Be honest! When you first read the title, the first thing you thought of was you and a bunch of pimply teens sitting around the church Sunday School class reading the latest issue of Fantastic Four and asking, “Is it time for you to FLAME ON!!! for Jesus?” Chances are, after you received this mental image, you either shuddered with horror or shouted: “YESSSSS!!! That would be AWESOME!!!”, and gave your life size cutout of Han Solo a high five. Either way, I got your attention. Now hear me out. No, I’m not suggesting you try to pull the deep spiritual truths out of the Amazing Spider-Man. Although they are there (c’mon,”with great power comes great responsibility?” That’s the book of James)! What I am suggesting is that you find a cool use for all your old comic books!
When I was a kid, whenever I got sick, my Mom would bring me some medicine from the drug store and a new comic book. Somehow, in my mind, I’ve always had an association between being sick in bed and reading the latest Avengers adventure. This is why whenever I visit one of my students in the hospital or at home, I bring them a comic book from my collection. I’m not one of those “collectors” who has their comic books hermetically sealed and only reads them with rubber gloves in a dark room (you THINK I’m joking!), but because I’m such a geek, I’ve amassed tons of comic books over the years and giving them away puts them to a special use! I’ve noticed several benefits to a ministry like this:
- Flowers die, cards get thrown away, they’ll keep your comic book forever! The kids I give a comic book to seem to really treasure them. Not because they’re super comic book geeks but because they can tell it’s very special to me. I explain that it’s from my own personal collection and how my mom used to give me a comic book. It’s a way I can communicate love.
- It gives kids something to do while they are immobile. Being in the hospital sucks!!! A comic book can kill a half an hour (at my reading level at least!).
- It can be highly personalized! I like to explain why I chose the comic book I did for them. Something along the lines of, “Hey, I know you love to skate board so I brought you an issue of Spider-Man where he gets help from Tony Hawk!”
- It gets rid of my old collection and gives me an excuse to buy new comic books. When I come home from the comic book store with a stack of new comic books, I can look my wife straight in the eye and say, “I’m doing the Lord’s work!”
Obviously, there may be a transferable principle for your ministry. If you are not passionate about comic books, you’re probably passionate about something else that is weird and off kilter (You are a youth pastor after all)! Maybe you could do something similar with trading cards, “mixed tape” CDs, or happy meal toys. I have a friend who collects Hot Wheels like crazy! He belongs to a Hot Wheels club where they race Hot Wheels! Over the years he has massed a stash of thousands of Hot Wheels! He always keeps a large supply of them that are not particularly valuable to him to give away to charities or pass out instead of candy at his church’s Trunk-or-Treat. I have another friend who always gives away a heavily marked book off of his bookshelf for birthday and Christmas presents. He always writes the most wonderful note in the inside cover. These are the sorts of things that cost very little, but the receiver truly treasures. Sharing something YOU are passionate about communicates love in a way few other things in life do!
Do YOU have a similar practice in YOUR ministry? I’d love to hear about it!