We all know that we want to raise kids with good character. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, when we only focus on the behavior, we miss out on what is actually taking place in a child’s life. It’s now more important than every to partner with parents as we all work to build faith in children.
To move beyond behavior, let’s look at these 4 important questions:
- Who am I?
- Who is the child?
- How is our community?
- What is the change agent?
Who am I?
Let’s first look at a few Scripture passages on this.
Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory.Romans 3:23 NIRV
Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves.Philippians 2:3 NIRV
No matter where we are in life, it’s important we keep our hearts humble before God. We cannot know how to teach and fix everything that comes our way in life. Nor is it up to us. With that, we must remind ourselves to be aware with how we are with children in our care.
Specifically when it comes to behavior, we should ask ourselves these questions:
- What about the behavior being displayed bothers me? Is that a ‘me’ problem?
- Am I teaching in a way that children with different learning styles can learn?
- Do I have any biases in my heart that I need to fix?
- What are some healthy ways I emotionally regulate? Are there helpful things I can share with children who are showing signs of stress or anxiety in the class?
- Why am I here? Why am I serving?
Who is the child?
Identity tends to drive behavior. For example, when a child feels safe and loved, they will share their thoughts and feelings. When they don’t, they won’t. As they are in the beginning stages of figuring out who they are, we get to have a big impact in their lives. We need to make sure it’s for the good.
How you made me is amazing and wonderful. I praise you for that. What you have done is wonderful. I know that very well.Psalm 139:14 NIRV
As his children, we will receive all that he has for us. We will share what Christ receives. But we must share in his sufferings if we want to share in his glory.Romans 8:17 NIRV
We get the special opportunity to model and share Christlike identity with children. To help them become more of who they were made to be, ask yourself:
- What does their behavior tell us about this child? Does it show me anything about the family structure, background, or social environments they are surrounded by?
- Can I see the ‘why’ of the behavior they are displaying? Is anything hidden? What triggered it? Am I understanding their thought process?
- How old is this child? Is their reaction age-appropriate regarding their developmental stage? Am I expecting them to react in a way they are unable to?
- What are some things I can affirm about this child? How can I help them understand they are uniquely created as a child of God?
- Am I looking for their effort? Are they giving their best even if the behavior hasn’t yet changed?
How is our community?
Our children’s ministries are about so much more than a Sunday service. We want kids to find community within a Jesus-loving safe place full of leaders and friends. We want them to look at the Church and see God’s love through His people and their relationships with Him and one another.
The Lord your God has directed me to teach you his commands, rules and laws. Obey them in the land you will take over when you go across the Jordan River. Then you, your children and their children after them will honor the Lord your God as long as you live. Obey all his rules and commands I’m giving you. If you do, you will enjoy long life. Israel, listen to me. Make sure you obey me. Then things will go well with you. The number of your people will increase greatly in a land that has plenty of milk and honey. That’s what the Lord, the God of your parents, promised you.
Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is the one and only God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts.Deuteronomy 6:1-6 NIRV
Check yourself in your community by asking:
- How can I partner with parents beyond the outward behavior their child shows?
- How am I dealing with outward behaviors in my own home?
- What are ways I can empower my church body to value kids for who they are versus what they do or have done? How can I empower them to express this to children? Even those who aren’t involved in my ministry?
- Are there ways I can parter with the local schools regarding tools they use that I can adapt for my programming?
- If the behavior is beyond my expertise, is there an expert I can reach out to and partner with?
What is the change agent?
We all know that Jesus is the heart-changer. He is our redemption and savior. And it is by the grace of God through faith that we have the Holy Spirit. And His same Spirit convicts and dwells in each of our hearts when we follow Jesus. This is true for adults. This is true for kids.
Life transformation can begin in childhood.
I encourage you to read 1 John 2 and remember that our behavior is a reflection of our hearts. Be reminded that we have access to so much in and through Jesus. He is a good God!
But the Father will send the Friend in my name to help you. The Friend is the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of everything I have said to you.John 14:26 NIRV
God, create a pure heart in me. Give me a new spirit that is faithful to you.Psalm 51:10 NIRV
As Christ followers, we have hope in the grace of Jesus. As we become more like Him, let’s continue looking at the heart of the matter:
- Have I spent time in prayer? Have I asked the Holy Spirit to lead? Am I listening to what He might want to accomplish? Am I making space for Him to move?
- What is the end goal that I would like to see in this child? Is it to help him or her know, love, and follow Jesus? Or am I more concerned with something else?
Jesus cares so deeply about matters of the heart. And especially about matters of the heart in children. After all, He is the one who said to let them come. So, what if we began looking beyond some behaviors in order to get to the heart? What if it was more about living the gospel than preaching it? What if we could show children just how much God loves them?
Download What If We’re Failing Kids at Faith Formation? And How Not To
This faith formation guide shares our desire to invite kids, parents, and volunteers into a Gospel-centered journey of curiosity, belief, faith, and identity.