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~ Written by Viki Rife

Nine little girls sat in a circle, listening intently as their teacher explained the project. They were to make a poster showing their favorite animal. In teams of three they were to choose an animal, cut out pictures, and prepare their research. They would present their project to the group and their teacher would ask them questions.

After designating the teams, the teacher sat back to watch. One team couldn’t agree on an animal. One team found an animal they all liked, but everyone had a different idea of what pictures to use and where to put them on the poster. One team got upset with another one because someone had cut out an animal they wanted to use.

When the hour was up, the teacher called them back together. The girls were ready and eager to answer her questions.

The teacher began to ask questions:

What does this situation teach us about working together in real life?

What was it like to work with the other people on your team?

How did you help the team be effective?

Who was the most helpful person on your team?

What conflicts did you have? How did you handle them?

What could you do differently next time to handle conflicts better?

You see, the teacher’s goal wasn’t to teach them about animals. It was to teach them to work as a team, a much more essential life skill. Sometimes I wonder if God is doing the same thing with us. He wants us to be a united body, working together toward carrying out His mission. Throughout Scripture, it seems that the way we work together is often more important than the end product.

Let’s seek to approach whatever we do in Christ’s body with as much concern about how we get to the goal as we have about getting there.

(Team-building exercises such as this are a part of the curriculum for SMM (Sisters Mentoring with a Mission). For more information on how SMM helps disciple girls, click here

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 ~ Written by Viki Rife

She walked into our church with a mixture of excitement and uncertainty. Sarah (not her real name) is a student at the nearby public elementary school, where she has been attending our after-school SMM discipleship ministry for girls since it started several months ago. Our SMM coordinator had brought her to church.

I wondered what she thought. I watched as our church family welcomed her warmly. There was an atmosphere of joy and celebration. I felt confident that she would find something in us that she would want in her own life.

But there was a time when I would not have been so hopeful for a visitor to our church. We were struggling with disappointment and discouragement. One of my friends suggested that we get together to pray. We met one evening a week in a little room off the kitchen. We invited others to join us. One or two did. It felt like a shot in the dark.

During those meetings, however, we poured out our hearts to God. We told Him what we longed to see in our church. We asked Him for specific spiritual needs. We asked Him to bring us a pastor with specific qualities. We asked that we would all see ourselves as ministers, not waiting for the right pastor to come along.

I have to admit, I often felt that we were insignificant. I wondered if God really cared about our tiny group that was praying so desperately. We were asking for big things!

Now, watching Sarah, I remembered those days and it hit me. In the past few years God has done far more than we could even ask or think! If your church is struggling, don’t blame your pastor. Get on your knees and be part of the answer!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

When I admit to people what my hobby is, they laugh. Even if they’re too proper to laugh out loud, I see one side of their mouth curl up for a moment before they gain control. I’ve tried to come up with another name for my hobby, but haven’t found one that works—one that makes people nod their heads in understanding. 

Experts tell us that hobbies are good for us; they refresh and invigorate us. So what’s wrong with my hobby being something that helps me have fun? It’s the bright spot of my week; my greatest indulgence in the midst of a busy life of ministry and parental caregiving. 

Every Thursday at 3 p.m., I take a break to enjoy my hobby. First, I pick up a seventh grader and an eighth grader from our church. Then we drive, with a mix of prayers and chattering, to the public school near our church. There we meet up in the science lab with other volunteers. Soon, about 30 first-through-sixth-grade girls come streaming in. We play games or do crafts. Then we move to one of the classrooms for my favorite part. I get to tell them about The Teacher.  

This is where my hobby comes into play. I love tailoring the truth about The Teacher to their needs. Some of these girls have only heard the name Jesus used as a swear word. Others have picked up the culture’s negative attitude toward Christians. But they are growing to love The Teacher. Each week we tell them “clues” about who The Teacher is, and they get to add them to their list of clues. Some have figured out the name, but their understanding of the real Jesus is badly distorted. 

In our small groups after the story, we leaders have a chance to pour into the hearts of the girls. We hear the challenges of their young hearts: everything from sick pets to broken homes and imprisoned parents. We have a chance to give them a glimpse of hope. 

There is nothing as satisfying as helping someone fall in love with Jesus. It is especially satisfying with these girls whose hearts are still tender enough to respond. So for me, my hobby, my break in my busy week, is SMM (Sisters Mentoring with a Mission). I give myself the luxury of watching God work in their hearts. 

Laugh at my hobby if you wish. But I hope you find one for yourself that’s this rewarding! 

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