Last week Krista shared about the inner-city ministry she works with to reach children in some of the hardest places. In this article, she shares five tips for making an eternal impact on the hearts and lives of hurting kids.
Kids who have been through a lot of trauma and have never truly experienced unconditional love probably won’t know how to love you. They may be affectionate toward you one moment and the next moment try to beat you up. Be willing to love them no matter what. Below are five ways to show them God’s love.
1. Live it out. Kids, especially older ones, will be a lot more willing to listen to you when you tell them about Jesus and His love if you’re already modeling it for them. Many may not have even a basic knowledge of the Bible. Start from the beginning. It’ll be a lot easier to explain concepts such as forgiveness, reconciliation, and serving others if you’re seeking to model that behavior for them and toward them.
2. Be consistent. Invest time. Kids need consistency in their lives, especially kids who are hurting and have been through trauma. If you’re going to be involved in their lives, be involved. You’ll just cause them more hurt and pain if you’re there for a small amount of time or are in and out all the time. They get that from their parents so they don’t need it from you as well. It might mean you don’t get to do something you’d rather be doing, but in regards to making an impact for the Kingdom, what matters most?
The children will probably seem cold and indifferent at first, especially if they are older. Don’t give up just because they don’t respond right away. If you consistently reach out to them, they’ll likely open up. And if you’re willing to just spend time with them and hang out, they’ll be more willing to listen to you when you talk to them about Jesus. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or costly. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t spend a lot of money on them. This has the potential to create hostility in their parents, who you’re also trying to minister to. Take them to the park or to get $1 ice-cream cones at McDonald’s. It’ll mean the world to them simply because you’re with them and investing time into them.
3. Keep your word. They likely have trust issues. Remember, you’re seeking to demonstrate the character of God to them. If you tell them you’re going to do something, do it.
4. If possible, provide a consistent, godly male role model for them. This is true especially for boys. I’ve found that the young boys I work with often aren’t receptive to me at all. They just aren’t taught to respect women, and as a result, refuse to listen to me. It’s also highly unlikely that they have fathers involved in their lives. I have seen many of the boys I work with do a complete 180 and begin to thrive as a result of having a male role model consistently invest in their lives.
If the ministry you’re involved in is anything like the one I lead, godly men may be hard to come by. Begin to pray for God to raise them up. He is faithful.
5. Love their parents. You can try to reach out to a child as much as you can, but it’s unlikely much will change in that child’s life until you begin to reach his or her home life as well. Let their parents know you care about them as well. Start conversations with them and seek to build relationships with them.
Choosing to work with hurting kids can be very difficult, and you may feel like giving up at some point. I recently read a quote that stated “The kids who need the most love will often ask for it in the most unloving ways.” This is how Christ loves us, and it is a privilege to love His children in the same manner.