Hello! This one is a more personal post as I, Jared, am writing on my 25th birthday! I wanted to write this post to share a little of my heart for ministry and for the precious kids that God entrusts to us as parents, grandparents, ministry leaders, teachers etc.
I grew up in the North East of England, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Surrounded by green grass, flowers, the ocean – many things that my current location doesn’t offer with quite so much grandeur. God’s creation was everywhere, I knew it, and yet I didn’t. My school would sing the occasional hymn and share the odd moral story, we’d go to church a few times a year and yet that was it for me. I figured that there may be this God and that He was kind of important but I had no idea what that was supposed to mean to me. Looking back now it is amazing to see the transformation in my life. I’ve gone from a curious child to a servant that God has chosen to oversee an amazing ministry.
My own experience tells me that kids are curious, they want answers. The sad thing, for me, is that they will get answers – whether right or wrong. Back home, it’s a common criticism of Christianity to be brainwashing people, or built on lies. I just don’t understand that – teaching kids there’s nothing more to life and ignoring the wonder of creation and it’s Creator seems far more ludicrous. I can understand the misconception with indoctrinating your kids, however as Christians we know that we can’t choose whether our kids commit their lives to Jesus – we can point them to it but in the end they decide. And so, in my ministry, I want kids to marvel at creation and the amazing things we see in our world, but I want them to hear all about the God who made them. I just rounded up a New Believer’s Class here at church and our final session was all about how the Bible should be our source of answers – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 outlines the dependability of the Bible as our guide. Man wrote it, divinely inspired and perfectly led.
If I’m honest, I can’t pinpoint the moment of my salvation, but that has never bothered me aside from when I’ve encountered people who suggest it ought to. Christianity in England is presented in very different means to Bible Belt Southern US – the message is still the same though. I remember that through a series of youth events, IXth hour, that my understanding of God was widened than it ever had been before, and I believe through these events in one way or another I recognized my lack of worth and His abundance of grace for me. But, that youth event was one of the few times I ever really heard what I now understand to be the gospel, presented clearly and intentionally. I attended two churches, with youth programs led by amazing volunteers, both of which helped push me a long in my journey with God, but I really don’t remember the gospel being a fixture in either. That, in itself, has hugely shaped my ministry with kids today – I have no idea how many times they will be hearing the gospel at home, at school or anywhere else so I better make sure they hear it from me, regularly. That child may only visit once, and if I neglect to tell it I have let them down. My past led me to desire to share the good news within our kids programs like it actually was good news!
God has taken me from an immature boy and shaped me into a slightly-less immature man, one with a personal relationship with Him. His love for me has never wavered in correspondence to my faithfulness, or lack thereof. I pray that my experiences in life are expressed in a genuine way to the kids I teach – that they see who Jesus means to me, and wonder at who He could be to them.
I’m amazed to be sitting here on my 25th birthday, reflecting on just how much God has done in my life. From revealing a calling to work with children, to first getting involved volunteering in church, coaching football and volunteering in school, to yearly trips to Texas and serving at VBS, growing my heart for ministry, to beginning my university studies to be a maths teacher, to taking a year out and travelling to Normandale to intern with my fellow chilmindude, Dave Zablocki, to returning home, completing my teacher training and taking on my first full-time job as a high-school maths teacher, to marrying my incredible wife and accepting my dream job, that I believe God was preparing me for, even sooner than I anticipated. The reality is – this is all Jesus. The words of King David in 2 Samuel seem so pertinent – Who am I that you have brought me this far?
The ministry God has entrusted me with, I hold with open hands – it is His. But I am so excited to be the one He has in this position. I’ve been able, already in less than nine months, to pour so much of my heart into this and get so much joy back out! I’ve counseled and baptized children, dove back in to writing curriculum, led classes for great parents and kids, been able to work alongside great friends, been to Nashville with LifeWay (like for real, just an average geordie boy going to Nashville on business), started reviewing books for B&H Publishers, me and Dave started this blog and so many other things.
I hope and pray that this blog is of use to you as ministry leaders and parents, I want to use it to share resources that I believe in and some more of my own ideas too. I want to start conversations between ministry leaders and parents – because that’s how we can move forward in disciplining kids as the body of Christ.
So, I end with this – thank you God for 25 wonderful years, I pray for increased faithfulness from me as I seek to follow Him more and more. I am excited at where He is leading me and what He is trusting me with – I don’t want to take that lightly. I am hugely #blessed (hashtag intended) to be “working” doing what I love, and to be married to Kaicee. That being said, this isn’t hugely easy – I left my amazing family, friends, fish and chips and my beloved Newcastle United to pursue the calling I felt God had for me. Whilst I miss my family dearly, and still await for permission to go visit them from the US government, I know that following Jesus will always be worth it.
– Jared Simpson