faith and family
Superheroes In Our Midst
by Marcus J. Carlson
Like many young boys, as a kid I loved and was fascinated by superheroes. I also grew up on Star Wars, making me part of the greatest generation, but I digress. As we grow older, we lose our fascination with superheroes. I have seen this in my own children, in spite of our attempts to encourage their childlike nature to remain as long as possible. We assume there are no such things as superheroes, and while most of us do not have a guy with the skills of Spiderman in our lives, we forget the real superheroes.
In fact, not only are we blessed by many superheroes in our lives, we all have the potential to be a superhero in the life of someone else. I could never begin to count the number of friends, family members, colleagues, mentors and even strangers who have played the role of superhero throughout my life. You see, superheroes are not really those gures with inhuman powers or special skills; they are the everyday people who go above and beyond to do and be what we need in the subtle and signi cant times of our lives.
The theme of this issue of Connections is Pastoral Ministry. When I began to think about pastoral ministry and our children and families, my mind went right away to superheroes. This is not because this pastor would ever believe he or any other pastor is a superhero, but because so often when it comes to pastoral ministry, we assume it is those with the title, degrees and ordination who do the real ministry in our lives.
The truth is we are called and responsible for pastoral minis- try to those God puts in our lives and calls for us to minister and care for. There are special roles for ordained pastors, but ordination is not required to do pastoral ministry. In fact, we are all called to be ministers in our church, our communities and to all the people that God puts into our lives. We are all the superheroes.
We all need superheroes. While we may not have special powers, degrees or a superhuman physique, we have the one thing who is greater than any power, education or resources in all the universe: Jesus. This is not a cliché. It is the reality we often fail to embrace in our daily living.
As a parent, I have found I need superheroes more now than ever before in my life. The notion that it takes a village to raise a child is not a cliché or political saying (it is originally an African proverb), but it is the truth of parenting and of human relationship. It is also one of the reasons the church of Jesus Christ exists, to be the “village” to those in their church and community. Reality, the Bible and research all tell us the same thing in a variety of ways: we need each other. We need relationships. Our children and youth need healthy adults in their lives. It takes a minimum of ve healthy adult relationships in addition to two parents to raise a balanced and healthy child in today’s world. That’s a minimum.
The moral of the story: our children and youth need superheroes in their lives. They need superheroes who love them and love Jesus. There is no such thing as too many superheroes for our kids, and most of them have far too few in a time and culture where they need more than ever. At the same time, most of our children and youth have many more superheroes in their lives than realized.
While I have always known these truths, I have learned them all in a new and more profound way. After more than 15 years working with children, youth and families in the church, I know rsthand what a superhero looks like; but now as I do that ministry with a bit more distance, those I thought to be superheroes are even more so, especially when it comes to my own children.
Who are these superheroes? They are the pastors that care for your children. They are the teachers of their Sunday School classes. They are the leaders of Vacation Bible School. They are the older couple that always says “Hi” to your kids, tags them in the sanctuary, o ers them some candy and love — even when they are not sure they want it. They are the volunteers of your youth ministry.
Youth workers, in my mind, are the greatest of superheroes. They volunteer to spend time with angsty, pubescent, struggling teenagers who rarely know how to show appreciation and thrive on challenging authority. These superheroes give of themselves because they know we all need it, especially teenagers. During my time leading youth ministries, I have found these individuals go unnoticed and are vastly under appreciated, and I know I could never provide pastoral care to the youth of the church without them. Many of our churches are blessed with youth workers, and I know as a parent I cannot imagine trying to raise healthy children who love Jesus without them.
2016 was a challenging year for one of our children. Undiagnosed medical issues created a variety of emotional, behavioral and social issues. While not a signi cant medical problem, its impact, especially on such a young individual, was hard to watch and to walk through as their parents. We have always known we could never care for and help our children alone, but this year we were forced to live in that reality for the rst time.
We needed superheroes. Not the earth-changing, mountain- moving kind of superheroes. Not the ones who solve a major disaster, but the ones who would love and support us and our child in the midst of a challenging season of life and beyond.
It was the band director who mentored our child with private meetings for lessons to provide normalcy and a meaningful interest. Relationship was built, a skill learned, a passion developed. It was the assistant principal who recognized the needs of our child and found a way to o er support in both the short and long term, while connecting our child to other adults in a meaningful way.
It was the adults in our lives who knew the challenge we faced, and supported and prayed for us. It was the youth pastor who took our kid out to lunch, lovingly spending time and giving opportunities for our child to grow in faith.
It was the friends in our church who came alongside and went out of their way to show our child a good time and to embrace our child during a time when our child felt like anything but normal. Ordinary people doing ordinary things with an extraordinary impact. We could not be more grateful, and we never could have done it alone.
The truth is, we all need superheroes in our lives — especially our children and youth. The joy is, we not only worship the One greater than all superheroes, we also are surrounded by superheroes who love the same God we worship. We have been given the gift of superheroes, and the gift of having the opportunity to be superheroes to others.