise Parkway each week. This is where the K-5 kids have worship and a story before heading back to their separate rooms for small group time.

And not once, in 10 months, have I stood on a chair and hollered at a single kid to please, for the love, be quiet.

(To be completely transparent, though, there was one Sunday when I just about pulled out my hair after asking a handful of kids, kindly and then a little more firmly, to quit making shadow puppets in front of the projector, already!)

I work with two or three middle school students during each service – someone to run the PowerPoint slides (including music, videos and slides with the monthly memory verse), and someone to lead worship. I schedule my volunteers each week, put together the slides and show up each week to help them run the service.

Most importantly, I think, I simply spend time with the kids. We pray before each service after we’ve caught up and shared our weeks’ highs and lows. We joke around and tease each other and argue over just how many peppermints one 12-year-old can eat in an hour.

I think it makes a little difference in those kids’ lives. But I know it makes a big difference in my life. On paper, it’s just a few minutes of my week. A little time spent with some cool kids who are smart and funny and occasionally awkward and always committed to serving. No big deal. Significant only because I never thought I could enjoy working with kids – much less this particular age group – and, as it turns out, I really do.

But it’s more than that.

It’s a ministry to call my own, a place I know I belong every single Sunday morning. And it’s a reminder that God knows me – and His plans for me – better than I could ever imagine. So well that He can turn middle school students into my Sunday morning community and ministry of choice, despite my declaration to never, ever work with them again.

How has God changed how or where you love to serve or give back?

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