deepAndWideOne of the reasons I love our church is that I’ve gotten to see this catalyst play out in the lives of my kids. Part of our strategy for volunteering is to get our high school students involved in serving. All three of my kids were leading small groups as soon as they were old enough. Sandra and I are constantly amazed at their commitment to the kids in their groups. If it had just been our oldest, I would be tempted to chalk it up to birth order and personality. But all three plugged in early and have remained committed through a four-year cycle.

There’s one incident in particular that stands out to me. It took place early one Sunday morning when I was planning to skip church and sleep in. Yep, I do that from time to time. But on this particular Sunday morning, I had a good excuse. To begin with, I wasn’t scheduled to preach. No surprise there. But what made my justification ironclad were the events of the previous evening. We had invited my mom over for dinner. As she was getting her things together to leave, she had a seizure. This was the first time something like this had happened. Her mother had had a series of strokes before she died, and we were afraid that this might be the case with my mom. We called the paramedics. They arrived just as she was waking up. For precaution’s sake, they suggested that I let them take her to the hospital. I agreed. So off we went. The ER doctors quickly diagnosed her condition but decided to keep her overnight for observation.

Sandra and I didn’t get home until two in the morning. There was no way we were going to church. And if I wasn’t going, I sure wasn’t expecting my kids to go. They were seventeen, fifteen, and fourteen at the time. We went to bed expecting to sleep late. Guilt-free. So you can imagine how surprised we were to be awakened at eight by three showered and ready-for-church teenagers who popped in to tell us they were headed out. Don’t judge me too harshly for this, but all I could think to say was, “Really? Why?” Their response: “We don’t want to miss our groups.”

All I could think of was the series of illnesses I rotated through Sunday after Sunday in an effort to convince my parents I was too sick to go to church. My kids were going without me. And I’m the preacher. As the clatter of their footsteps faded down the hall, I turned to Sandra and said, “We may have just witnessed a miracle.”

Stanley, A. (2012). Deep and wide: creating churches unchurched people love to attend. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.