Communicating with Children

Love Your Neighbor

Love Your Neighbor

So often I find myself in bleachers watching two very special little boys play one sport or another, and I am amazed by how much effort coaches and volunteers put into planning these games and matches.  There is usually excitement all around, and inevitably there are tears. The one thing that I see as a disconnect as one observing is the struggle for communication. Leaders really want to connect with the children, but sometimes the message is lost in translation.

I once witnessed a former coach who led the young players in a game of “Simon Says” but replaced “Simon” with “Jesus”.  You know I had to sigh… The coach told the story of how important it is to do what Jesus says. He used the text from James 1.19b “let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger”, and lined the children up in three groups behind signs that read “QUICK TO LISTEN”, “SLOW TO SPEAK”, and “SLOW TO ANGER”, and then commenced to playing “Jesus Says” with these tiny athletes.

Coach: Jesus says, raise your right hand!

Everyone raised their right hands.

Coach: Spin around!

Of course most of them did spin around, so they were sent to the back of the line.

Coach: Jesus says, hop on one foot.

Most of the children looked around to make sure others were hopping before hopping themselves. 

It was at this point that I said softly to the people around me, “Do you think he realizes that Jesus didn’t say these things?” After a few naughty chuckles, we did what we could to follow the message. But, in the end, the message was a bit too complicated for anyone under the age of 12 or 13, and the children were having a difficult time keeping their right hands raised.

There were two things that crossed my mind. How often do we stretch so far to make a point with children that we lose the essence of the lesson? Why can we not just make our messages simple? I also wondered why the coach didn’t say, “Jesus says love your neighbor” or “Jesus says love God”. This seems a fitting message that children understand. I think that there are times when we take a simple message for our children and complicate it to a point that they leave more confused than when they came.

Although the Disciples frequently misunderstood Jesus, we have the gift of the written word to study and search so that we can share the simple messages of God with children.

BOOKS to share with children: 

God Created by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones

Adam and Eve and The Garden of Eden by Jane Ray

Noah’s Ark by Jerry Pinkney

The Moses Basket by Jenny Koralek

Exodus by Brian Wildsmith

Psalms for Young Children by Marie-Hélène Delval

Let’s Make a Joyful Noise: Celebrating Psalm 100 by Karma Wilson

Jonah and the Big Fish by Sekiya Miyoshi

On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett

Cain and Abel by Sandy Sasso

J is for Jesus: an Easter Alphabet and Activity Book by Debbie Trafton O’Neal

The Miracles of Jesus by Tomie dePaola

The Lord’s Prayer illustrated by Tim Ladwig

 

peace,
melanie

 

 

Homeless Children in Our Backyard

Offer Relationship

In the late nineties, I worked in a family literacy program with parents who did not complete high school, and had at least one child under the age of four. Part of this was new territory for me because daily I was thrust into a world of food insecurity, homelessness, abuse, and unsafe situations. During one home visit in particular I found out that the address the mother had given me did not exist. She and her children slept wherever they could find a place, ate whatever they could scavenge, and hid their lives in plain sight. Can you imagine the energy this took? I knew that in order to understand the community that I was serving I had to turn my values upside down in order to understand the energy it took my families to survive each day. They didn’t have the privilege of an education, secure housing, and a healthy support system, and they showed up!

When the report on child homelessness in America came out this week, it sparked a conversation that took me back to those days of serving families who were home insecure. Most of the people in my life (family and friends) did not want to hear me talk about my day if it involved the awfulness of the events of the day…and there were some awful days. They wanted to hear about the irresistible laughter of the two-year-olds or the adventures of me getting lost in my hometown trying to find homes on unmarked roads (pre-GPS). The tough stuff overwhelms us, especially when we believe we have nothing to offer to fix the situation.

Offer Them Christ

Offer Them Christ

We are so blessed as disciples of Jesus Christ. We can delight in the laughter, and also offer love to those who are in need. It is not an either/or situation. Ministry with children is a both/and. We serve the children in the congregation and the children in the larger community. We use all appropriate resources to help our children grow in faith, to help them grow as disciples. We also focus our efforts on going out as disciples of Jesus Christ to serve children in need.

On the night of the Incarnation, Mary and Joseph were literally home insecure. More children than we want to admit came into this world no different from Jesus. There are between 100 and 150 million children around the world living on the street. 2.5 million children in America do not have a place to call home. How many children in your community are homeless?

Offer Children Hope

Offer Children Hope

Just because a child lives in the cycle of poverty does not make that child hopeless. We can offer hope by being the hands and feet of Jesus. We can offer children and their families hope by going out into the communities where we live to advocate for children, to make sure all children’s needs are met, and by going beyond Christmas toy drives. They need us the other 364 days a year, too.

The church can also respond to this crisis by supporting local agencies that offer effective responses to child homelessness like:

• Safe, affordable housing

• Education and employment opportunities

• Comprehensive needs assessments of all family members

• Services that incorporate trauma-informed care

• Attention to identification, prevention, and treatment of major depression in mothers

• Parenting supports for mothers

• Research to identify evidence-based programs and services

As we think about what books we need to offer children, let’s also think about purchasing those books for children who may never have a new book. Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus!

 

peace,
melanie

 

X

Discipline: A Set of Behaviors

405334_10151095717959640_1793867185_nThe Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church is “…the instrument for setting forth the laws, plan, polity, and process by which United Methodists govern themselves…” Discipline is “to train by instruction and exercise”, and we owe it to our children to offer them a little instruction book of their own. We are their instruction book!

Children may come to us with an innate sense of who God is, but we are blessed (or tasked) with the responsibility of being living, breathing examples of how they develop spiritually, emotionally, cognitively, and ethically. Children are surrounded by influencers that will form them, so if we want to live into our responsibility, then we must be present with them…truly present.

We can help our children develop a set of behaviors the will help them live into the amazing people God created them to be. A few tips:

  • Model Holy Living
  • Set expectations
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • When talking with children, use body language > get on their level, smile, nod, engage
  • Listen attentively to children > ask them the who-what-when-where, and then LISTEN for understanding
  • Offer empathy
  • Help children reframe a negative situation
  • Respond to the needs of children

 

RESOURCES:

Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The 5 Love Languages of Children

Let There Be Peace in the Classroom

Keeping the Peace in the Preschool Classroom

Boundless Grace

Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day

Children’s Defense Fund

Classroom Covenant