DCE Expressions…What’s So Special About Yellow

Jun 14th, 2010 | Category: Columns, DCE Expressions
By Debra Arfsten

I like things that are yellow—bananas, the sun, lemons—however, I don’t usually wear clothes that are yellow as they really don’t look that great on me. In fact, I don’t believe there is anything resembling yellow hanging in my closet at all. But, once every three years, I eagerly don a bright yellow t-shirt to serve as a Community Life Builder (CLB) at the LCMS National Youth Gathering. So while there is no yellow in my closet, there are many, many (did I say many?) yellow shirts in my dresser drawers. Oh, and these aren’t just any yellow t-shirts. Some have huge smiley faces on them, some have a huge question mark on the back, and others I can’t even recall. So why yellow? Our job as a CLB is to be the “go-to” person for anyone at the Gathering—to answer questions, give directions, lend a helping hand, whatever way we can serve them. And yellow is bright, and is noticeable so we sort of stick out (along with our bright yellow backpacks). And most youth groups don’t choose yellow as their gathering shirt color (could be because it doesn’t look great on them either…)

I love this job. I eagerly wait for it every three years. I love to help people, and every day is different, unexpected and joyful. As Gathering CLBs, we are expected to have smiles on our faces, and hearts and attitudes that are ready to serve in any way we can. But there are “rules” that come with this job. We must wear our yellow shirts at all times unless we are in our hotel rooms asleep. We must arise very early, and we are often the last ones to bed at night. We are expected to show up for our daily meetings as well as other assigned responsibilities. We cannot drink alcohol. On occasion we have to deal with a grumpy participant—with a smile. And we are “on” at all times. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s frustrating. And there are moments when you just don’t want to be a “yellow shirt” but would rather blend into the crowd. Nonetheless, I love it. I wouldn’t change a thing.

In my work with DCE students, I talk about how their lives will be on display because they are in a very public position. They nod their heads, not really grasping what this means. It’s when they go on internship that I often hear comments such as “I just want to go to a church event and not be looked at as a staff member.” Or they ask, “When can I take off my DCE role?” Much to their surprise (and sometimes dismay), they are not usually eager to hear my answer that when they are at church, they are always “on.” Even when the event is not their responsibility, the congregation still views them as a DCE. We talk about living in the “fishbowl.” We try to prepare them for what that will be like, but it’s often a shocking reality when they realize how closely they are watched or scrutinized, simply because they are in a very public position. It comes with the territory. (For more on this topic, see Tom Rogers’ book, “Life in the Fishbowl” from CPH[1]).

But the beauty of the fishbowl is this: while it is easy to dwell on all the negative things about living under such scrutiny, it is more appealing to see what the benefits of this are. You get to be a witness for Christ, in your actions, in the way you treat people, in your witness of God to others, in the joyful way you approach life and ministry, and in the relationships you build with others. If you are working with children and youth, they will see how you treat them, their parents, and the pastor. They will see how you cheer them on at their school events (and yes, they do notice that you’re there). They will see how you treat your spouse and your family. What amazing opportunities you have to be the light of Christ, a reflection of our Savior, in a very human way.

Will you fail? Absolutely! We are sinners like everyone else, but we are forgiven by the grace of God. When we do fail, the fishbowl becomes a place where others can witness how we deal with that failure and how we reconcile relationships and forgive one another. It can also open the door for others to admit their own weaknesses and failures, knowing that we love and care for them and can also offer that forgiveness that Christ has given us.

So what does your fishbowl look like? Is it filled with clean water and beautiful surroundings? Are there other “fish” in there swimming alongside of you? Are you wearing a bright yellow shirt, eager to serve someone? Or is your fishbowl full of dirty water and clutter? Are you swimming alone? Are you in beige instead of yellow in hopes that you’ll just blend in? Is it time to examine your fishbowl to see what needs to be improved?

For five days in the middle of July, there will be a lot of “yellow shirts” living in that fishbowl in the heart of New Orleans. We will be visible, wearing our CLB “uniform,” and we will be ready to serve. At the end of the five days, we can take off those sweaty yellow shirts, throw them in the laundry, and put them in the drawer hidden away. But the reality is that as Christians, and as church workers, we have a “uniform” that never comes off – the “uniform” given to us at our baptism which calls us to lead a life worthy of our Calling. It is a “uniform” of grace, love and mercy given to us by our Savior. It is a “uniform” that should reflect the light of Christ in all we do. It is a “uniform” that reminds us of God’s promise of forgiveness. This is a “uniform” that is permanent but, washed daily by God’s grace, it’s  something we desire never to take off. LEJ

[1] Rogers, T. (1996). Life in the fishbowl. St. Louis, Mo: Concordia Publishing House.

Author Information

Debra Arfsten, Associate Professor of Leadership and Director of the DCE program at Concordia University Chicago, may be reached at Debra.Arfsten@CUChicago.edu.

Tags: , , ,