Last week I was at camp with the youth group so I did not post. It was an amazing time as we sought the Lord together, experienced his presence while having a lot of fun. So it seemed like a good time to post this one.
I have always liked kids, especially babies. When I was a teenager I would go to youth events with a certain family just to the hold the baby. When I was first dating Kimberly I was in a tug of war with her grandma to hold her baby cousins.
I had a moment at work from previous job where I had encountered a sheriff talking to a little girl asking her if she knew where her mommy was? She didn’t she just cried. The sheriff asked me if I knew the little girl and i did not. I felt sad for her. We waited and talked and the sheriff informed me that she would have to call CPS. I was sad that a little girl would be separated from her parents. I was sad that she was so scared and little that she couldn’t tell us where she lived.
I drove around the community looking for the usual packs of wondering kids but curiously there were none that day. I returned to the area, praying, and I started looking for any sign or clue, and I noticed a door slightly ajar. I jumped out of the golf cart and ran to the door. I knocked lousy and no reply, so I entered. I immediately saw little girl toys and the TV was on. I called again and no answer so I went upstairs.
I knocked again and called but still no answer. I turned the corner and found mom, and dad? Asleep? I didn’t know. I called again to rouse them and asked if they were missing a little girl. The mother sprang into action and we went outside. She kept saying the brother must have left the door open. But by then it was too late. The call to CPS was made, she was legally in police custody and it would have to be worked out with the court.
I prayed for God to help and he sent help. I was able to find and inform the parents, but they will now have to work it out downtown. I didn’t want the girl to be separated from her mother. Was she negligent? Was she exhausted from a long night at work assuming her daughter was safe downstairs? Can I safely comment not knowing all the variables? I was reminded how we treat the children.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
I know that we need to do better with the kids. There are many ways of preventing them from coming to him. Theirs is the kingdom but our world neglects them and worse. Our world uses them for slavery and worse. Our world ends their lives if they are inconvenient and worse. I could go on and on about the travesties that are committed against all people and how kids never get to even live as kids because our world is so wicked, but we all know this.
I could sit and be overwhelmed with the way kids are treated around the world, but instead I will pray. Children are supposed to honor their parents but how many truly honorable parents out there are there? How many parents are protecting their kids from the evils of the world and how many others are subjecting them to it? Kids are precious gifts from God and they are precious in his sight.
They should be precious is our sight as well.
Later I saw that the sheriff had returned and they were taking the parents away in a sheriff’s car. The kids were left with a guardian. It makes me sad. I met some other kids that were engaging and friendly and their parents took care of them and others who don’t.
So if theirs is the kingdom, how do ours stand up? What does God think of his Kingdom as we have taken care of the children?
I am not saying do we have a kids ministry but what are our priorities when it comes to the kids, all kids? Do we allow them into our churches? Are they truly welcome or must they be quarantined to kids corner? Is our view of the kingdom placing them in a place of dire importance? Or are they baby sat so we can get on to the real business of the parents? How are they treated when the service has ended?
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.5“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mathew 18:1-6)
The church should be protecting them and using their resources to raise them and love them. When we build the kingdom, is whether the kids are growing into disciples a concern? Do we instead build prettier buildings, bigger ministries that benefit us? Do we think the real ministry is the with the adults? I have seen that yes, but I don’t know, it really isn’t one against the other but I wonder how often the kids get forgotten or ignored as the way our culture has gone. I am sad at the way we treat our kids. But it would be too easy to simply critique certain ministries and churches for their exhaustive kids ministry or lack there of, but the real question is do we believe that theirs is the kingdom? What does that mean? Do we bother to find out?
I know culturally we have failed and continue to fail. Children are supposed to obey the parents but what are we telling them to do? I pray that we are shaping the children for a relationship with their maker. I know my goals for youth ministry are all about this. I don’t so much care about how many Bible verses they know or how much their behavior reflects that of a saint as much as they understand they are in a relationship with the very maker of the world.
This will only come about if the kids are ministered to beyond a Sunday or a Wednesday night program. If our thinking is that the churches will make our children moral and the schools with make them smart and all we have to do is feed them and clothe them then we will never accomplish this. What kids get at church should at best supplement what the parents believe and live out. A youth pastor cannot make kids love God. A youth pastor cannot make kids moral. Youth group is not to make the kids better but to hopefully inspire them into a real and lasting relationship with God that compliments what they see and live at home.
I want them to understand that they are loved, and loved in such a way that any love they might experience from a parent pales in comparison to the way they are loved by their heavenly Father. And that any abuse they might experience is so terribly wicked that God himself is preparing judgment for it. Because this is true, they get an entire life time to develop this relationship and that it will only grow until they reach his presence one day. A relationship with God is not something to be put off until we get out of college or until we realize that maybe our families need a good influence and perhaps we should join a church or something.
God is real and he is calling now and it is our responsibility to offer up the children to him, to help them into his lap so that their reliance on him begins to grow and flourish. We all should be living in such a way that children ask us why we do this or why we do that and the answer is because God is real and he loves us very much. I was reminded at camp that one the best ways to make disciples is for Christians to have kids. This is why there is such an assault on the family and why even education has become about pushing agendas rather than simply teaching. We have a lot to handle as parents.
I have to ask what message does our Kingdom communicate to the children? Not just on paper but in practice. We are supposed to have childlike faith, faith that trusts and relies on the parent for everything. Do we have that kind of faith with our heavenly father? Does it cause us to protect and raise the children well? Are children in America still a blessing? I know the that passage about the children can be argued that it is more about the type of faith, which is childlike, but do we have kids that possess that? Are we fostering that both in church and at home? Do we view kids as truly a blessing as the Bible teaches?
Are the children getting that they are loved, or do they think church means another set of rules they are supposed to live up to?
The church should be leading the way in orphanages and children at risk programs and helping them find God, and homeless children, and well there is a lot of evil out there. Jesus loves the little children. He knows the little children have it hard. At least that is what I think. I will try with Raphael and those in my charge so help me God.