This year marks the 15th year since I started doing beach mission, and what a journey God has taken me on throughout that time.
Initially, I started doing beach mission as a fun way to spend a week in summer. I was told it was a fun time to meet other people, whilst running children's programs and telling people about Jesus. Fair enough.
At first, it can be a little bit scary, trying to remember dramas, thinking about how to talk to children and running games with complete strangers, but it was beach mission that started me on a journey that has led to wanting to become a minister.
It was through beach mission that I learned that God simply wants us to serve him in areas that we are already passionate about. And in my experience, it is in these areas that we find out where we have some natural gifts and abilities.
It took me some years to work out what was a good use of my time. I took several years off whilst completing my university degree, I changed courses three times, I tried different working combinations, yet I kept coming back, year after year to beach mission and to helping with children's ministry in some way.
I used to find time to help out, or write, or anything that involved puppets. Yet throughout this time, I kept returning to my studies, with a 'I really need to finish this' mind set.
By this point, you could be wondering 'where is he going with this', and I think that is a fair question. It was only when I considered what I actually truly enjoyed doing, and how I could use that for encouraging and helping fellow Christians and others to know about God, that I found my place.
It took some pausing and reflecting, but I eventually learned that 'Wait... I can use what I am truly passionate about, for God!'
Over the years I have learned that the gifts we are given tend to line up with our passions. I think there is a difference between gifts and talents, that may be for another post, though in short, when we find the things we are naturally good at, we learn to work on them and it is a natural fit somehow for building the kingdom of God, then I think it could be a gift. This then is a very broad definition of gifts, but it is something that I feel I have understood over time.
Beach Mission provided impetus
The reason I say this is that through my changing of direction, I have kept coming back to the initial basic skills I learnt at beach mission. Puppets, games, some drama, storytelling.
Now over time I have been in a position to work on these, and then use them throughout church, and now I am considering long term children's ministry. This isn't to blow my own trumpet, but rather to think about what skills we have, what time we and how we are serving God's kingdom.
In turn, perhaps I can ask: what are you naturally passionate about? What really excites you? what gets you really fired up and want to do? Why not put some time and energy into that. Talk to your pastor about how you could use that skill. You might find that you really enjoy it, and that it is a joy to work at it.
Whatever that may be, think about the experiences you had that you really enjoyed. For me, it was using puppets, drama and storytelling. I kept finding opportunities to try it. It was the hobby I kept coming back to over and over again.It became my strength.
What are some of your skills, that you have learned, that you love doing, and are good at? It could be anything.
What started at beach mission those years ago were basic skills, these for me turned into a gift. What are your skills that you enjoy, that could be used for the building up of God's church?
Stephen Urmston is based in Melbourne and is completing a Masters of Divinity at Ridley College. He is currently employed as an associate Children's and Family minister.
Stephen Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/stephen-urmston.html