The Power of Encouragement

Before there was – (well, it was – Before most people had heard of this guy who called himself “the Kidologist” – there was just this kids pastor name Karl Bastian who threw himself 287% into whatever he did! One of those times was when he got invited to provide the children’s programing (not child care!) for the Okoboji Lakes Bible Conference waaaay back in 1996. I was hired by none other than Scottie May. You may have never heard of her, but she is the Mom of Phil Vicher (Creator of VeggieTales), and he wasn’t a household name in kids pastor’s homes (or American homes for that matter) back then. I think the first VHS tape was just hitting stores!

Anyway – Along with my wife and some youth I brought from my church, we were proving children’s programming for TEN DAYS while the parents were in sessions over in the “Big Tent.” We did full scale Kids Church-like lessons, game times, crafts, and so much more. As I always do whether I’m doing Kid’s Church, speaking at camp, or writing curriculum, I provide more than asked and try to make it the best I possibly can for the kids sake. I believe in making memories for kids – spiritual anchors that will last a life time. It’s always been my passion and philosophy that we aren’t just teachers – we are making spiritual Ebeneezers – reminders for the future of what God did in the past in kids minds – that’s why we should go ‘over the top,’ whey they stray from the faith – they can mentally (and spiritually) see these Ebeneezers and be led back!

Where am I going with this? At the end of this week, just a few years into being married, and a young children’s pastor at the beginning of my budding career,  Scottie May – a woman I looked up to as an expert and guru in kids ministry gave me a letter along with my pay check. It has been thumb tacked to the wall by my desk for over 15 years – from ministry to ministry, I have cherished it! I usually just get a check in an envelop, but she went the extra mile to write me a letter! It has faded and gotten worn with holes and folds, but it is still special to me.

She Wrote:

Dear Karl, Sara and Troop:

WOW!  You guys are phantasmagorical (I think that means unbelievable.) You amazed me with your organization, energy, efficiency, and execution.  Parents loved you.  Kids love you.  My cousin’s family had to stay overnight because her children cried when she said they’d be leaving this afternoon before your final session.

Thanks for going above and beyond the call of duty to show the love of our Lord to these kids.

May each of you be refreshed and renewed as you travel home tomorrow.  I know that God is pleased because you have been faithful and what you did was well done.

I’ll be praying with and for you about returning to minister again next year.

In awe of Him,

Scottie May

I don’t share this letter after all these years to brag or pat myself on the back – or I’d have shared it many years ago! But to tell you what an IMPACT this letter had on me as a children’s pastor of only three years! “phantasmagorical” ?!?! I had no idea what that meant! But it sounded good! I wanted to BE a phantasmagorical children’s pastor! I wanted to live up to how she described me! I wanted not just the kids to love me, (that was easy), but the parents too! I wanted parents to not be able to leave because kids had to hear my last lesson! I would always be known for “going above and beyond the call of duty” because anyone can do what is asked of them. And she caught why, it showed my love for these kids. And ultimately, I wanted the Lord to be pleased, and if I pleased the people I was serving, then there was a good chance, God would be pleased too. And being asked back – is always the best compliment you can get. (And I was asked back again!)

So I ask you…

  • WHO encouraged YOU like this when you were starting out?
  • WHO have YOU encouraged? Write them a note! (NOT an e-mail, a real hand written note on that flat white stuff called paper!) You never know, they may cherish and save it for years to come.

And Scottie, should you happen to read this – THANK YOU for believing in me and giving me a chance when I was just starting out and hardly knew what I was doing. I needed those opportunities early one to live and learn and love on kids! I am today what I am because of leaders like you and Mary Kay Meeker, Chris Yount, Byron Ragains, Linda Connell and so many others who gave me a chance before I had “made a name” for myself. You took a risk on a young guy who just seemed to be nuts about ministry to kids.

THANKS for encouraging ME! May many others do the same for others like me!

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One Comment:

  1. Hi, Karl — Someone told me that a letter I wrote was on your website. So, I looked it up. Sure enough! there it was. And I didn’t remember that I used the word “phantasmagorical.” It’s a good word! I still remember the impact you had on kids that week long ago. Glad the letter was an encouragement.

    PS – You have a killer of a son.

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