“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”(James 5:16b-18)
Our hearts and prayers go out for every family, church, school, and business that has been affected by the Thomas fire. We are praying that God speak peace and calm to the winds or send them north over the mountains where the fire will not destroy any structures. We are also praying that God hear the prayers of faith of His righteous Elijahs, and send the miracle of rain sooner than it has been forecast.
Will you also please pray for children who need peace as well as safety at this time? CEF has published a brochure entitled “Why do bad things happen?” If you would like any of those brochures, we have some in our office and I can bring some to you.
May the presence of Emmanuel be especially significant to you, and may you sense the arms of the Father of mercies and God of all comfort embracing you at this time.
“When Hudson Taylor was asked if he ever prayed without any consciousness of joy, he replied: ‘Often: sometimes I pray on with my heart feeling like wood; often too, the most wonderful answers have come when prayer has been a real effort of faith without any joy whatever.’”
CEF Santa BarbaraI want to start by saying that there is not one answer that will fit all. Each child is unique and responds differently. On our part we should not be shocked by sin, and remember that it’s natural to not get along–we see it begin as early as Genesis chapter 4 after the fall! We also need to remember that growth is gradual–none of us teachers are perfect yet and we’ve been walking with the Lord a lot longer than these children!
I personally believe that public offenses should be publicly admonished. The other children who observed the behavior should know that the behavior is not acceptable to us–otherwise that little leaven will start to leaven the rest of the club. Also, the children who have a strong sense of justice must be satisfied that there is a system of justice in our GNClub.
But then we will need to move beyond exhortation to helping the child to overcome. That will need to be done privately and it will take time. (Of course the foundation to change is salvation and if they’re not saved, this is a great opportunity to share the gospel and invite them to receive Christ.) In private we can ask the child what happened so they admit what they did (I think we call it confession 🙂 ). If they won’t admit what they did, we can’t really go beyond to help them on the road to change. You can apply a little pressure by just having them sit alone to think about it until they’re ready to admit (while you’re praying for them!). Once they admit, you can go on to open the Bible to see what God says about it. Perhaps you’ve recently given a GNC lesson on the subject (the lesson on Cain and Abel was relatively recent) and you can ask them to tell you what they learned from that story (the lesson for us teachers from that is the example of God’s patience with Cain, and the opportunity God gave Cain to repent!) or they may think of something else that the Bible says about the issue of getting along with others. Otherwise, be armed with a couple of verses to share with them.
From there you can ask the child if they want to do things God’s way, and if they do, lead them to God in prayer to admit to Him what happened, to tell Him that they want to change, and to ask God for His help. Assure them of God’s forgiveness, and that you believe they will make better choices in the future.
But this is only the beginning! We fall short if we only tell them what they SHOULDN’T do without telling them HOW they can act to be a friend. Give them some examples from the Bible and some other practical examples. Start small but practical. Perhaps before club starts each week you can give them a suggestion of how to “show themselves friendly” that day. “Why don’t we pray for so and so who is sick?” “Why don’t you go say, ‘Hi’ to so and so over there and ask them what they did over the weekend?” “Why don’t you tell so and so that you like their new shoes? “Why don’t you ask so and so if they’d like to kick around the soccer ball?” “If you want what they’re playing with, you can go ask politely.” Be sure to suggest children you know will respond favorably!
When the child you have been counselling starts to behave in a positive manner, they will start to feel better — about what’s going on in their own heart, and about the positive responses of their peers. Also, they can’t help but sense that you care about them since you are patiently taking time with them–and that will reflect well on God their Father.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.