This is part two of a two part article. Part 1 can be seen here.
We are looking at 7 Desires of Your Child’s Heart as taught by Mark Jones (Children’s Pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City). In acknolwedging and paying attention to these seven desires, we will better our ministry to children in our church and as parents, we are equipping ouselves to raise children who are more confident in God and confident in who God has created them to be. I’d encourage you to really spend some time evaluating how you are doing in these seven areas as a kid ministry volunteer and as a parent. Here are the last of the seven desires.
4. To Be Safe
“In this world, you will have trouble…but take comfort, I have overcome the world.” That’s what Jesus told His disciples prior to His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension into heaven. He had taught them for the last several years, but soon He would be “leaving” them. Kids are not excluded from troubles in this world. Abandonment, neglect, living in two homes, not everyone liking them, and performance inabilities may be a constant struggle. Unfortunately, children may not feel as safe and stable as we assume they may be. Children need to feel materially secure with food, shelter, clothing, etc. They need to feel spiritually secure such as knowing that God keeps His promises (perhaps unlike a friend or a parent in their world) and that He can be trusted at all times and in all situations. They also need to feel emotionally secure with providing a place they can feel comfortable to share without judgment and to feel loved.
We’ve touched on a few of these aspects already, but it’s important to note that children can be filled with fears and anxieties no matter their home life and “Christian” environment. Children can be filled with fear and anxiety and not really know the source behind them. Maybe their parent just lost their job and they fear having to move. Maybe their pet died and they feel guilt that they didn’t take care of the pet properly. There are many things that can cause anxiety in children. I don’t pretend to be an expert (nor do I play one on tv), but reassuring them verbally that they are in a safe place is key. Provide them with comfort that you will be reliable and consistent and God will be too. Give them examples of how God has been faithful to you. Point out areas where God has been faithful to them.
5. To Be Touched
In the age of sexual predatory and fear of being taken as inappropriate, expressions of touch may be avoided when it comes to children’s ministry. As a children’s volunteer, I want the children at church to know I care about them as a person. Touch is a God-given form of conveying connectiveness and humanity. There are appropriate levels of touch for friends and family and there are appropriate levels of touch for marriage. No child should ever have to experience the latter. But every child can feel loved with appropriate touch. That may be slightly different for every kid. Not every kid is a hugger. Some may not feel safe receiving that kind of touch. A high-five or fist bump may be a welcoming expression. And as kids get older, we need to be aware that they are developing new hormones and so touch takes on a new dimension for them. That’s why they tend to not want hugs and kisses from mom and dad as they grow into teenagers. Though some kids may want to hug everyone.
As a parent, know that touch is important to your child no matter their age. Hug them. Give them pats on the back. Let them sit in your lap while watching tv (they surprisingly like that even when they are grown larger than your lap). Put your hand on their shoulder when correcting them. Touch gets their attention. Talk with your children about appropriate and inappropriate touch. Continue to show them touch as they are developing into that new dimension of feeling.
6. To Be Chosen
The desire to be chosen is a desire that doesn’t go away with age. As young kids, they are chosen for teams, asked to play, or selected to be the special person of the day. All kids want to be chosen … but not chosen last. As they get older, they will care about getting chosen in dating or going to the prom. As adults, we still care about being chosen as a friend, or for the job, or invited to the club. Not being chosen develops feelings of “I’m not good enough,” and “I’m not as good as others.” Some of that goes back to being performance based and so it’s important to choose children just because the chooser chooses them. That’s what Jesus did for us. He loved us while we were still sinners. He chose us not because we did something awesome.
If you’ve ever been in children’s ministry for long, you know that kids desperately want to be chosen for just about anything. Little toddlers want to be chosen to pass out paper towels during snack time. Kids want to be chosen to help with the Bible story even though they don’t know the story. Take advantage of this built in desire by asking for helpers for common tasks. Normally, you would pick kids as a reward for “good” behavior. I know the prevailing thought is that you reward what you want to reproduce, but when it comes to being chosen, kids need to know that it’s not always based on performance. Choosing a kid just because you wanted to choose them may give them the attention they were begging for in the first place. Parents can do this at home by asking one child to help make dinner or pump the gas in the car. Take advantage of their willingness to be chosen and chose things that help them feel more grown up.
7. To Be Included
To be included sounds a lot like being chosen. Being chosen is a selection from among the crowd. Being included means being involved with a crowd. Kids want to be recognized individually but they also want to feel like a part of a larger group. They want to be included by their peers. It helps them know that they aren’t alone. As a parent, it hurts when we see our children not included in the group. We want our children to “fit in” somewhere. It may not always be in the group we would most approve of or in a group where we know they may get emotionally hurt when they don’t “fit in”. So we have to help them find that balance of being included and being included in the right crowd for them.
In a church setting, we have to find ways in helping kids form community and what makes a godly community. These kids may not spend a lot of time together out of Sunday morning and so it’s important to form community while they are in church. Community listens to each others thoughts. Community works together on a task. Community celebrates together. Community prays together. I would encourage groups of kids to be no less than 3 and no more than 5. Two is like having a buddy and 6 or more is like a mob. So when you get to application time, split kids into smaller groups and have them tell each other how they would apply the lesson or Biblical principle rather than telling you individually. Model community now so that when they become adults, they will desire to find their community and desire to be included among God’s church.
Those were the 7 Desires of Every Child’s Heart. Which desire do you think is the strongest in your child right now? What have you done to foster that desire in Godly ways? I would love to hear from you. You can share your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Blumer, Pastor of Family and Adults