To the Church in Crisis: Our Children are Watching

To the Church in crisis

As I’ve shared here and here and here, our church suffered a catastrophic fire early this week. Below is a message from me to the our church, but the overall message would apply to any church in any time of crisis.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are facing a greater trial as a Body of Christ than most of us ever anticipated.  The future is full of uncertainty.  Almost every plan we had in place for the coming months are on hold or even shelved permanently.  Things we held sacred may not make sense any more.  It is hard, my friends, so very hard.

In the midst of this season of questions, I want to remind you of something very dear to me: our children and youth are watching every bit of this crisisTheir faith is being shaped by the words we say, the decisions we make and the way we behave.  We have a great responsibility to the next generation of believers to do this well.

Several years ago, we spent five weeks repeating those words in worship and Vacation Bible School – No matter who you are- TRUST GOD!  No matter how you feel- TRUST GOD!  No matter what people do- TRUST GOD! No matter what happens- TRUST GOD! No matter where you are- TRUST GOD!  Are we prepared to live this out right now?  We have to be.  The stakes are too high.

As we move forward, there will be strong feelings and opinions.  By nature of being displaced, we will have to do church differently.  We have to trust that God is directing our decisions.  I am reminded of King Jehoshaphat’s prayer in facing three armies swarming around Judah, ready to attack in 2nd Chronicles 20.  In verse 12 the king prays “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are fixed on you.” Can we fix our eyes on God and trust him to lead the way?

Can we dig deep into the promises of Scripture that our God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble?  Do we trust that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?  These are words your children have memorized over the last several years.  Now is the time to show them that we believe them.

Every one of us will have times over the next several months when we aren’t completely on board with a decision being made by leaders within the church.  That will always be the case.  How we choose to express those feelings matters so much more now.  If we are full of love and grace for one another, trusting that we are all trying to follow God the best way we know how, our kids will see that.  They will see a body of Christ working hard to BE the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  May we tattoo these words across our foreheads and inside our hearts as we move forward.  There is no wound quite so deep as a child hearing bitterness or ugliness about their parent from an adult church member.  As a leader with children who serves the children of our other leaders, this is so dear to me.  Be kind to one another…tenderhearted…forgiving one another as we have been forgiven.  This is a season where grace has to be the ultimate goal in all things.

I love this church and its people so much.  May we be knitted together in Christ’s love today and always.

In Christ’s Love,

Amanda

Mother’s Day

TheMother’s Day is complicated in my experience.  I think it’s a loaded holiday for all kinds of reasons.  There are people for whom this day is extremely painful- people who have lost their mothers, women who are struggling to get pregnant, mothers who have lost a child, mothers whose relationship with their children (or mothers…or mothers in law) are strained or non-existent, people who were hurt by or have difficult relationships with their mothers.  If one holiday causes that many people pain, it is very difficult for me to celebrate it in church.  This was always a struggle for our worship design team when I was a worship leader.  It remains a struggle for me in children’s ministry.

On one hand, I want to give kids an opportunity to honor their mothers.  I love mothers.  I am a mother.  It is hard, soul draining work.  I love the idea of honoring other mothers on a special day.  However, there may be children in my ministry who have no relationship with their mother. There may be children who were adopted and are just finding out, making the concept of family and mothers very complicated.  There may be children in my ministry who doesn’t have a mother.There may be a child whose mother is abusive or addicted or otherwise toxic. This child could work hard on a special project for that mother and have it rejected or ridiculed or worse.  How could I put a child in that position?

My solution over the last few years (and we do something similar for Father’s Day), is to talk about all of the awesome women in our lives.  We start with moms, but also add in teachers and aunts and friends’ moms and women in our church.  We sometimes make a big poster with all their names on it and pray for each of the women by name.  If we make a special project to take home, we tell children to make it for any woman who has loved them well.  Most kids are going to choose their mom (and if there’s a child choosing a teacher over their mom, we might gently suggest they make more than one project so Mom’s feelings don’t get hurt).

Any Mother’s Day or Father’s Day projects that we make tend to center more on who the person is to the child than any stereotypical male or female gifts.  I am a woman highly allergic to flowers with the brownest thumb on the planet.  Every time my child comes home with a flower pot filled with plants I know I will kill by week’s end, I’m filled with guilt.  That’s not a gift that honors me.  So we might do a handprint picture with kids adding five things they love about mom/grandma/awesome woman.  I love anything that can be a remembrance of who the child is at this moment in time. That is a gift that honors all mothers/women.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are hard days for many in our church families.  Proceed with sensitivity and compassion to all you serve.  If you have ideas that have worked in your ministry setting, please share in the comments!

Helping Elementary Kids Cope With Disaster

God is With Us

 

As many of you know, there was a catastrophic fire at Christ United Methodist Church last night.  Our hearts are breaking, but we are trusting and leaning on God’s grace and mercy to carry us through.

I wanted to reach out to all elementary parents with some words and tools to help you explain to your preschooler what has happened.

  1. While the building is lost, Christ United Methodist Church and Agapeland are not. Pastor Ryan, Ms. Jaime and all Sunday School and Children’s Ministry staff are safe. (Younger elementary children may still think we live at the church)
  2. God will take care of us through this hard thing. We are amazed at the many ways other churches and members of the community are rallying behind us already.
  3. The church will go on and so will Agapeland. Leaders are making plans for our temporary church and preschool home and will be in touch soon.

Ways to help your child process grief or fear because of the fire

  1. Talk about what has happened as simply as possible. Fewer words are better.  There was a fire and the building is broken.  The church was never about the building, but about the people and the love of Jesus we all share.
  2. Art or journalling are great outlets for children to express their feelings about the crisis. Make art supplies and journals (even a composition notebook) available for your child.  Take time as a family to draw or write about your feelings together.
  3. I have created a YouTube play list of some of the songs we have been singing with the children over the last few years that have Scripture that I have found encouraging. Dust off those Seeds Family Worship CDs and play them in the car.  These songs are comforting and the Words are true.  The same is true of old VBS CDs and Bible Points.
  4. Keep as much of your normal routine as possible. Worship may be different, but everything else should stay as normal as possible.
  5. There will be hard questions and sad moments for all of our families. It is okay to say I don’t know and it is ok for your child to see your sadness.  As parents, we think we need to keep it all together for our kids and have all the answers.  We don’t have to.  God will give us what we need. It’s actually a good, faith building thing for a child to discover that we don’t have all the answers.
  6. If you feel your child needs to see the building, stay as far away as you can. Standing in the alley or in the parking lot as far from the building is safest.  The building is not structurally sound and there is much broken glass and debris that would be dangerous for children.

“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people!”

I will have some Scripture verses and devotional thoughts for this week soon.  Please know I love you all and am praying for us all in this crisis.

Helping Preschoolers Cope with Disaster


God is With UsAs many of you know, there was a catastrophic fire at Christ United Methodist Church last night.  Our hearts are breaking, but we are trusting and leaning on God’s grace and mercy to carry us through.

I wanted to reach out to all preschool parents with some words and tools to help you explain to your preschooler what has happened.  While these are specific to our crisis, most of these tips are valid for any crisis or traumatic event.

  • While the building is lost, Christ United Methodist Church and Agapeland are not. Pastor Ryan, Ms. Jaime, Ms. Michele, Ms. Amy, Ms. Wanda, Ms. Dawn, Ms. Isabel and all of the adults your child sees and loves at church and preschool are all safe.
  • God will take care of us through this hard thing. We are amazed at the many ways other churches and members of the community are rallying behind us.

Ways to help your preschooler process grief or fear because of the fire

  • Talk about what has happened as simply as possible. Fewer words are better.  There was a fire and the building is broken.  The church was never about the building, but about the people  and the love of Jesus we all share.
  •  Art is a wonderful way for preschoolers to express their feelings.  Give them paper and markers, paints or other supplies and let them create. They may not have words to express their fear or sadness.  Painting or drawing about it may help them express these feelings.
  • Do not be alarmed if your child pretends about the fire. This is a very healthy way for children to process a traumatic event.  Encourage this kind of play, even if it seems a little violent.  Children at this age sometimes need to “conquer” their scary things in pretend play to feel better.
  • Keep as much of your normal routine as possible. Preschool may be postponed and worship may be different, but everything else should stay as normal as possible.
  • If your child expresses worries that your house may burn down, talk about or even practice your family’s emergency plan.  This gives your child a sense of security and control over their surroundings that this fire may have upset.
  • If you feel your child needs to see the building, stay as far away as you can. Standing in the alley or in the parking lot as far from the building is safest.  The building is not structurally sound and there is much broken glass and debris that would be dangerous for children.

“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people!” Praying for all of us in this storm.  God is bigger and greater than even this.