Michelle Bradburn is a 25-year-old graduate student at ETSU. In addition to balancing her studies and her graduate assistantship, she has also served in Grace Kids for nearly 6 years. We consider leaders like Michelle the heroes of our Family Life ministry and want to take a few weeks on the Life at Grace blog to celebrate their service. We asked her a few questions about her experience serving kids over the years.
What is your volunteer role - and what does that look like for you in your day-to-day life?
I am a small group leader for our younger one-year-olds at GFC. Day-to-day, I try to think of ways to better entertain the little ones, and wonder if I have an adequate bubble supply (which I do now, because I have a new gallon jug!).
What was it that drew you to serve in Grace Kids?
My first nursery experience was on Easter Sunday, I think in 2010. There was a big sign up poster outside the nursery wing, and my mom and I knew we loved babies, so we signed up. Hanging with GFC's littlest on Easter Sunday prompted me to fill out my volunteer application. After hopping from room to room for awhile, I was given my very own room and a roster of teeny tots!
What do you love about what you do at GFC?
I love spending time with our little ones, keeping them safe and entertained while Mom and Dad go to church. In providing a warm, safe, and fun environment for them (filled with bubbles and a ball pit), I do my best to make them comfortable and happy throughout the hour. Sometimes there are criers and unhappy little friends, but with enough attention and years of toddler-entertaining experience, we are usually able to calm them down and open them up to playing. Through play, we share the week's story and try to teach them about Jesus on their level.
Do you have any funny or embarrassing memories during your time serving?
Before we switched to Cheerios, every Sunday that I worked with a particular married volunteer couple, the husband (who shall remain nameless to protect his identity!) and I would eat a little handful of Goldfish while we were preparing everything for snack. Our justification was that we had to make sure they weren't poisoned- and that we were taking one for the team if they were!
On a more serious note, what are a few moments - or even one specific moment - when you’ve seen God work through you?
Every year, I've decided to stay with one-year-olds, instead of moving up with my previous class. This past year (2014-2015) was a wonderful year with a great group of kids. I had become attached to several of them, and I was really worried about them moving up without me. One child in particular cried every Sunday for months, and I'd always been there to calm him down. Eventually, he'd cry less and less, and it was at the point where he'd fuss for a second (just long enough to make Mom feel bad!) and then stop and go play the moment he could no longer see her. He was a very quiet little boy, and I hadn't heard him talk all year. I was so worried about him moving up and had so much anxiety about letting that group go. The last Sunday before Promotion Sunday, as the kids were getting picked up, his mom told him to say bye. He waved at me and said "Bye-bye!" I went home and bawled that afternoon. God gave me just what I needed that day to know he'd be okay to move to the next room. I felt God's hand in that situation, because He not only helped me make this little boy more comfortable and ease the separation anxiety, but He showed me on the last day that it was okay to let him move on, and that he could do it without me.
I'm sure the other volunteers understand, but I'm not sure that the parents know just how much love their kids receive every Sunday, and all week. I spend the hour holding little ones, playing with them, feeding them snacks, and kissing boo-boos. But every other day of the week, I'm praying for them. I'm asking God to take away that chronic runny nose, to help us find something to ease their anxiety on the upcoming Sunday, to keep them safe no matter where they are, to be present in whatever family life situation they are in, and that He can use me and the other volunteers to lead them and their families to the Lord. They are all so special and so important to me, and I consider it an enormous blessing to have the opportunity to spend even just an hour with them every week.
We talk a lot about the Ultimate Journey here at GFC – being changed by Christ and used by Christ. So I’m curious – how are you personally different because you’ve invested your life in kids? How has God changed you in the journey?
Serving in the nursery has taught me to think outside of myself and my own needs. In that room, I have a group of teeny little angels depending on me to take care of them and keep them safe. This means coming to church on Sunday even when I'm tired and I have mountains of schoolwork to do, and doing what I can to limit my out of town weekend trips. It didn't take long before seeing my sweet kids was the reason I got out of bed on Sundays! I've learned a lot about myself in taking care of the kids on Sundays. I've also learned that many of the things my mom used to say about parenting are true- like sometimes you just know that a child is going to fall, and you run across the room and dive to catch them when they are teetering on the edge of the slide. A highlight of hanging with the teeny tots is that I have the opportunity to work with other GFCers. Several friendships have resulted from my time in the nursery, and the opportunity to minister to one another has provided me with so much guidance. Being 25, and working with older adults who are married, parents, or grandparents, has given me the opportunity to be led by so many wise people who speak so much truth into my life. Many difficult decisions have been discussed while playing peek-a-boo and eating goldfish in the nursery. I feel wholeheartedly that God places people into my life just at the right moments, and some of these volunteers are 100% angels from God who have been sent my way.
We are grateful for Michelle Bradburn and the more than 100 volunteers that pour their lives into kids and students each week. You may or may not be aware that we have a huge opportunity here at Grace Fellowship Church. We have almost 500 kids and students that come through the doors of our church every week. That is an unbelievable opportunity to impact the next generation for Christ. There’s something powerful about investing your life in kids and students. Lives are different because of Michelle's investment in the young children in her class - both their lives and hers.
You can be a hero in the life of a child or student, too – learn more and sign up to serve in our Family Life ministry at gfcnow.com/familylife.
Other heroes in this series:
Posted on Wed, March 16, 2016
by Grace Fellowship Church