Church Planting Lessons from a Child’s Toy Closet

Church Planting lessons can come from the least expected sources. For example, my 5th-grader. I asked her to clean her toy closet. What I gained was valuable insight into how to welcome people of all kinds. Like most children, she resists cleaning-up anything. And like most children, she has perfected the art of procrastination. No…

church planting lessons

Church Planting lessons can come from the least expected sources. For example, my 5th-grader. I asked her to clean her toy closet. What I gained was valuable insight into how to welcome people of all kinds.

Like most children, she resists cleaning-up anything. And like most children, she has perfected the art of procrastination. No sweat: I naturally presumed all she needed was some parental involvement, as in, “Don’t worry, Sweetie, I’ll help you get started.”

We both moved across the carefully-decorated bedroom to the door of a walk-in closet turned playroom. It would be a simple task of organizing the chaos. I stepped into the kid-kingdom of her toy closet and suggested clearing away the broken toys first.

“This doll, for example,” I said. “Her arm is missing. Let’s throw her away.”

My daughter stared at me and waited just long enough to make sure she had my complete attention:

“Would you throw me away if I had a broken arm?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course not.”

She lifted the doll from my hands and set it back in the same spot near the door.

“This is Clarice,” she instructed. “She stays near the front of the closet to let all the other toys know you don’t need to be perfect to live here.”

My daughter straightened Clarice’s hair and took a moment to make sure Clarice stood up straight, facing the closet door.

“Clarice used to ride this motorcycle until she had an accident.” (Full disclosure, a cousin ripped the doll’s arm off several months earlier). “So, because she can’t ride it anymore, she is now the one who helps other people feel at home here. She says ‘hello’ to everyone and shakes their hand.” (And that would be a left-handed handshake, for obvious reasons.)

Each step into the closet, each toy on each shelf, revealed story after story: each toy, whether whole or broken, had a role to play in this closet-world. Her closet is a veritable Island of Misfit Toys. A toy might have come into my daughter’s world with one function, but time and chance, accident and fate often overruled its intended purpose. In her eyes, these are the everyday dangers of toy-life. Apparently it’s not so different inside the playroom or out. 

My daughter has developed the ability repurpose any toy and discover a new life in its broken condition. It is her joy to do so. For her, it’s not about function, but relationship—she doesn’t throw her friends away simply because they are broken. If you’re willing to listen, church planting lessons can come from anywhere.

This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.