Maybe you’ve seen this claim on clothing tags: One Size Fits All.
It’s a lie.
Children’s Ministry volunteers at my church recently received an email announcing we’re getting matching t-shirts to wear on Sunday mornings. It’s a good idea; the shirts will signal who to tell if a potty break is needed or someone spilled the glitter during craft time.
(Glitter: Glit-tur, n; the only craft material designed by the devil. See: “the church janitor wants a word”)
We can specify the size we want, but I’m told that’s not generally needed because “One Size Fits All.”
I’m 6’7” and weigh far more than I should. I can guarantee the Acme T-Shirt Company doesn’t stock my size and, should I somehow manage to squeeze into that “OSFA” shirt, I’ll look like a sausage from the waist up.
That good idea—wearing matching shirts—is for me a problem. In a world plagued by war, wildfires, racism, and crippling debt it’s not a major problem, but a problem nonetheless.
Which means it’s also an opportunity.
Teaching Kids About Opportunity
That’s true of most problems, by the way. Though we do our best to avoid them, problems help us see who we really are and what we truly believe. They put our faith, trust, and values to the test.
Maybe that’s why God lets so many problems come our way.
I don’t write that casually. I know some problems—cancer and tornadoes come to mind—are huge in a way fitting into a t-shirt isn’t. I’ve faced a few of those Big League Problems and I’m sure you have, too.
One thing is certain: the kids you serve also face them. For young children the death of a pet, the need to switch schools, an uptick in how loudly their parents argue—those all qualify as substantial problems.
In the Problems and Promises series of Wonder Ink lessons you’ll teach your kids how to work through problems. You’ll help kids discover their problems can draw them closer to God. That God uses problems to mold their character. That problems can focus their attention on God and deepen their faith.
And you’ll be reminded of those same truths as well.
You and your kids will join God’s people as they march out of Egypt and into the land God promised and delivered…though Canaan came with a few problems to solve once they arrived.
You’ll help kids see how God’s people responded to those problems and, in the process, explore how to handle their own challenges.
So pause to pray before presenting these lessons. Ask God to open your kids’ hearts so they can soak it all in and have what they learn ready when the next problem comes calling.
Ask God to help your kids see problems as more than obstacles, to instead see them as opportunities as well.
1. Sharpen their focus on God
Nothing grabs one’s attention as quickly as a crisis. Fixing the problem becomes top priority—everything else takes a back seat for the duration.
That’s true for kids as well as adults.
Encourage your kids to do what God’s people did as they moved deeper into Canaan: to seek God as well as solutions, to invite God into problem situations so He can lead and comfort. When kids see problems as a trigger to reach out to God and ask for help, those problems help keep God in focus at crucial moments.
2. Teach kids to turn toward God, not away
Kids encountering problems sometimes think God no longer cares about them. After all, God is all-powerful, right? And loving? So why wouldn’t an all-powerful, loving God keep that bully at bay?
But God never promised to spare us our share of problems. Jesus even warned his first followers they’d face persecution and death simply for following Him in a fallen world.
Urging your kids to view problems as a chance to team up with God to get though tough stuff deepens their dependence on Him. They discover His love is bigger than any difficulty life throws at them.
3. Grow in their faith
When we see God working in our lives it builds trust and confidence in Him. And problems are great opportunities for God to act in and through us. Your kids aren’t too young for God to use in mighty ways, to experience His power in ways that transform their lives.
If your kids coast through life never encountering a problem, they’ll not have the chance to see God do His stuff.
4. Accept God’s help
Your kids are used to relying on others for shelter, lunch, and pretty much everything else. It’s we adults who get snippy when we have to admit we can’t control events and outcomes, that we have to rely on someone besides ourselves to deal with a problem.
So perhaps this is an area in which your kids can teach you something.
But how do you make it happen? How do you convince your kids to see problems as opportunities to let God shine in and through them?
Consider these five practical steps you can take starting now:
1. Listen well when kids have a problem
You know a lost parakeet isn’t the end of the world. A crashed bike isn’t actually that big a deal. But to your kids, those losses are problems on a par with nuclear testing or an economic meltdown.
So honor kids’ problems. Listen well when a kid risks telling you what’s causing pain in his or her life.
2. Right-size expectations about problems
Many kids—and adults—believe God will somehow protect them from experiencing problems. But God never made any such promise.
Paul had problems. Jesus had problems. You’ve had problems. It happens.
What God promises is your kids don’t need to deal with problems on their own. He’s with them, even when they’re walking in the shadow of the valley of death.
They’re not alone. Not now, not ever.
3. Pray with your kids
Pause to pray with kids when they first tell you about a problem, and let them know you’ll continue praying for them.
Then, when you see them next, ask for an update about the problem. Help kids see that God is caring for them.
4. Teach kids and remind them of God’s past faithfulness
God has always kept his promises—and he’ll keep his promise to stick by your kids in times of trouble (see Romans 8:35-37 and Psalm 23:4). Show kids God’s track record by sharing several promises He’s kept. He said he’d give His people a land in which they could worship him and He delivered (Exodus 6:8; Deuteronomy 3:28). He said He’d send a savior and Jesus came (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-6).
5. And if a problem warrants it, make a referral
You may not be a mandatory reporter when it comes to child abuse, but if you sense it might be happening let your ministry leader know.
Never let a child suffer because you don’t want to get involved in something difficult.
This series of lessons can change your kids’ lives—forever. As kids begin to view problems as situations in which to see God work, those problems are no longer problems.