Because Life Doesn’t Stop for the Rest of Us…

I’m a Children’s Pastor as a local church. One of my heart and passion is to support parents so they can raise spiritually and emotionally healthy children to know and love God. When Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened in 2012, I was quick to send out an email to parents in my church on how to talk to their children about tragedy. Fast forward to 2017. When Vegas shooting happened, I hesitated before sharing pointers on talking to kids about tragedy on social media. This week. I’m still wondering if I should share an article on talking to kids about tragedy. Why? Because I think to myself, “But I just shared an article on how to talk to kids about tragedy just few months ago. They can easily find it again if they need to.”

This is an indication that shooting are becoming a norm in our country, which is NOT OKAY! But today, I came across this post on my facebook friend’s feed who lives minutes away from Parkland, FL (all names have been changed to “{insert relationship}” for privacy; This was posted the morning after Stoneman Douglas School shooting):

Ugh…so hard to drop “son” at school this morning 

This was followed by the following post and photos:

Lord help us! “Son’s” school went on lockdown at the same time as his dismissal. “Husband” and “Daughter” were picking him up and were pulled into lockdown too. So scary but thankful they are all ok and home now.

Parkland Final

As I read the text exchange, my eyes started welling up with tears. I just had to stop and re-read these words again and again.

I have stopped posting anything political or controversial on my social media sites awhile back because my words felt cheap. I felt somewhat helpless in my actions… and I felt like posting about it led me to think I did something when I hadn’t. But as I sat in front of my computer screen filled with emotions, I realized that my life goes on. I’m still going to my next scheduled meeting. I’m still going to a museum with a friend tomorrow. I’m still meeting friends for dinner this weekend. My life goes on… nothing stops for me. But for someone who is living this tragic moment, life stops. Everything on their schedule is cancelled. Their focus turns to grieving and trying to put life back together. Cause of tragedy also becomes their life mission. When life doesn’t stop, it doesn’t become priority. We feel sad. We send our “thoughts and prayers” (I’m just as guilty of this one). We share or write a post or two. Then we go back to joking around… the norm… and we forget how strongly we felt about gun-control (in this case) when tragedy had just struck.

Right now, I still feel helpless. But reading this post on a personal friend’s wall hit home. I’m not a parent, yet as I thought about what my friend must have been feeling, I was overwhelmed with feelings of desperation, sadness, frustration, and anger. This is not a text that should exchanged with your child while they’re in school.

I don’t know anyone that says this violence okay. Everyone, regardless of political party affiliation, will say this is senseless tragedy. But nothing is being done, and I felt the need to do something. Today, I emailed my Representative and Senators. I made a donation (gofundme: Stoneman Douglas Victim’s Fund) to help cover the cost of coffee and drinks at grief centers, counseling funding, medical expenses, etc. I don’t share this to pat myself on the back… because to be honest, I still feel helpless… but I really need to do something! And even if life doesn’t stop for me now, I have made a decision to do what I can to push for sensible gun-control in our country. If we don’t take action now, I fear that one of my close friend’s life will stop due to this senseless violence… or even mine… so I choose to act now. If you’re moved to action, below are few places to start:

Living Boldly requires speaking up for what is right… and protecting our children.

 

22 years later in KidMin

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My very first paid position in children’s ministry was in August 1994. I was only 21, and I had no idea that I even wanted to go into ministry. However, my college pastor saw the potential in me, and hired me as an intern… to run preschool – elementary of about 80 children. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking… but I’m glad he gave me this opportunity. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I’ve changed as a children’s pastor over 22 years.

22 years ago, I felt the need to prove myself. I mean, how is anyone going to take a 21 year old seriously? I was obviously not a parent, so why would parents trust me? I immersed myself in creating the best events–Fall Family Festival (man, college students really do have lots of time… we transformed our sanctuary into the inside of an airplane and handmade 100 luggages, luggage tags, passports, etc. We transformed our sanctuary into a castle, a spaceship, etc.), VBS (2 nights/3 days of VBS Olympics–seriously, what were we thinking?), field trips, not to mention “Summer Camp” for 8 hours/day for 6 weeks. Man, I must have had lots of energy back then. And to be honest, they were great events because I was fortunate to have an amazingly talented and committed team. They really made me look good. Parents and volunteers gave me praise for a job well done.

When I started seminary and became a part-time staff, I thought I knew all the answers to the tough questions of ministry. I was excited about all the things I was learning, and I desperately wanted to impart my newfound knowledge to those who didn’t have the privilege of attending seminary. Each Sunday, I taught elementary kids on the theology of prayer, the Trinity, survey of Old & New Testament, etc. These weren’t all that bad… but I was focused on the knowledge.  Parents and volunteers gave me praise for a job well done.

Everything I did 22 years ago wasn’t all that bad. But when I look back, I was often driven by my insecurities. I did’t have a firm grasp of why I was doing what I was doing. I simply said “I want to teach kids about the Bible!” However, I rarely shared the gospel. I rarely talked about God’s grace. I was focused on knowledge and great events!

I still believe knowledge and quality events are important. However, the most important is giving kids Jesus! I want to share about the sacrificial love of Jesus every chance I get. I want to share about God’s undying love every chance I get… because my calling is to bring kids to Jesus so they can live for Him as soon as they can. It’s not my job to convert these kids, but it is my responsibility to seize every opportunity to share the gospel… afterall, we never know who’s experiencing and hearing the gospel for the very first time. Now, my events and lessons are based on giving kids Jesus… and not driven by having to prove myself in any way! I still feel the need to prove myself–don’t get me wrong! After 22 years, I still feel the need to make sure parents and volunteer approve of what I’m doing. I want that praise. However, our mission of bringing kids to Jesus has to be #1. Our value of investing in relationships has so we can share Jesus has to be #1. And that has to drive what we do… because Jesus said “Let the children come to Me.” So 22 years later, I find myself very focused. I find myself discerning more about what we provide in our ministry. I find myself unapologetic for not pleasing everyone. Thank you God for the last 22 years of this journey so I can bring Jesus to kids!

Today’s Warm & Fuzzies

I love getting warm & fuzzy stories from parents! This one landed in my inbox this morning!

Hi Gloria-  I have to share a quick story for you to pass on to M’s teachers at church.  Her teacher told me that yesterday, on the playground, there was a little girl who was crying because she had to get off the swing because her turn was over.  M went up to her and said “Listen, it’s OK because at church I learned that the first shall be last and the last shall be first!”  

This is especially precious because M is a super shy girl… who has only said “HI” to me once! We just learned this lesson couple weeks ago, and for her to have the boldness to comfort another girl with what she learned at church gives me the warm & fuzzies all over!  Have I said lately that kids are the BEST?

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Too Quick to Discipline?

I used to work at a preschool many years ago. Lauren was a full-day child… and she just had the hardest time waking up and getting herself going after nap time. I remember subbing in her class one day… and after the lights came back on and we woke up all the kids, Lauren just looked absolutely miserable. But our protocol is get all the kids up, send them on a visit to the restroom, wash hands, and go outside for snacks and play time. Lauren just looked up and me and whimpered, “I’m freaking out… I just need to chill!” Yes, awfully cute coming out of a 3-year old’s mouth. After I sent all the other kids out, I stayed in the room just tidying up while Lauren chilled out. About 5 minutes later of being left alone, she got up, picked up her sleeping mat, put it away, came up to me and said, “Okay, I’m ready to go outside now!” To my surprise, Lauren was a different child. She was smiling and ecstatic to go play outside.

I also had a child in kindergarten class at church that used to slam doors, throw chairs, and turn over tables. He was an angry child, to say the least. You could just see the anger on his face. Every time I looked into the room, he was seated in the corner with his arms folded. I let his leaders know that next time he acted up, to page me so I can converse with him. It was only 2 weeks later. We walked to the common area, and I sat next to him.

Me: Did you have a bad morning this morning?

B: Yeah!

Me: What happened?

B: I got into a fight with my mom and my brother. I’m just so mad!

Me: Yeah… sometimes I get mad at my brother too. And sometimes I don’t know what to do because I’m so angry.

B: Yeah!

Me: Well, what I’ve learn to do is just walk away from everyone. I just need some time to myself so I can calm down… Sometimes I’m still mad at my brother but I know it’s not good to take it out on other people. And being by myself helps me to calm down. So maybe next time you’re angry, you can let me know and we can just sit for awhile until we feel better. Sometimes we think throwing things help us feel calm but it doesn’t. It just makes us feel even more angry. Not to mention it’s not safe for you to be throwing things around in the room when other kids are in the room… and that’s not okay.

B: Uhm… okay… I’ll try that!

I’m happy to report that he is in 2nd grade now, and he’s doing phenomenal. He learned to control his anger. In fact, he’s a super happy, compliant child!

I’ve woken up on the wrong side of bed. It usually takes me good 15-20 minutes before I can get myself out of bed after my alarm has gone off. I’ve felt angry and frustrated for no apparent reason. I’ve just felt like not doing anything or talking to anyone at times.  See… I’ve had the same experiences as these two kids described above. The difference is that I’m an adult and I know I can’t hurt other people nor demand things to be done my way. Kids are still learning how the world works. They’re slowly learning that they’re not the center of this world. They’re slowly learning that they can’t act out whenever they want to.

Kids have all the emotions that we feel as adults. But they don’t always know what to do with them. However when we see kids not behaving the way we want them to, our first inclination is to discipline them rather than trying to understand what they’re experiencing and feeling that’s causing them to act out or misbehave. We’re quick to put them in time-outs. We’re quick to single them out. We’re quick to “threaten them.” And we’re quick to judge them.

So next time a child acts out in your class or small group… or even in your home… why not take the time to just sit with them to “chill out,” or converse about what’s bothering them? It’s through these times kids learn how to cope with different emotions, and that they’re not a bad child for not being who the adult wants them to be. These conversations could go a long way… and eliminate the need for “discipline.”