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The Child in the Church Present Realities and Future Impact Dan Brewster.

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1 The Child in the Church Present Realities and Future Impact Dan Brewster

2 Does this reflect your attitude – or the attitude of your friends about children? “Children are such a nuisance! I don’t like to be around children because they are so demanding and annoying.” “My wife and I don’t plan to have children. We can’t be tied down to parenting, which demands such time, energy, attention, and money.” “I’m pregnant, but I don’t want a baby. So I’ll simply get an abortion.” “Changing nappies, getting up in the night with a sick child, helping kids with homework are not for me. I’d rather be child- free.” 2

3 Or do these more accurately reflect your feelings about children and childhood? “Children are so much fun! They are full of life and energy, and are so eager to learn new things.” “I enjoy the way children respond so readily to love and attention.” “Raising kids is one of the greatest rewards in all of life.” “It’s a delight to teach children. They are so open to spiritual truths.” 3

4 Stupid things parents do to mess up their kids. (Dr. Laura Schlessinger) Stupid neglect – Staying away from home leads to death of the family. Stupid daycare – Don’t think nanny is an acceptable replacement for you. Stupid Single-hood – Children need fathers! Stupid Restraint – Withholding discipline results in temper tantrums, defiance, rage, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse. Stupid indulgence – Don’t give kids everything they want! Stupid Distractions – Parents must be part of their child’s life 4

5 Discuss: What are the qualities, which Jesus encourages us to learn when he urges us to ‘become like a child’? 5

6 Reflection Questions: Describe a typical child in your church, community or work context. – Is the child more at risk from poverty or prosperity? Reflect on how the culture in your country may affect your children or the children with whom you work. 6

7 Why Children? The Child in Biblical Perspective

8 Key Verse: Psalms 78:3-7 “I will utter hidden things, things from of old--what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes... and established the law..., which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.” Children in Biblical Perspective 8

9 Childhood in the Old Testament Children born and unborn, (with the rest of humanity), are created in God’s image and have intrinsic worth (Gen. 1:27, Psalm.139:13-14). God’s compassion is like that of a father to a child. (Ps. 103) The mother/child relationship is significantly used as an embodiment of the bond between God and us. – ‘As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.’ (Isaiah 66:13) God disciplines those whom He has chosen “as a father.” 9

10 The Bible clearly shows God’s high regard for children and their ability to understand the faith. Children were included in God’s covenant so they would learn to fear the Lord (Deut 29:10-15, 31:12- 13) When the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated the people including children rejoiced (Neh 12:43) Children dialogue about the meaning of the Passover (Lev 12:26-27). 10

11 The Bible shows God’s high regard for children and their ability to understand the faith.  Jesus as a boy of 12 years was interacting, listening and asking questions of the teachers in the temple courts. (Lk 2:41-52).  Timothy is an early church example of a young child who knew the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:15).  Throughout the Bible youth are encouraged to impact their communities by maintaining personal purity by obeying God’s word (Ps119:9) to be good examples in their speech, faith and purity (1 Tim 4:12) and to pursue godly virtues (2 Tim 2:22). 11

12 The NT shows Jesus’ high regard for children and their ability to understand the faith. Jesus rebuked the teachers for questioning children as they sang “Hosanna to the Son of David” quoting from Psalm 8 (Matt.21:16). Jesus praised God the Father for revealing such truths to “little children” (Matt.11:25) Jesus himself “grew in wisdom (intellectual, mental), and stature (physical), and in favor with God and man (Spiritual and Social) (Luke 2:52).  Jesus was a role model in the way he placed his hands on children, prayed for them (Matt 19:13) and touched them (Mark 10:13, Luke 18:15)  Note: The important thing is not that pastors and leaders become child workers; rather that they understand the importance and strategic value of children, so to better support those working with children, and to be better advocates. 12

13 God often used children for significant ministry  Moses was saved through action of his older sister (Ex 2:4-9).  God needed Eli to understand that it He was speaking directly to Samuel (1 Sam 3)  Naaman’s young captive servant girl encouraged him to go to Elisha for healing (2 Kings 5:1-3)  David was just a boy but managed to defeat Goliath (1 Sam 17). He trusted God from an early age (Ps 22:9-10). 13

14 Jesus regularly used ministry to children to influence adults.  In the healing of Jairus daughter, in spite of what others said to Jairus, Jesus encouraged him “Not to be afraid but to believe” (Mark 5:36). He then took the father and mother with him to where the child lay and took her by the hand saying “little girl, get up!”(Mark 5:40-1).  In the healing of the boy with an evil spirit Jesus encourages a declaration of faith from the father (Mark 9:23-4).  Jesus urged the twelve disciples to receive little children (Matthew 18:5). 14

15 Adults are commanded to teach their children to love and obey God  Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6).  “Impress [God’s Commands] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up... (Deut 6:7) 15

16 For Reflection: The Old Testament closes with a call for a renewed relationship between children and fathers (Malachi 4:6). – Can parental neglect in relationships with children result in blessing and curses? – Do you agree with the statement “The land has been stricken with a curse?” – What is the role of the Church in removing the curse? 16

17 For Reflection: God’s Intention for Marriage – Mal 2:14-16 The LORD is the witness between you and [your] wife..., Has not made them one?... And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself..., and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, " – Should we still be “fruitful and multiply?” – What about population problems? – What about being able to care for all of the children? – Ps 127:3-5 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.... Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. 17

18 How Faith Grows When The Bible describes faith, it often uses an illustration or a reference to the process of growth. For example: Psalm 1 describes the faithful person as being like a growing and fruitful tree. Psalm 92:12-15 righteous people grow and flourish in faith even into old age. In Mark 4:26, The faithful are like the seed sown on good soil, producing a good crop. Peter told the early church that growing faith required a process much like that of a growing child: begin with milk, and then take on more mature nourishment (1 Peter 2:2).

19 How Faith Grows: Starting Points: 1: All of us have some faith from the earliest months of life. The infant in her mother’s arms shows faith, not by believing or doing but simply by trusting…. 2: The development of faith is closely connected to the natural processes of human growth and development…. 3: Just as it is possible to chart an individual’s human growth and development so the same is true for faith… Each stage has its own characteristics.…

20 Faith Grows like a Tree 1.A tree with one ring is as much a tree as a tree with forty rings. A tree in its first year is a complete and whole tree, and a tree with three rings is not a better tree but only an expanded tree.” 2.A child’s faith is developmentally whole according to the child’s total development. It is no less valuable a resource to God than the faith of a mature person. The goal of the “faith teacher” is to help each person fulfill his or her faith potential at every point. 3. A tree grows if the proper environment is provided. Similarly, we expand from one stage of faith to another only if the proper environment, experiences, and interactions are present…” (Westerhoff 2000:88)

21 Faith Grows like a Tree 4. A tree acquires one ring at a time in a slow and gradual manner. We do not see it but we see the results. The same is true of faith.” (Westerhoff 2000:88-89) Faith development cannot be rushed. Over time, you can see how the process has brought growth. 5. As a tree grows, it does not eliminate rings but adds new ones. …. It is the same with faith….We do not outgrow a style [stage] of faith and its needs, but expand it by adding new elements and new needs.

22 J ohn Westerhoff’s 4 stages of Faith Development in Children Stage 1: Experienced Faith. The First faith experience of very young children is more experienced than understood. Children apprehend rather than comprehend. They sense a positive environment; they hear positive things about Jesus when they are welcomed and nurtured in places adults call “church.” The hugs and affirmation they get from adults are.. in part, credited to the God the adults worship. The absence of those hugs and affirmation will mean that children will have a difficult time developing faith at all.

23 J ohn Westerhoff’s 4 stages of Faith Development in Children Stage 2: Affiliative Faith. When children (young people) begin to identify with the faith of their parents or peers. (later childhood and early adolescent years.) They can begin to search the Scriptures for themselves and make the transition from Bible stories to Bible study. It is important at this stage is that the child senses that he/she is wanted, needed, accepted, and important in the church. Activities that encourage people in this stage: Serving at a fellowship supper, Being part of a service project, Belonging to a small group, ?, ?, ?.

24 J ohn Westerhoff’s 4 stages of Faith Development in Children 3. Searching Faith. (Late adolescence and young adulthood.) The Third stage is characterized by questioning, doubt, searching and experimentation. “Searchers” need to be allowed to explore while also encouraged to remain in the faith community during their intellectual struggle and experimentation. They will benefit from: – Encouragement to develop their values – Respect for different ideas – The reminder that in a changing world, God and His Word do not change – Topics that are relevant to their life situations

25 J ohn Westerhoff’s 4 stages of Faith Development in Children 4. “Owned faith.” Due to the serious struggle with doubt that precedes it, owned faith often appears as a great illumination or enlightenment, but it can be witnessed in our actions and new needs. They want to put their faith into personal and social action, and they are willing and able to stand up for what they believe. They benefit from: – Connecting Scripture with everyday life – Asking open-ended questions that demand mature thought – Addressing a broad range of relevant, current topics – Challenging to express their faith in practical ways – Encouraging daily Bible reading and prayer – Encouraging biblical action in response to social needs

26 Children need both “Accepting” Love and “Transforming” Love With Accepting Love, Parents accept children as they come, not by design, or will, or ambition. – A mother’s love does not depend on the beauty, talent or other attributes of the child. We do not choose our children. Their qualities are unpredictable. – Something ethically uncomfortable about “designer children.” (“Wrongful birth” lawsuits) – That is why parenthood, more than other human relationships, teaches us to have an “openness to the unbidden.”

27 Transforming love is the love that seeks to make the child into all he/she can be. Transforming love leads a parent to try to shape the gifts and talents of the child. Parents (like athletes) have an obligation to help them discover and develop their talents and gifts. Transforming love leads mothers to get medical or dental help for their child. Accepting love affirms the being of the child, Transforming love seeks the well-being of the child. (God also loves us with these two kinds of Love: Accepting love – Ps. 103:14; Transforming love: Col 3: 1-17, etc.)

28 Accepting love and transforming love must be in balance. Often parents today are too accepting: They tolerate anything from their children, because they want to be liked. No discipline; no boundaries. Other parents may are too “transforming” -- getting carried away with promoting and demanding accomplishments, seeking perfection. “Accepting love, without transforming love, slides into indulgence and finally neglect.” “Transforming love, without accepting love, badgers and finally rejects.” (Sandel)

29 Thoughts on Self-esteem For children growing up in poverty and exploitation, protection and restoration of self-esteem is vitally important. We must protect (and sometimes restore) the dignity of each child. (2 Sam 9) However, for children growing up in some more affluent homes, the idea of self-esteem may be exaggerated and counter- productive. In recent years, bolstering children’s self-esteem has obscured the more promising and productive possibilities of childrearing. We would do better to help children acquire the skills, values, and virtues on which a positive sense of self is properly built.” (William Damon, GE 72)

30 Thoughts on Self-esteem “What happens when a child receives a meaningless message that the child is the greatest in every possible way? There are several possibilities. – Some children will simply tune out such messages. – They may repeat the phrases on occasion but do not take them to heart in any enduring sense. – The messages change nothing about their notions of who they are.” (Greater Expectations 73)

31 “Do Hard Things” Alex and Brett Harris: “Being considered a good teen only requires that we don’t do bad stuff like taking drugs, drinking and partying. But is it enough to know of the negative things we don’t do”” Dr. Ralph Winter in hailing this book: “The book helps understand why children and young people are what they are -- because we don’t expect or even allow much from them…The minds and hearts of children and young people today are being stunted by the limitations and low expectations that surround them, capture them, degrade them. We need to wake up that enormous tragedy.”

32 Do Hard Things Children and young people thrive on challenges. They love opportunities to gain skills and to prove themselves. They generally respond with energy and enthusiasm when provided opportunities to test their abilities. When denied such challenges, children become insecure and apathetic. And what more life changing challenge could there be than learning about the world and sharing God’s love for the peoples?

33 Why are the 4/14ers the particular responsibility of the Church?

34 1. Because only the Church can promote the holistic development which the next generation needs. “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and Man.” (Luke 2:52) The growth of Jesus is a model for the growth and development of all children. How can you (or your church) help children grow:  In Wisdom?  In Stature?  In favor with God?  In Favor with Man? 34

35 Why are the 4/14ers the particular responsibility of the Church? 2. Because God hears the Children crying and He expects us to Hear and Respond as well. “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying… Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, …” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water..… God was with the boy as he grew up. (Gen. 21: ) Reflection: Take 15 minutes to seek out insights, ideas or principles concerning child development from this passage. 35

36 1. God Speaks from Heaven He sends his messengers to deal with the problem. (the angel v.17) God always has his servants. Even today, no doubt he still sends his angels. (See Mt: 18:10) But Today, most often, God wants the CHURCH and its families to love and care for all the children. 36

37 2.He asks about the problem: (“What is the matter, Hagar?”) Why Do Children Cry?  They cry because they hurt.  Hunger, exploitation, neglect, abuse, devaluing. (Why are the children in your country crying?) Group Exercise:  List at least 5 specific hurts of children in:  Your Nation  Your Community  Your Church  Write at least 3 specific needs or hurts of children whom you know by name. 37

38 Why are the children crying?  They cry for dignity:  God created them with dignity (Gen. 1:26, 27).  He restored dignity through redemption (Jn. 3:16). (How can your church restore the dignity of the needy children here?)  They cry for respect and love. Jesus showed his respect for them by:  Using them to do His work (Samuel, the girl with Naaman, the boy with loaves and fish, etc.)  Taking time to bless them. (Mk. 10: 13-16)  Taking time to heal them and even raise them from the dead.  Accepting their worship. (Mt 21:16) 38

39 3. God Encourages those who Care for Children (God said to Hagar, “Don’t be afraid...)  Care-givers in your country also need lots of encouragement. Sometimes the caregivers are in need of the very thing that they are providing – love, respect, recognition, care, dignity. (The oil-well.) Group exercise:  What particular problems to parents in poverty face?  What kind of encouragement or affirmation do the caregivers here need?  How will you church leaders encourage the struggling mothers and other care givers? 39

40 4.God Gives us Instructions on Caring for the Children Give them physical, emotional, and moral support. Walk with them, encourage, support, disciple, be a friend.  Question: What kind of equipping are the churches here giving to parents and other caregivers concerning caring for the children? “Lift up the boy.” Implies saving their lives (relief work) “Take him by the hand.” Implies Long-Term development work. 40

41 5. God Makes Promises about Children “I will make you into a great nation.” (Gen 21:18)  The promise was for much more than just the immediate need -- God sees potential.  It was given when all hope was gone.  It was fulfilled in God’s time. God’s Promises don’t depend on circumstances.  All children are a promise! 41

42 6. God Opens Eyes to Our Resources (Genesis 21:19)  God showed Hagar possibilities she didn’t know existed.  One of the challenges of the poor is in seeing what is available.  Not seeing resources leads to discouragement, hopelessness, despair, frustration.  A child’s hope depends upon the ability of adults to discern what God sees in them. If adults don’t have a vision for them, they will be limited by their circumstances.  Opening the eyes of adults is one way God responds to the cries of children. 42

43 List at least 10 resources “close by” which can help address the needs of children you know. Think of:  Family resources  Church resources  Community resources  National resources 43

44 7. God Becomes a Friend (Genesis 21:20)  The presence of God brought life and hope in the desert.  Has God kept his promise to the descendents of Ishmael?  God is the friend and protector of the poor. 44

45 Why are the 4/14ers the particular responsibility of the Church? 3.Because Christians know of the dignity and true worth of all God’s children.  Dignity is an inner inherent, inner quality given by God when He created us in His own image. (Genesis 1:27; Psalms 8:3-6)  We don’t give a person dignity - they already have it. We must respect it, preserve it, and sometimes restore it. 45

46 Why are the 4/14ers the particular responsibility of the Church?  Dignity transcends age, cultures, gender, economics, education, ethnic groups, physical or mental ability, fame, titles and prestige.  Dignity is not dictated by anything external. It exists even in the midst of imperfection...  Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:3-8). He had forgotten WHO he was and WHOSE he was. 46

47 Jesus is our example in protecting and restoring dignity He didn’t focus on people’s past nor their failures. He saw their weaknesses and potential.  The woman at the well (John Chapter 4)  The woman caught in adultery (John 8: 3-11)  The woman who had lived a sinful life (Luke 7: 37-48)  The Vengeful Samaritans and the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 9: and Luke 10:25-36)  The widow and her “mite” Mark 12:

48 Dignity cannot be given -- but it can be taken away  By neglect, by abuse, by ridicule, by lack of respect. Children are the most vulnerable to the destruction of their dignity.  Children often get screamed at: “You are nobody, you are an idiot! You are nothing! You are stupid!” With each round of abuse their sense of their own worth takes another blow.  When a child is stripped of his dignity, the light goes out in their eyes. Hope flees. (“As a man [or child] thinks in his heart, so is he.”)  (For Compassion, no “Pornography” of poverty of children.) 48

49 But dignity can also be restored. By kindness, by love, by respect, by honor.  A child’s life can be launched with a single word of encouragement or act of kindness. (Who was it that affirmed you?)  Once children know Who they are and Whose they are, they can begin to understand that they can make a difference. (“If God even knows my name, and how many hairs I have on my head, then I must matter.”)  They realize they don’t have to accept wrong and injustices. “I am going to fix that. I am going to change that. I am going to be different.” 49

50 We preserve and restore dignity when we look at people the same way Jesus did. In God’s Kingdom...  T he Little are Big,  The Last are First,  The Weak are Strong,  The Poor are Rich,  The Humble are Proud.  In God’s Kingdom, every person is a bundle of weaknesses and failures, and of strengths and possibilities. 50

51 Why are the 4/14ers the particular responsibility of the Church? 4. Because people respond to the Gospel when the people of God care for children. (1 Kings 17) (Children and Mission)  Elijah said, “Give me your son.” (The church needs to say to the society, “Give me your son!”)  Elijah took the dead boy to the upper room (the place of prayer). Elijah made the woman’s problem his own problem.  God restored what the enemy had taken away. (And He can restore what the enemy has taken away in your country.)  “Now I know...” (1 Kings 17:24) 51

52 Why are the 4/14ers the particular responsibility of the Church? 5.Because the land is “stricken with a curse” Mal 4:5-6 - "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.“  Food and medicines do not remove a curse.  Blankets and clothing do not remove a curse.  No combination of supplies or material aid can remove a curse. Only the Church can respond to the problem of a curse, and turn a curse into a blessing. 52


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