“Mechanically-impaired.” That’s one way to describe my family. No matter how simple the task, we are “all thumbs” when trying to work on the car. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever try, it’s just that we sometimes get in over our heads and end up doing more harm than good.
My dad had all the necessary tools to fix anything: three screwdrivers (none of them the “Phillips” type), a hammer, a pair of pliers, a socket set, and an adjustable wrench. I had learned how to make those few tools work for me in almost every situation, but when I started to work on my first car, I knew I needed more.
It was an old Ford station wagon that I purchased from a friend at church for a whopping ten dollars, and it was worth every penny! He was going to take it to the junkyard, said something about the engine being shot, but he sold it to me instead. The car was blue on the bottom, white on the top, with blue smoke billowing out the back. We called it “The Blue Bellyache.” I brought it home, and on the way noticed that it had very little power. Once I got home I gave it a thorough cleaning and then lifted the hood to see if I could fix what was wrong.
What I discovered was that I didn’t know the first thing about checking an engine. I pulled the dipstick, and there was some oil on it (the oil was totally black, and barely made it to the “add” line, but hey, there was some in there). There was water in the radiator, but it too was low. So why was the engine so weak?
I pulled one of the spark plugs out, and noticed that it was wet. Hmmm. Just then my Dad came out. “How’s it going?” he asked.
“I’m stumped. Everything looks okay to me, but I have no idea of what I’m looking at.”
“Well, do you have a Chilton’s for this car?”
“Umm, I don’t think so. What is it?” I thought it might be some part of the engine.
“It’s a book that explains how the car is supposed to work and how to fix it.”
“Hey, I need one of those!”
Without a description of how the engine was supposed to work, I had no idea of how to fix it. I was in the dark, trying to remember everything I had ever learned about the inner workings of an engine. It was a hopeless situation until I got my Chilton’s.
Ministry to kids is a lot like that impossible task. Without a clearly defined description to refer to, we may soon give up out of frustration and discouragement. We have no idea if any certain part fits what we’re trying to do. Along comes somebody who hands us a part and says, “Oh, you ought to be doing more worship!” And we think, “Yeah, let’s see, where does it fit? Oh, put it in there somewhere.” And then someone says, “Bible memorization!” or “Missions trips!” and we find ourselves trying to install these pieces into the engine without knowing what part goes where, or even if these pieces are all part of the same engine.
(Right about now I’m tempted to tell you about how my brother and mom removed the alternator from my brother’s car, thinking it was the starter, but that will have to wait for another time!)