By Chris Rogers
Director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry
The year was 1995. I was a college student sharing a townhouse in a suburb of Nashville, Tenn. Like me, my roommate was a huge dog lover and he enjoyed rescuing stray dogs. One evening, I came home from school, my roommate was gone, but the house was not empty. I could tell he had been hard at work because when I walked through the front door, I could see that our kitchen was blocked off by some chairs and some wooden boards. Upon further inspection, I found that our kitchen was occupied by 10 (yes, 10) stray dogs. I recognized them because they had been roaming our neighborhood together for a couple of weeks. They were a mix of different breeds. Many of them were puppies, and my guess is that the rest of them were no more than a year old.
When these dogs saw me approaching the kitchen, they huddled at the back wall, terrified of this strange man. I gently stepped over the makeshift barrier and sat down on the floor. I called to them in the softest voice I could muster, and gently patted the linoleum floor. They all looked at me, and then looked at each other as if they were daring each other to take a step towards me (I wonder if this is where the term “Triple Dog Dare” comes from). Then an idea came to me. I needed to make myself as much like them as I could. I laid down flat on the floor with my arms stretched out. After what seemed like an hour (seven hours in doggy time), one little black and white puppy walked over and sniffed my outstretched hand. Slowly, I lifted one finger up to scratch him under the chin. He liked that. Then he let me rub the side of his face, then his back. Soon he sat next to me as I petted him. The other puppies saw this and they came over so I gave them the same treatment. When the older dogs saw this, they came over as well. By the time my roommate came home, this pack of wild dogs greeted him with only the expectation that he would give them the attention that I had shown them. He did.
This is what ministry is, especially with young people. God came down on our level by sending His only Son to be human with us. As Christians, it is our job to get on the level with those to whom we minister to understand them. Understand that people are fearful of getting too close to God because they know it will affect the rest of our lives in a way they hadn’t planned. People are afraid to lose their freedom if they are taken in by Him, but it is in Him where we find true freedom.
It is our job to show the beauty of being taken in by God; to remind people that God does not keep us in a fenced yard. We are free to run anytime. The beauty is when we stay with Him and understand why we stay. We stay because we love the Master. It is our simple example of our love for the Master that is a beacon for others to join in that love.