Outside my church office, on a desk where volunteers gather during the week, there sits a candy jar. The church staff takes turns keeping it filled, so that visitors and volunteers who meet with us can share a tasty treat on their way out the door.
Over the last year, I’ve noticed a few things about the candy jar, and I’d like to share these observations with you now:
- Left over candy isn’t very welcoming. After Halloween last year, I brought in my left over candy that didn’t get claimed by the neighborhood kids. I couldn’t understand it – the sour bites looked good from the outside. It wasn’t until I tried one myself that I learned the sourness was just awful. I mean, really awful. Our guests deserved better.
This lesson can be applied to other areas of life, too. Our classes, our business presentations, our families: everything works better when we give out thoughtful attention. In other words, if we aren’t prepared for class on Sunday mornings, are we asking our class members to eat left over candy?
- People have favorites, but they are often pleasantly surprised with variety. I’ll admit it: I love Almond Joy bites. They remind me of summer months, visiting my grandmother in Arkansas, and walking to the convenience store with my sisters, quarter in hand, to buy an Almond Joy. There was nothing about that smooth taste I didn’t like: the coconut, the dark chocolate, the almonds. Given a choice, I’d choose Almond Joy candy bars every time. But every once in a while, Almond Joy was out of stock, and I had to choose something else. That was when I learned that variety can be a good thing.
Sometimes we get in that habit with our Sunday class planning. We know what our classes like, and we don’t want to change. How many times have I heard that comment!? But maybe – just maybe – the class members want a change. Maybe, with a little creativity and planning, we can mix things up and put those York Peppermint Patties in the candy jar. When we put YPP in the jar, our guests are pleasantly surprised and remember that life is about a lot more than just Almond Joy, day after day. Those York Peppermint Patties are devoured before the end of the day on Sundays!
Maybe your class really likes Adam Hamilton DVD’s. But perhaps a short 4 week devotional on a particular theme is in order. Maybe your class likes studying the books of the Bible in detail; but perhaps setting aside time to see film versions of those books can bring a new perspective. Give your class variety in class programming. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want help with that.
- Not everyone can eat peanuts. I am not sure the science of it all, but all of these peanut allergies have really exploded in the last 20 years or so. As a result, we need to be aware that not everyone likes peanuts, and in some cases, peanuts are life threatening.
That brings an interesting perspective to how we select the candy. Likewise, we should be aware of ‘peanut allergies’ in our classes. Are there individuals who are going through a difficult time, and need our prayer and attention on days other than Sunday mornings? Did someone inadvertently ‘serve someone a peanut’ not realizing there was an allergy?
The point here is in the solutions: we won’t know if there is a peanut allergy in the room if we don’t allow time for everyone to speak. We won’t know if there is a peanut allergy if the only time we are together is one hour a day on Sunday morning. It’s only when a person is comfortable in a relationship, when a bond of trust has been formed, when we spend time with people, and when we listen, that we truly understand the reason that someone doesn’t eat peanuts. More importantly – when we listen and understand – we might even show compassion the next time we select the candy, and offer an alternative for those with a peanut aversion.
- Many people (myself included) feel a need to sneak a treat. “I shouldn’t, but I will.” “This is something I need today.” Or, even better, the silent, unspoken word, as the lid barely clangs against the glass jar upon opening and closing. Maybe no one will notice. That candy jar has heard it all – spoken and unspoken, the guilt and the excitement, the disappointment that the last of the ‘good stuff’ has been taken.
I can’t help but think that what we yearn for in the candy jar can always be delivered in a talk with God. “I need you today.” “I’m not going to talk, but I just need to listen.” “These are my favorites.” I’m not in any way distracting you from sharing the candy in the jar; I just want to remind you that, like the love and grace God offers, the jar is there unconditionally. We love you, and God loves you. Take the candy – like, God’s love, it’s there for you, any time you need it.