How to Shepherd Well in Kid's Ministry During Tough Times

Children's ministry is normally full of smiles, giggles, laughter and fun times.  You have the privilege of celebrating with kids and families at some of the most joyful times in their lives.  Times like the birth of a child, a child making a faith commitment, a child being baptized, birthdays, graduations and more.

It's easy to shepherd well during those times, isn't it?  But stay in children's ministry long enough and you'll be called upon to shepherd in tough times as well.

Tough times like...

...a phone call from a parent whose child has been diagnosed with cancer

...a late night request to come to the emergency room for a family who's been in a serious car wreck

...a request to lead the funeral service for a mother who passed away suddenly

...a frantic phone call about a father who has committed suicide

...a child who is in turmoil because her parents are going through a bitter divorce

...a father who has lost his job and doesn't know how his family will survive financially

...a mother who is asking for advice about how to tell her children she only has a few months to live

...a single mom who is struggling to raise her children alone and doesn't know what to do

...a young couple who are heartbroken because their baby was stillborn

...a volunteer whose wife walked out on him and the kids

...a volunteer who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease

...a volunteer whose child has turned his back on God

....a phone call from a volunteer whose teenage child was just in a serious accident.

Sound familiar?  These are just a few of the tough times that you may be called upon to walk through with kids and families.  Shepherding during these times is not say the least.  I have walked through many of these situations with people over the years.  Through these experiences and through watching older, wiser leaders in these situations, I have gained a few insights about shepherding well in kid's ministry during tough times.  I'd like to share a few of these insights with you.

Shepherd well by simply being there.  There are times when your words will seem hollow to someone who is in so much pain they can't think straight.  During these times, they probably won't remember what you said, but they will remember that you were there.

Jesus has promised two things when we go through tough times in life.  He will be near and He will never leave us nor forsake us.  And He shows that in the flesh through you.  Be Jesus for that child.  Be Jesus for that parent.  Be Jesus for that family.  Show you love them and care for them by simply showing up and being there.  Sit with them.  Wait in the emergency room with them.  Hold their hand.  Cry with them.  Stand beside them.  Walk with them to the grave site. 

Shepherd well by listening.  During tough times listening is often more important than talking.  Listen with empathy.  Listen with compassion.  Listen with focus.  Listen as they pour their heart out.

Shepherd well by providing spiritual support.  Pray with them.  Share God's Word with them.  Point them to God and the hope that is found in Him.

Shepherd well by what you don't say.  When you are helping someone who is going through a tough time, what you DON'T SAY is just as important as what you do say.  If you are not prepared, you will revert to cliche' statements like "I know how you feel" or "God took Him home" or "You'll get over it" or "Time heals wounds" or "She's in a better place."

There will be a lot of "why's."  It's okay if you can't answer all the "why's."  By the can't.

The book "Comforting Children in Crisis" is a must for every person who serves in children's ministry.  It will prepare you to know what to say and what not to say to kids and families who are going through things like death, divorce, financial crisis, depression and more.  I keep it close by and reference it often.  

Shepherd well by providing practical help and support.  Ask and find out what you can do to help.  It may mean assisting with practical things like arranging meals, helping with funeral preparations, helping find temporary shelter, etc.  This may often mean connecting them with other people in your church who can come alongside them as well.

One important note.  Don't try to help with areas you are not qualified to help in.  Here's an example.  If professional counseling is needed and you are not qualified, then connect them with someone who can provide this. 

When faced situations like this, are you like me?  You feel so inadequate because the need is so great and situation is so desperate?  In times like this, lean upon God and go into the situation with Godfidence...knowing He is with you and will work through you to shepherd well in tough times.