The ache and brokenness of the world around us is not a new phenomenon, yet most of us are expressing that it has not felt so poignant in our lifetime as it has in the past few years.
The events of the past week are no different in adding to the evidence that the darkness is actively fighting for space and power in this world.
As a parent of young children and as one who interacts with leaders of kids and families on a regular basis, I know we are all feeling this in the depths of our beings.
Why do we feel the ache so deeply?
It’s because we were not made for war. We were made for a walk in the Garden with our Creator. We were made for peace, unity, joy, and stewardship.
And yet, brothers and sisters, we are invited to not be caught off guard by the battle and the brokenness swirling in this world. We are invited to live with a posture of wisdom, discernment, focus, and hope in our God. To embrace the inner liberty we have been given through the salvation that is ours in Messiah Jesus.
As those who are uniquely called to the discipleship of kids and families, we know that times of war will be experienced and felt by our little ones that we love, too. It is our responsibility to shepherd them through the times, and to invite them to look to the King who they can trust.
How do we guide children to Jesus in times of war?
1. Guide ourselves to Jesus first.
Just like how when we are on a plane we are told the oxygen mask needs to get on us first before we help others, we must attend to our own heart and soul before the Lord first. We need to lament. We need to wash ourselves in the truth of Scripture. We need to process our questions and concerns with other disciples of Jesus.
Before we attempt to shepherd, we must submit our own concerns to His shepherding of our heart, mind, and soul first. Our emotions need to be processed before we engage children.
2. Prepare yourself and your kid influencers
First of all, we need to take cues from the kids in our sphere of influence. We don’t need to push or force exposure to conflict on children; however, with access to so many outlets where war is being discussed, it is possible kids will encounter and hear things they may not fully understand.
You and your kid influencers (team, volunteers, parents, guardians, etc.) need to be prepared for how to have conversations about war in age-appropriate ways. How you talk about war with a 5-year-old who overheard a conversation or how you talk about it with an 11-year-old who is engaging in lunchtime conversation about it at school will need to be different. Arm yourself and your team with information curated by experts on discussing hard things like war with kids.
This article from the National Association of School Psychologists on how to talk about violence with kids has good principles that apply to the current events in our world.
3. Ask questions, listen, and pray.
If the adults in kids’ lives notice their children are processing fear/information they don’t fully understand, an important thing to do is to ask good questions that allow children to unpack what they’re holding inside in a wise and supportive environment.
- Questions let your worried child know you care about them.
- Questions let your worried child know you are available to help them.
- Questions let your worried child express themselves and figure out what they are thinking/feeling.
Here are a few connection questions that you or your kid influencers can ask when we notice the kids we love are feeling scared of or unsafe in their world. Ultimately, we can let our kids know it is ok for us to be sad and hope in the Lord at the same time. We can model bringing our real feelings and our real hopes before the Lord in prayer – this gives kids the freedom to approach God as trustworthy and near.
Consider praying with words, but also consider praying through worship songs, too. Songs that talk about the character of God and the hope of heaven are beautiful ways for kids to be reminded that they can trust Him with their world.
4. Center them on a Scripture they can remember.
The Word of God is powerful and it is for everyone. We can equip our kids with truth in uncertain times by pointing them to God’s Word. For littles, we can start them off with a shorter verse like:
- “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
For older kids, we can equip them with verses like:
- “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
My friends, as you continue to love and shepherd kids and families, may you lean fully on the power and wisdom that is yours in Jesus. May the Holy Spirit guide and direct you in every interaction, and may the peace that passes understanding fill you to overflowing as you reflect His presence to the community you serve.
To our sisters and brothers in Ukraine, we stand with you and we pray without ceasing for the Lord to protect you, to guard your children, and to secure and bless your future. May He bless you and keep you. May His face shine on you and may He be gracious to you. May He cover you in peace.