Ministry . . . With Children

I probably have more questions than answers about this. How do we minister when we have small children? I mean, how do we handle the logistics of it all? But also, what is our responsibility to make “wise” decisions about protecting our children from bad influences? And what is our responsibility to minister to those people who might be bad influences?

I sure would love to hear input from the couple of you who read this blog. 🙂 I have some ideas, but I’m not sure I’m completely right. These ideas are definitely works-in-progress.

I know someone who poured herself into an after-school program she developed for children from a local trailer park. Many of these children did not have someone at home after school to help them with homework; most of them needed tutoring and they definitely couldn’t afford to pay for it; and many of them had real physical needs — in the form of food and clothing. So this woman fed them and made sure they had warm winter coats and she formed a team of people to tutor these kids after school. She also taught them about Jesus — but first, she showed them Jesus. This is a mom of two little boys. As far as I know, her sons were part of this ministry. They attended the tutoring sessions and interacted with the children.

Some of the moms I know from Christian email digests and blogs, and some of the moms I know in real life, would not allow their children to play with these trailer park children. I mean, some of these children probably used foul language and some of them had probably seen immoral things we don’t want our children to know about. Would you take your children to spend time with them and minister to them a few afternoons a week?

I’m sure we could think of more examples to discuss.

Well . . . . here are some of my rambling thoughts on the matter.

First, not everyone is going to be called to a ministry like this. God may not burden your heart with a ministry to worldly children. God may not burden your heart with a prison ministry. God may not burden your heart with a ministry to the worldly woman next door. If you don’t feel that burden, then my advice is to continue seeking the Lord about the matter in prayer and ask Him for a sensitive heart and for Him to reveal His will for you. I think it would also be a good idea to pray for the people around you and ask God to send someone to minister to them. That someone MIGHT be you, but it might not be.

Next, if God does burden you about ministering to someone, then ask Him to reveal His will about the specifics. Does He want your whole family involved? I honestly think it’s best if everyone can be involved in some way. That’s how our children learn. It may not be appropriate to take them along to do the actual hands-on stuff, but it would certainly be appropriate to have them involved in prayer and support. Maybe you DO feel burdened to minister to the worldly woman next door (Dawn?), but you really feel God wants you to protect your children from her influence. You could have your children praying for her and making cards for her or making dinner for her or raking her leaves while she’s not home (or mowing her lawn or shoveling her driveway, etc.). You could have a child prepare a gift basket for her on her birthday (or a holiday) and leave it on her doorstep for her to find when she comes home. And you could find time every week or so to invite her to a coffee shop with you so you can become friends with her. Your children get to bless her and minister to her, yet they are protected from a worldly influence because they rarely interact with her. As you get to know her better, it may be appropriate to invite her to dinner with your family, but perhaps by then she’ll understand that foul language and lewd topics in front of your children would offend you. I think it would be OK to establish some boundaries in love once you have formed a friendship. And if you’ve been loving on her and being friends with her, then she’ll probably be receptive to those boundaries.

Another thought — I know most of us are worried about what bad influence worldly children will have on our own little sweeties. I feel like God has been working on my heart about this in the past year or so. First, I’ve been challenged to examine how much of my attitude in this area is pride.

Next, I’ve realized that often enough, my own little sweeties are the bad influence. My children are not perfect and perfection should not be a requirement for their playmates. Oh, I’m not saying I would encourage my children to be best friends with children who cuss like sailors or start fires or describe lewd information or carry porn magazines in their back pockets. But . . . I am saying that if my children play with children who are disrespectful or who say “shut up” or who have been exposed to some more of secular society than my children have, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve had to do some unlearning after being around some kids, and we usually end up having really good conversations about heart issues, rather than behavior issues. We also have had some great conversations about pride — “Yeah, that little girl might lie a lot, but have you ever told a lie?” or “No, she’s not very nice to you; but do you ever treat your brothers or sister like that?”

I know the Bible verses about evil company and lying down with dogs and all that. I’m not saying we encourage our children to hang with immoral kids just for fun. I am saying we teach our children how to have compassion on people and have a desire to minister to people who desperately need Jesus. I do not want to instill a “we are better than they are” attitude. I do not want to instill a “we cannot stoop to love them because we might get dirty” attitude. If they learn that as children, how will we expect them to suddenly change their minds when they get to be adults? And if we’re not modeling it for them because we are protecting them, how will they learn? And once they are adults, won’t they have their own families to protect? So who ministers to these people who needs Jesus?

Final rambling thought —– most of us don’t blink when a family is called to foreign missions and they take their children to an entire group of people who do not know Jesus. Often these families live in the midst of people who are spiritists or who worship false gods. Often these families live in the midst of people who live immoral lives. And most Christians accept this because the family is called to be missionaries. Well . . if God is calling you to be a missionary to the wild college girls next door or to the drug addict who is in and out of jail or to the homosexual couple down the street, what’s the difference? If He can protect the missionary children in the midst of evil spirits and immoral lifestyles, why can’t He protect your children in the midst of evil spirits and immoral lifestyles?

Please share your thoughts with me.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Ministry . . . With Children

  1. 🙂 Thank you. Your thoughts are following pretty closely in line with where mine have been going as I’ve been praying and talking to Father.

    ((hugs)) Thanks again!!

  2. Rachel

    I have this issue with the people in my own family not really being what I want my kids influenced by. I have been feeling lately, like my role here is to love them as much as I can without being sucked into their problems and drama (which can be a hard thing at times). Help where I can. I have really noticed the same thing as you in terms of great conversations with my daughter after the fact. I am sometimes afraid that in trying to teach my kids moral things that I am not reaching their hearts with the gospel and sometimes exposing them to things they wouldn’t be exposed to at home in small portions is a good way to highlight the sin that is in our house by comparing the heart attitudes like you are talking about. Often I think “when such and such happens, then I’ll be able to have time to minister..” but really there are always excuses to use. First I felt to young, then I was working full time, then I had a new baby and now I have more kids. I think often we do need to stretch ourselves and do what we can, when we can – make a meal, take an extra kid along on a family outing, just do the little things that you can do instead of focusing on the things you can’t do. Thanks for your post.

  3. martha

    Yes, yes! This is such good stuff to chew on. I want to choose faith in a BIG GOD rather than fear of man. We are all capable of the same sins, save the marvelous grace of God. So we don’t say with the Pharisee, “I am thankful that I am not like these others,” but we say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And God’s love and mercy compel us to go.

  4. Martha, I’m with you! I choose the BIG GOD too!

    If He calls us, He will be faithful to equip us, protect us, hold us, keep us. He’s big.

    As one of my favorite theologians once said — God is bigger than the boogeyman. 🙂

  5. Hi Jennifer, I loved reading this post. I too have struggled with these exact same questions. Since I am bedridden for the 1st 3 months of my pregancies there are times when I am not able to minister at all other than praying for people and giving of what financial resources I may have. I have really felt the Lord burdening me lately though that when I am able though I do need to give of my time to serve others. I have no doubt the Lord will protect my children when I am in his will. I also believe though that the Lord warns us in proverbs about the influence friends can have. I know many missionaries who have ended up losing their own children all in the name of ministry and I don’t feel like that is what the Lord wants. I feel like for this season of my life that I need to focus more on ministering where my children aren’t particularly around these types of children and let another believer who does not have small children handle childrens ministry for this season. One way I have felt God leading me to minister is to call up hospice care places and ask who they may have in their care who does not have much support and may or may not be a believer. Then have Isaac help me fix a meal or special goody for them once a week and then take it to them (yes with my children in tow) to visit and my children and I all lay hands on and pray for this person. I can’t think of anyone who would probably be more open to hearing the gospel than one who is dying. I was homeschooled growing up and my mom handled this very tactfully. When I got around 12 we began doing day camps in the Projects with out church for the children. By this age I was old enough and mature enough in the Lord to put my armor on and Mom would explain to us that this was ministry and we needed to spend time in prayer before ever showing up and ready to handle whatever came our way. Anyway, just some thoughts. I think the main thing we can do is to just be so in tune with the Lord that we always know what He would have us to do in every situation that comes. It sounds easy but for me ITS SO HARD!

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