Lessons from the Front Row

—by Dave Stepp, ruling elder

One of my favorite television commercial “lines” is from an ad that ran in the 1980’s with Bob Uecker. The ad showed him preparing to watch a major league baseball game (in a particularly good section of the stadium), and an usher would interrupt him to tell him he was in the wrong seat. At that point, Uecker would pompously remark, “I must be in the front row,” with an emphasis (and bravado) that made the ad an instant hit, especially when the closing scene showed him reseated in the “nosebleed” section of the stadium.

Almost eight years ago I agreed to co-teach the Kid’s Connection Seniors class (3rd-5th grade at the time) as a way to provide a “shared” teaching experience with a particularly gifted elder candidate. I agreed to do this because I knew it would be helpful to that candidate, as well as to the children’s ministries at the church. I was there to serve, but to my amazement, the Lord also gave me a priceless “front row” seat in the lives of dozens of young believers in CCC’s children’s and youth ministries since that time (and into the Middle School and High School classes). Don’t get me wrong, youth ministry is anything but a spectator sport. These elite athletes climb right into the stands and challenge the authenticity and the commitment of those seated in the front row; but He is “the God who works wonders” (Psalm 77:14), and I have witnessed and personally experienced them in abundance.

Like what, you may ask? We immersed ourselves in “day-to-day” life with the tabernacle, with sacrifices and a sheep named “Bob-ita,” and with a curtain torn from top to bottom to expose the Holy of Holies. We leaned into the gospels and sat together in awe at the convergence of Jesus’ words and actions (especially when “I am” is involved). We wrote slogans and rap lyrics, and we memorized. They learned that I have a non-insignificant obsession with donuts. We learned to chant the books of the bible.  We served in the nursery together. They asked questions, they spoke the truth in love to one another, they discovered gospel truths not revealed by flesh and blood, but by our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 16:17), and they grew “in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

And at my side during these years have been more than a dozen extraordinary and exceptionally gifted teachers who have relentlessly sought to develop youth of faith and to come alongside parents. I’ve also had the immeasurable privilege of being refined together with these teachers, “shifting weight” from teaching out of our fear and uncertainty to teaching with the boldness and transparency that the Holy Spirit provides. This, of course, spurs both teachers and students on to love and good deeds and a community-inspired dependence on the Holy Spirit.

In a word, it is awesome. I could never afford a “seat” like this at a major event; a “seat” like this doesn’t even exist at those events. And guess what? There is room in the front row right now! Check your bulletins and contact Kathryn Eriksen about opportunities to serve in Children’s Worship and Sunday School. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).