Why Do We Need White Crayons? Identifying and Empowering the Often Overlooked
For years, our congregation offered children’s worship pages to engage kids during the worship service and allow parents to worship with fewer interruptions. When the crayon bags would run low, it was my job to restock them. Periodically, I made my way to the store and bought boxes of crayons. Once home, I would empty all the crayons out onto a card table in the middle of our living room. When my kids were younger, they got a big kick out of helping me pick four or five different colors to portion into snack-size Ziploc bags. Inevitably, when the process was complete, we would have multiple plastic bags full of new crayons and a stack of white crayons that didn’t make the cut. In the words of my then two-year-old daughter, “they were broken.”
One day, my oldest asked me, “Why do they even make white crayons?” So we did what most folks do; we Googled it. Come to find out, white crayons are used to color Easter eggs, blend other colors to make them lighter, color on dark paper, create boundaries when painting, and many other uses. We quickly learned that our overlooked “broken” crayons truly did serve a purpose in the right hands.
This led me to think about all the times throughout Scripture God used “white crayons” to accomplish powerful things for his kingdom. I thought of Moses’s transforming staff that God used to teach him a lesson in faith and obedience. God used a prostitute to hide two of his spies. God used only 300 men (with no weaponry) to defeat the Midianite army. I thought of how God used a small shepherd boy with five stones and a sling to slay a great giant. God used a young man’s lunch to provide a meal for the masses (with leftovers). The list goes on and on.
In each case, in objects and people that most would overlook, God saw potential.
How many of us have been guilty of overlooking the tax collector in the tree, the woman at the well, or the Rufuses (Rom. 16:13) in our own personal heroes of faith? Each is valuable to God, each has something to offer, and each has a lesson to teach.
Jesus himself was overlooked by many. “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote —Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip” (John 1:45-46).
When I look back over my own life and ministry there are mentors who were in the public eye and held prominent leadership roles. There were also numerous individuals who quietly (with their words and actions) helped mold me into the man, husband, father, and minister I am today. These believers never aspired to public leadership roles, but much like Paul at the end of the book of Romans, these seemingly obscure men and women are worthy of recognition for the impact they have had on my life and ministry.
As Christians, we believe that each member has a place in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). As spiritual leaders, we have a responsibility to help our congregants identify and utilize their God-given gifts and talents “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
Here are four ways you can help accomplish this:
Be proactive and personal. Sign-up sheets in churches rarely work, but people tend to respond favorably when they are personally approached by a sincere ministry leader who sees potential in them and equips them with authority, resources, and ongoing support to tackle a ministry.
Listen. Pay attention when your members speak, and learn what makes them unique. Then utilize them accordingly. Few things are worse in the local church than plugging someone into a ministry where they are not passionate. It rarely ends well.
Pray. Ask for perception and discernment to see the “white crayons” staring back at you from the pews each week.
Be intentional about mentoring. You do not have to dig very deep to come across an article bemoaning the decline of the church. Ministers can stop, and even reverse, the trend on the local level by being intentional about mentoring the next generation now, to prevent leadership and ministry gaps in the future.
I challenge you to open your eyes to the “white crayons” in your congregation and see the potential others often miss. You will find that they are not “broken,” but rather they have a purpose that has not been properly identified … yet.