Like most Americans, I watched the news in horror as the tragic events that took place this past Friday in Newtown, Connecticut unfolded. I don’t think many of us can wrap our minds around the fact that someone could take the lives of innocent children and adults in such a brazen manner.
As Sunday approached, many of us in Children’s Ministry began to ponder how–and if–our ministries would respond. Should we address the issue with the kids OR leave it up to the parents? Should we address the issue AND leave it up to the parents? I asked my fellow kidmin colleagues for their opinion, as I was unsure what to do. After praying about what it, I felt God lead me to respond in the following ways:
We decided NOT to mention it in our large group worship. We made this decision for the following reasons:
- Our Pre-K through 5th Grade children have been together as a large group during our kids’ worship time for the past few weeks in preparation of our Family Christmas Eve services. Therefore, we didn’t think it was appropriate for children as young as 4 to hear this news from us.
- Many of our parents do not allow their children to watch television. We didn’t want children to hear this horrible news for the first time from us and put our parents in an awkward situation.
We emailed our parents, informing them of our decision to NOT mention it up front. We explained our reasons why but also directed them to websites that could equip them to facilitate hard conversations and raw emotions. We wanted them to be the primary means of unpacking and discussions this event.
We decided to place the ball in the court of our teachers and small group leaders. They know the climate of their classroom better than anyone, so we wanted to allow space for the Holy Spirit to direct each individual teacher or small group leader as to how to respond. However…
We equipped our teachers by giving them tips to guide conversations that might take place. We provided a hard copy in class for them as well in the event that they needed to refer back to it. While there were several tips mentioned in the handout, I encourage them to listen to the children and what was on their hearts and pray for those who were hurting. One of our 2nd and 3rd grade teachers did a great job with this by having her class circle up on the floor for prayer time (which occurs every week, so the children were very comfortable with this) and asking them to share what was on their hearts. Some children mentioned the Newtown tragedy; others mentioned everyday events. One of our preteen boys’ leaders mentioned that the boys prayed for the affected families during their prayer time.
I am so proud of our team. They did a great job in being available to shepherd our children by listening to them and praying for and with them. I am so blessed by them and their humble service.
If you are looking for resources to pass on to families in your ministry, here are two that I recommend:
How did your ministry respond to the Newtown tragedy? How did your family process it?