“Pastor Sharon, will you pray for my Dad? He just got arrested for doing something really bad to my sister.”
These words are devastating to any Kids Ministry Leader. Sadly, in the society in which we live – these words have become much more common than any of us want to admit. How you and your Kids Ministry volunteers handle situations like this could be absolutely KEY to the long-term spiritual, physical, and emotional health of the child involved.
This past week, I taught my Kids Ministry staff about communicating with kids one-on-one. One of the questions I covered was:
“Pastor Brian, how do I handle it when a child requests prayer about a very serious issue – no food, abuse, bullying, divorce, moving?”
Here are the 5 keys I taught my team:
- Discern the sensitivity level of the issue at hand.
The child obviously doesn’t mind sharing it, but it may be a very sensitive issue. Your reaction will be different for “my parents are divorcing” or “we are moving” than it will be to “my brother has been touching me inappropriately.” If the situation warrants it, try to stop the child from sharing too many details in front of the class. Sensitively say, “Thank you for sharing that. We will be praying.” Then, you can ask the child for details when it is not in front of the class.
- Don’t freak out!
The kids will take their cue from your response. Don’t raise the level of emotion in the room. Your response should be calm and measured. Simply thank them for the request, then YOU lead in prayer over the needs and mention their need in a very discreet way. “Father, I pray for Johnny’s family situation…”
- Communicate to the Kids Pastor as soon as possible.
We can’t minister to a family in their time of need if we are not aware of the need. Please e-mail us (if it is not urgent). If it is urgent, please immediately come get the Kids Pastor. NEVER assume we know about something. Always better to over-communicate.
Please do not communicate to the parents directly on any sensitive issue unless approved. Each situation is delicate and must be handled with care. Allow the Kids Pastor to be the main ambassador of the church to the family.
- In the case of physical or sexual abuse, kindly and gently stop the child’s flow of information immediately.
Once you begin to receive details, you are likely to be called as a witness in court. You don’t want that. We don’t want that for you. Allow the Kids Pastor to handle it so that everything can be done properly and sensitively.
- Continue to direct the child to the Kids Pastor.
In many cases, the child will want to continue coming back to you for prayer requests and updates. Encourage the child not to share publicly. Let them know you are praying for them and their family and that all future conversations about the issue should be with the Kids Pastor.
I ended my talk with them by encouraging them. I told them, “It’s awesome that the children you serve feel comfortable to share painful details of their life with you. That means you are connecting to them. That means they sense your love and compassion for them. Let’s be diligent in making sure that we always handle each situation with the care it deserves.”
How about you? Have you found yourself in this situation before? Have you taught your team how to handle it? Do you have something that you feel should be added to this list? SHARE with everyone in the COMMENTS section! Let’s learn together!