It’s snowing outside. But I am sitting warm and cozy by my fireplace. And I find myself thinking back to last week’s small group time. It was a busy Sunday with lots of families finding their way back to church in the new year. We were just about ready to dive in to our first activity, and while most kids were eager to jump in, we had two with tears starting to pool in their eyes. The tears had nothing to do with each other. The reasons were completely separate, but each kid chose a corner of the room and picked it as their place to hide and cry. So I took a breath, and tried to figure out how I was going to tackle the situation. A small group helper was already on top of things with the unhappy little boy, so after a quick word with the upset little girl, I decided to get the whole group started on the activity so I could give her more specific attention in a moment. I grabbed the green construction paper and began to pass it out when the little girl came to stand at my elbow. She was wiping away any trace of tears as she spoke.
“I can hand those out for you.”
It took me by surprise (although it shouldn’t have.) For many kids, these extra little jobs are something special—giving them a task, a place, a moment to take their eyes off themselves to focus on others. So I handed off the job and made my way to the other corner with some popsicle sticks in hand and casually handed them to the little boy.
“Hey bud,” I said. “I could use a hand. Can you pass these out to everyone?”
Without a thought, he took them in hand, stood up and got to work. Sometimes, we can feel so ill equipped to tackle the storms that swirl through the hearts and minds of the children who enter our doors looking for a place where they can feel warm and comfortable. I love how God placed that little girl next to me to provide a simple answer to what was needed for the moment. Proverbs 15:23 says, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply, and how good is a timely word!”
This is so true. I was joyful, and probably even laughing a little to myself as I handed over supplies to my new helpers, but the words spoken, though simple, were exactly what were needed. There are certainly times when we need to dive in and give answers to deeper issues of the heart, but this time, what those two kids needed was to feel safe, needed, and valued. In the midst of crowd control, craft management, goofy fun, and tricky behavior, we need to remember the importance of setting up church as a safe place. Our solutions may not be moments of pure genius. In fact, most times, they won’t be. Most often, it will be words that are spoken with kindness that fulfill the need of the moment.
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Written by Karis Stiles
Director of Children’s Strategy at Parker Hill Church