This week I have been preparing a training talk for a group of leaders. I always begin speaking to adults with the same intro, "My name is Heidi Hensley and I am a children's ministry leader, there are three things you should know before we begin. 1. I will over explain words and details (kids love details) 2. I may ask you to race to our passages of scripture 3. If you participate well, I may throw candy." Of course this always is quite entertaining to say, but they roar in laughter when I actually do toss the first snickers bar. I love what I do, I (we) are called to shape and mold future generations, presidents, teachers, pastors and parents......spiritually. Our "job" in children's ministry is to bring Jesus into a child's world. I take what I do very seriously and am daily humbled that Jesus sees me as an individual capable of introducing children to Him.
I had originally planned on talking about how we as leaders have these canvases to work with. Often children are hearing the gospel for the first time, and so many see kids as a blank canvas who just needs Jesus' colors. I once had a Sr. pastor friend tell me "you're job is easier, the world hasn't gotten them yet", which in some ways affirmed the fresh canvas theory. Don't you love those moments that you have an absolute outline in your
head of what you will be saying, and it translates completely different?
As I started working, I picked up a file to put it back in my drawer, out of it slid a report that I had to make to child protective services. I put it away and slowly realized that while my heart was heavy for that child, it wasn't shocked. This is sadly, something that we see more and more. As I went back to work, I just couldn't describe kids as a pretty canvas the world hasn't "gotten to" yet. The kids we work with, they have scars, and if I am classifying them as unhurt, how will they ever know what to do with those scars.
Did you know, child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and
cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education? About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse. The adults that my pastor friend was speaking of was missing one detail. The wounded adults that he was ministering too, well many of their wounds had happened as children.
Everything from divorce, molestation, lack of parent participation in life, physical abuse, bullying, learning disorders to speech impediments, they all leave marks on our canvas. Don't get me wrong, there are also beautiful marks of love on those canvases too! So what do we teach them? Typically we as Christians teach that Jesus paints that canvas white. He takes our sins and throws them as far as the east is from the west... I believe this, we are forgiven! So what about the remains of the sin, the scars? This is typically where the child begins to grow and gets frustrated as they approach adulthood that the residual effects or consequences of sin haven't just disappeared.
Jesus could have chosen to raise from the dead that third day and have returned un-scarred, but He didn't! His scars were visible, they were remains of hate and sin, and yet we see them as some of the most beautiful marks. Children need to know that their sins are forgiven, but they also need to be taught that the lasting effects on their life can be used to glorify God.
So with that idea, my canvas when I start my talk will be dirty and marked up with what the world has tossed at our kids instead of white. And I will hopefully be able to do a visual of Jesus letting those shine through to glorify Him as He forgives.
As a leader I challenge you to look away from those descriptions of the perfect child, from the perfect home, with the great grades, it's a different world. Take a look at your ministry kids this Sunday, maybe they need to hear that God is capable of using their scars for His purpose.