A few weeks ago our children’s workers had the opportunity to attend a conference called Kids Matter Kids Ministry. Bethany Dattolo (Hope Chapel’s Children’s Director) and Steve Blumer (Pastor of Family and Adults) shared during some break-outs at the conference. Bethany talked about reengaging parents and Steve shared what kids are looking at online. The main speaker was Mark Jones (Children’s Pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City). Mark has his own website and resource company dedicated to children’s ministry. During one of the main sessions Mark shared the “7 Desires of Your Child’s Heart” and how it relates to children’s ministry. This list is really insightful and to be honest, I think it’s “7 Desires of Your Heart (as an Adult)” as well. During this Thanksgiving weekend, I hope that you’ll take some time to recognize what your child is desiring from you and to find ways to give it to them.
1.To Be Heard and Understood
There are many children who have adults speaking into their lives. They have adults that give them advice, coach them, and teach them. They get instructions and directions all day every day. But “many don’t have adults who truly want to listen to their feelings, needs, and opinions.” We try to make this one of the objectives in our Kids Connect ministry. We want to connect with kids so we can connect them with Christ and His church. Connecting with kids means that we have to know what’s going on with them. What’s going on in their world. We have to learn their language and lingo. This only happens when we listen. We ask them what happened in their week and how they would process this week’s lesson in their own life.
As parents, we can live with our own kids year after year and truly not understand who they are or what they struggle with. Kids often don’t understand why they feel the way they feel. They may be crying and when you ask them why, they say, “I don’t know why.” It may not be simply because they are tired and they need to go to bed. You may need to talk with them about things so they can understand. This, of course, involves time and personal one-on-one time which may be especially difficult when you have multiple children. Not to mention work and household duties that need to get done. I suggest that you find time at least once a month to have one-on-one time away from everyone and everything else together. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. They could simply be the only one that gets to stay up later or runs to the grocery store with mom or dad. Use that opportunity to have fun together and to learn more about them.
2. To Be Affirmed
“We all desire to be affirmed and to believe that someone approves of what we do.” Being affirmed lets your children know that they are heading in the right direction. They may not be getting it right completely, but it gives them motivation to work hard at something that is difficult. Kids often welcome direction and instruction … when it is given in an encouraging way. And that’s often the hard aspect of parenting.
As your child grows and develops, you’ll have to say the same thing about 100 times before…well, they still don’t get it. As parents, we can get so frustrated with having to repeat ourselves that our directions and instructions become filled with aggravations rather than affirmations. Our instructions deflate and de-motivate. Our words actually contribute to what we see as a problem. Their brains become so stunned from disapproval and discouragement, they can’t truly think clearly. So staying focused on using affirming and encouraging words is important. One of the things I’ve learned (not saying I always practice) is that it’s best to encourage kids in the morning and then find those teaching moments in the evening. Morning routines can be a difficult time already, so your kids need you to encourage them and affirm them before they leave home and enter their day. Take advantage of evenings to teach lessons and corrections when they typically are around more and can give time to talk about things. Affirming your children also keeps the door open for them to feel comfortable to share their feelings, needs, and situations. This will be a great building block for when they become teenagers. They will be looking for affirmation in many places and the place or person that does…wins them over. Will that be you or at least someone you trust?
3. To Be Blessed
“If affirmation is being approved for what you do, blessed is being loved for who you are.” Kids need to know they are loved and blessed without it being tied to performance or perfection. I enjoyed how Mark explained that when God said “This is My Son, whom I love, and with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) was before Jesus began His ministry. Jesus had not done any miracles that we know of yet. Jesus had not preached His first message that we know of yet. Yes, Jesus had done some teaching when He was young and I’m sure He did things that were unique for children, but God’s public display of His love was not based on what the public saw His Son do.
There are several things that stick with me. I think our words of affirmation, approval, and love should be communicated in public, not just in private. As kids grow up, they say they don’t like public displays of affection and maybe they really don’t. But when they get older they will know that you love them and that matters more than an embarrassing moment. Mark talks about this in his book called “Dad’s Gotta Do What a Dad’s Gotta Do.” I also find it extremely important to note the role of a male figure in displaying love in a child. It was God the Father who spoke. Most children come to expect the love of a mother. But the spoken love of a father is often too rare. Don’t hope that your child knows you love them. Make sure they actually hear it. It’s also important to have men teaching kids in church and not just a coach at sports. I find it sad that women teach at home and in the classroom while men seem to only teach on a field.
I’ll stop there and allow those to soak in. How do you think you’re doing as a parent so far? I’m sure you’re like me and know you have much work to do. Let me know what you did this next week to embrace a desire of your child’s heart. Next time, we’ll look at the desires of:
To Be Safe
To Be Touched
To Be Chosen
To Be Included
Steve Blumer, Pastor of Family and Adults