Ministering to Children From Troubled Homes



Jesus said in John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The Lord never promised that once we are saved we would be free from troubles. His words are no less true for us, and they’re no less true for the children in our classes.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and His Spirit within us is grieved over the iniquities and injustices in the world—especially against the children.

We know very well JESUS’ pronouncement:

Matthew 18:6  “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”


It would be easy to arrive into our Good News Clubs overcome with the burdens of our own lives. But God has called us to be “more than overcomers.” (Romans 8:37) God has made us “a royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9) We have answered the call to be in children’s ministry—and that means being alert and sensitive to the needs and trials of children and to minister to them.

We are horrified by the things we read about in third world countries—child soldiers, child enslavement, children kidnapped and sold into the sex trade, kidnappings of girls to marry against their will, famine, disease…

These upset us and we don’t want to minimize these experiences.  The home life of children in America may appear less dramatic but are no less traumatic to the child:

  • Chronic sickness of parents so they cannot attend to their children
  • Loss of parents through death—sometimes by suicide
  • Parents returning from military duty maimed for life as well as emotionally and mentally impaired
  • Separation and divorce of parents
  • Children immersed in an atmosphere of anger
  • Poverty
  • Emotional neglect
  • Drugs and alcohol abuse of parents leading to leading to neglect, and physical, emotional, and verbal abuse of children

HOW might children respond to these troubles and act in clubs?

Fearful and therefore

  • Distrustful
  • Distant
  • Inattentive
  • Withdrawn into a fantasy world
  • Controlling their environment
  • Loneliness—perhaps threatened to silence
  • Feelings of helplessness & therefore despair

Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness and therefore

  • Quiet because afraid to say something wrong
  • Paralyzed to act because afraid to do wrong

Feelings of false Guilt—perhaps they’ve been wrongfully blamed. Sometimes they have not been blamed but because of their parents’ behavior towards them they think they’re to blame and therefore

  • Very apologetic
  • False guilt
  • People-pleasing to gain acceptance

Feelings of Anger in response to how treated and therefore angry

Unfeeling towards others and therefore hurtful


How should we respond in our children’s programs?

The following is taken from Children’s Ministry Resource Bible, pp 1504-5, Thomas Nelson Publishers, copyright 1993

Let God Use You to Meet the Needs of Troubled Children

Plan your sessions so that Christ is the central focus.

As you work with needy children, realize that the best answer to their problems is to come to know God by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Evangelize and Disciple: Introduce children to the One Who will go with them through life to meet every need.

Make each child feel welcome and accepted

Counteract the feelings of rejection children may have by greeting each one with a warm smile, a kind word, a hand on the shoulder or side hug. Let them know you’re glad they are there. Treat each one with respect even if they misbehave. God’s love for us is not based on how we look or what we do.

Make your classroom a safe and stable place.

To children from chaotic home situations, a pleasant, orderly environment with a measure of routine can be an oasis. Seek God’s help to enable you to be even-tempered and loving. Don’t allow bullying.

Discipline appropriately.

Troubled homes are often characterized by harsh, inconsistent, or permissive discipline patterns. Establish, explain, and enforce simple classroom rules in kind, firm, and consistent ways. When correction is necessary, criticize the behavior, not the child. Let the child know that you believe he can do better.

Provide an interesting and challenging program.

Rob Crawford of Young Life leads the children in outdoor games.

Troubled children frequently lack opportunities for wholesome fun. Involve them in creative activities that allow them to succeed. Awaken their spiritual hunger and thirst through Bible lessons which stimulate interest and growth. Suggest ways they can spend leisure or lonely time in activities pleasing to the Lord. Teach them how to choose friends wisely. Introduce them to Christian books and music and consider taking your class on outings. 

Model victorious Christian living.

You may be the only Christian adult in a needy child’s life. Let boys and girls see Christ in you. Don’t try to give children the false impression that you are perfect; instead, be transparent. When appropriate, share struggles that you have faced and explain ways God helped you during hard times.

Listen to children and draw them out.

Children facing difficulties often need to express their fears and concerns. Make yourself available and take time to really listen. Ask children about their interests and activities. As they share, give positive feedback. Don’t pry, but show that you genuinely care. Help boys and girls to have Biblical self-esteem and to develop goals for the future. Earn trust by keeping confidential the information they share.

Affirm and encourage children.

Assure children of God’s love and acceptance. Tell them of His desire to forgive and save. Help them understand that they do not need to feel guilty when others do wrong (older family members or neighbors). Make them feel special and worthy by praising their strengths. Share verses that speak of God’s special plans for each child’s life.

Build trust.

Show children by your consistent, godly responses that you are worthy of their trust. Avoid criticizing them or their parents. You don’t want to trigger their defenses or increase the conflict they already feel. Be sure to keep promises.

Teach children key verses they can cling to.

Use the Bible to teach God’s standards and what is wrong and what is right.

Use verses of comfort they can cling to about God’s love and protection.

Pray with and for each individual child.

Children in troubled homes often feel trapped, lonely, and afraid. Help them understand that God is always watching and listening. Encourage them to turn to Him for help. Show your genuine concern by remembering their specific request.