When was the last time you noticed the children—those little beings with wiggling arms, spindly legs, and chatterbox mouths? Did you notice their eyes, their hair, their soft skin, or the uniqueness of each small face? Did you notice their concerns? Perhaps you pondered their energy and where it comes from. Or perhaps you weren't really seeing much at all... being one of those rare folks who can effectively tune out the incessant encroachments into your space that children inevitably bring.
Children are God's beautiful gift to us—and our responsibility to Him. We can learn as much from them as they can from us.
Recently, I spent a week as a spiritual advisor for young children at a summer camp. I had a block of time each morning and evening to encourage these amazing little people to get better acquainted with Jesus. My great, vexing question was, What wisdom could I share that would make a difference in their lives? How could I convey Jesus' love to today's media-entrenched children? Not being a magician, gymnast, ventriloquist, or puppet (and basically, Nintendo and Sega Genesis ignorant by choice), did I really have what it takes to pull off this assignment?
What do we have to offer our children?
As the week unfolded and I inter acted with the children, I realized I do have something worthwhile to offer the children. No, it wasn't wonderful stories, superb object lessons, or charades that made me qualified, though all that helps to get their attention. Nor was it my position as Children's Ministries Director in a local conference office. Instead, I realized I had something special to offer when little Albert came for a hug and the chance to show me the little creature he discovered under the deck. Or when freckle-faced Heather asked if I'd tell a story while the kids were hiding under the gym trying to escape the hot sun. I realized that I had something when a small boy asked if I would pray that his daddy and mommy would get along better, and when Kris's sticky, Jello-crusted hand slipped into mine as we trudged up to a campfire. I had what it took—because what it took was something so simple: a little time.
What I learned from my week at camp was along the lines of what Jesus tried to get through to the adults near est Him when He said, "Let the little children come to me." In the midst of all He encompassed in that statement, wasn't He also simply saying, "It's all right, they just want some time"?
Talking and listening to children
Ask children what worries them. They won't mention anything about electronic games or a lack of toys. Their deeper concerns involve parental problems, feeling unhappy, doing poorly in school, issues that have real meaning to them. They only want the reassurance of a loving parent, a concerned church member, or a friend. They want people who care enough to spend a little undivided time with them. Time! It can make all the difference in the world with children. There are kids everywhere, and we have what it takes to make a difference in their lives: undivided, listening, attentive time, so they can see us as people who care about them and the things that they care about.
We may find it hard to communicate with children. If so, we can start by asking a few simple questions like, "What do you enjoy doing?" or "Why do you enjoy that?" or "Are you good at putting things together?" or "Have you ever seen . . . ?" By simply taking some time and showing some care and interest, we may become a telling influence in the life of a child.
Children are everywhere. Many are hurting and fearful, in need of a loving, caring adult who will actually show them the love of God. But this takes time—just a little that you as an adult, and especially as a pastor can indeed give.