Recently the Prime Minister of Norway held a press conference just for the children of her country. Erna Solberg told them it was okay to feel scared during the coronavirus outbreak, and then she took time to answer questions that kids were having.
What an outstanding demonstration of leadership. You would think that the prime minister of any country would have more important or pressing responsibilities than talking to children. But Prime Minister Solberg knows that the smallest members of her society are under her care, just as much as the adults are. It reminds me of what a pastor-friend said to me once: “Children are my sheep too.”
In these difficult times, how can pastors connect with the children, the littlest of their congregation? I would encourage you to have a conversation with them just like Norway’s Prime Minister did. While face-to-face conversations are becoming limited, you can do this at the beginning of your church’s online worship service or record a special video and email it to your congregation. If recording a video is difficult, write an email or letter to the children in your congregation.
Here is how you can begin a conversation with children in your church:
Validate the children’s feelings. It’s okay to feel scared. This is a time of great uncertainty, so of course we feel scared. If you are comfortable, acknowledge your own feelings (as appropriate) with the children. They will see that you are a human being whose feelings are similar to theirs.
Offer reassurance. If children feel vulnerable and scared, affirm what is staying strong and steady during this time—including their family’s love and your church’s love for them, which doesn’t change in a time of uncertainty. Tell them that their parents and the church are doing everything they can to watch out for them and keep them safe. Remind them that you are here to answer any questions they may have.
Point children to God. Encourage children to go to God, sharing their fears and questions, seeking God’s peace and comfort. God always wants to be in relationship with us and love us, especially in difficult times. Remind children that the people in the Bible, and even Jesus himself, often went through similar times of uncertainty. Share Psalm 46 and Psalm 23 with them.
The actual words you share are not as important as letting children know that you and the rest of the church are there for them. Encourage them to bring their questions to you or another trusted adult and promise you will answer them as best you can.
If you have any questions about engaging children in the church or supporting the faith formation of children, contact Mimi Larson, Faith Formation Ministries’ Children’s Ministry Catalyzer, at [email protected].