Something every youth pastor wants to do is “memory makers.” We try several of these a month to where we’re very creative with how the students might reingmember the worship service, the sermon, and what God did in their lives through it all. Well, this last Wednesday night I thought I’d try the “fire-pan prayer” method. After our time of worship through song and after the message on prayer for SYATP 2008, I thought it would be a great memory maker for the students to write down their prayers on their fill-out sheets, bring them up to the front, light them on fire by a burning candle, and place them in the fire-pan. I’ve seen this done many times, but it was my first time to try it personally. To be honest, I had little time to prepare for this little memory maker, so I went to the local dollar store and bought 3 tin baking pans and 3 tiny candles. The service went perfectly, and the stage was set for the fire-pan prayers which were set-up at the front of our student building on some of our cafe tables. Mind you, I should have learned my lesson from Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 that unauthorized fire is never a good idea! My down fall was just doing this myself, not asking advice from any other leaders…hence the unauthorization!
When the students came forward with their prayers written down ready to symbolically offer them up to God through smoke and ash, it didn’t take me very long to realize that these fires were burning much hotter and higher than I had intended! In fact, the flames were getting about 1 1/2 to 2 feet high, and the pans were sticking to the table from them melting together by the heat. You wouldn’t believe it, but that same night I had a family in my church give me an oven-mit as a housewarming gift for my new house. So with the 3 bonfires burning up front, I quickly motioned to one of the mamas in the back to come up front, BRING THE OVEN MIT, and take these fire-pans outside. In the meantime this complete idiot (myself) blew on one of the fire-pans in hopes of calming down the flames. At that time, two enflamed prayer-papers came flying out and fell straight to the carpet. Two students stomped them out quicker than I could get to them. Smokey the Mama Bear finally got to the front and took the pans outside. And then with smoked filled in the room, we sang our last song as a student ministry that night (Your Name by Phillips, Craig and Dean).
I felt horrible. I always strive to be the mature-thinking youth pastor and not just the guy that tries to pull off the whacky stunts. Some of you might be thinking that a deacons meeting was called that night just for the incident. Would you believe that only one student said anything to me about it. And even more unbelievable – only one parent said anything. The next morning I emailed all of my adult leaders and apologized for what had happened. I accepted fault in the whole thing, I knew I had messed-up and not thought the whole thing out, and there was no one to blame but me. By no means did I ever think about putting our students, adults, ministry, or facilities in danger. I can’t tell you how privileged I am to be at such an understanding, loving, and forgiving church. And to top it all off, one teenage girl got saved that night! So even in the midst of unauthorized fire, God’s will is still done through the Gospel of His Son!