Karisa Johns Smith has written an excellent piece on helping children with their negative emotions, "It's (Not) All About the Glitter Jar."
By Jeff McAffee
Jesus had gone out to pray early in the morning. It was still dark. Jesus had snuck off somewhere to be alone while He prayed, before the day had begun. Though He was up late the night before ministering to the throngs of people who lived in Capernaum, fatigue would not stop Him from getting time alone with His Father. Jesus knew the day ahead would not be possible without it.
This is a great model of prayer. The story in Mark 1 tells us that when Peter and the others found Jesus, they exclaimed, “Everyone’s looking for you!” Evidently, the stir from the stir from the night before carried over to the morning. The town was set ablaze and everyone was searching for the Healer.
Jesus was faced with a serious dilemma; should He return to the ‘everyone’ searching for Him in Capernaum or should He continue His ministry on to other villages in Galilee to fulfill the reason for which He came. Either choice held great consequences.
What would you do? Would you go back to Capernaum or would you move on to the other cities? It’s not an easy choice to make. This is a dilemma for all pastors. How do you choose the right thing to do when you’re needed in more than one place? It’s a fool’s choice, it seems, because no matter what you do, the fear is that somebody’s going to be let down.
Jesus knew exactly what to do. Without hesitation. How was this possible? The answer is prayer. Jesus was a praying man. Prayer is the place where wisdom is conceived and wisdom is the gift of always knowing what to do.
Wisdom has a name. It’s the Holy Spirit. But, here is where Pentecostals need to be careful. The Holy Spirit will not receive prayers asking for wisdom because the Holy Spirit doesn’t receive prayer at all. There is no place in Scripture where we are exhorted to pray to the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Scriptures teach the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus Christ (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit points people to Jesus Christ, never to Himself. Ironically, sometimes Pentecostals can over-prioritize the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and in so doing, because very un-Pentecostal.
The secret to always knowing what to do is keeping Jesus Christ first and foremost in your life through an established, fervent presence of prayer. The very heart of being a Pentecostal pastor is keeping Jesus Christ front and center of one’s being. When Jesus is first, wisdom follows, and with that, the gift of always knowing what to do.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV 1984)
“…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Cor 12:9 (NIV 1984)
There is this familiar feeling that sweeps over me at the most unexpected times. It used to be crushing and stabbing. Now, it is just a twinge to remind me of God’s ever surpassing grace. It is the realization that my original plan was not God’s plan.
We all struggle with this realization at some point in our journey with God. For the special needs parent, it can be a cycle of grief, joy, and grace that few understand. I am hoping that sharing a few pieces of our experience would give other ministry leaders insight that may help you, and the biblical community you lead, to embrace the gift of journeying with special needs families.
I have five totally amazing children, ranging in age from 24 to 8. They are an absolute gift to me – every one of them. I emphasize that because, as any parent will tell you, every child is unique and brings their own strengths and challenges with them to your family system. In our case, I emphasize this all the more because our two youngest children have a variety of ongoing special needs between them including Tourette Syndrome, progressive sensorineural hearing loss, sensory processing disorder, dyslexia, specific learning disabilities in written and expressive language, reading, and math, dysgraphia, late effects of a mild traumatic brain injury, dysthymia, suspected high functioning autism (the doctors keep debating this one), and all the self-regulation and self-image issues that accompany all of these. Just for kicks - throw in that our third child also has Tourette Syndrome and that the other two also have recognizable motor tic disorder. While, with the first three children it does not affect them much, it still produces a lurking vigilance within me with every odd movement wondering if it burst into a full-blown episode that could debilitate them. Add onto that an extra tidbit that I also have moderate to severe progressive sensorineural hearing loss to deal with on a personal level.
Is your head spinning yet? I know mine is!
This was not my plan.
God, how could this be your plan?
My husband and I found ourselves quite unexpectedly on this journey into the world of special needs once our two youngest boys, Peter and Andy, started to fall behind developmentally. We kept just slowly moving forward like everything was fairly normal, thinking they were just a little behind, a little quirky in their personalities maybe, and that they would ‘outgrow’ it if we just waited it all out. We did what needed to be done. Early intervention screenings, speech therapy, and never missed a well-child checkup. The pediatricians did the same. “Don’t worry. They will likely outgrow this stage.” Or the familiar line – “Don’t worry they are not talking much. You have five kids! Their siblings are talking for them.” How do I argue with that?
Then when Peter hit first grade (age 6) everything came to a screeching halt. It became obvious that he was not comprehending the school work the way others were, even the sounds spoken. I became very suspicious of how he was processing information. I am a nurse and systematically worked through my checklist of things. Pediatrician. Teachers. Optometrist. Audiologist. This is when everything came crashing down. It is a LONG story – too long to give every detail. I will give you highlights. When we hit the fourth audiology specialist she sat us down and explained in detail what she felt was going on with Peter’s hearing and processing. The news she gave us was downright devastating (I literally went home and became ill.) She also added that he needed an MRI to rule out any kind of brain tumor blocking signals. Shortly after this, while waiting for his MRI date, Peter started having all these strange movements and they kept getting worse every day. My boy went from “normal” to jerking all around within days. We live in Montana and literally no one knew what was happening with him. This started our journey for the past 3 ½ years. We have traveled thousands of miles, hours and hours in the car, all over Montana (and let me tell you – it is a big state!), Utah, and even to the far eastern end of South Dakota (a stone’s throw to Iowa) till all Peter’s diagnoses were sorted out. We have had multiple specialists deciphering differing opinions, and multiple misdiagnoses along the way.
In the background of all this, we saw some similar and some completely different issues with our son Andy as well. We knew we would have to start a similar journey figuring out Andy, but overall, our family had found some kind of “new normal”. Then one day, literally out of nowhere, our daughter, Mary, started having a vocal tic where she would gasp as she breathed inward. It became severe within a matter of hours, and soon was accompanied by severe motor tics. Mary had long had small motor tics that were never really an issue. She was a healthy, active, normal 7th grade girl. In a matter of days, she became debilitated by the tics. She could barely eat without aspirating as she gasped in every 3-4 seconds, and her jerking movements were so severe that we were afraid she would hurt herself. We immediately got her to the pediatrician, and consulted with the pediatric neurologist (who is five hours away – remember it’s Montana).
Mary was started on a medicine to try and help reduce the tics. If you are not familiar with Tourette Syndrome (beyond the familiar, but not so common in reality ways it is portrayed on TV) let me share with you that it is a neuro-biologic, neuro-developmental, and neuro-psychological condition with a genetic component. The specific genes have not been fully identified yet, but research continues to identify the exact genomes. There is no cure for Tourette, and there are no medications that are labeled specifically for Tourette. All medication strategies are “off-label” ones that physicians have found can help with the tics. Coprolalia, or swearing tics (often seen on TV shows as a joke), thankfully only occur in about 10-15% of cases of Tourette. (You can find out more about Tourette Syndrome here.)
The medication helped slightly with the tics, but the side-effects made matters worse as she was dizzy, weak, and had headaches from it. Mary was devastated. There is nothing as heart wrenching as holding your daughter while she cries and begs God to take away something you know you cannot cure, and no doctor can cure. It is not a disease that would kill her. I knew that, and believe me I was thankful because there are so many precious families that have that struggle to cope with as well. That did not make Mary’s anguish in this situation go away though. Nor does it for my boys when they cry in my arms on their particularly bad days either. As a parent, you naturally want to fix it. I cannot fix this. I cannot take this anguish from them, and that crushes me.
So where is God in all of this? And…where is His church in all of this?
I can say now, having walked in this for some time, that God is all around us, holding us, guiding us, reassuring us, and teaching us.
My husband is a Pastor and we moved to Montana about 6 ½ years ago following the Lord in ministry. We seriously almost quit ministry during this time thinking we had to go back east to get access to the care our children needed. God stopped us at every turn; he slammed shut every door, and gave us no peace even when we tried to pry doors open with what we thought in our minds would be the best solution. When we surrendered to him and his will, conceded that yes – you know best Lord – then he gave us peace. I have never regretted our decision to stay here, and have become quite the organized, long-haul, car traveling mom! God has been way ahead of us every step of the way. With each diagnosis that didn’t seem right, God would give me a leading of what to do next. Now I know, with no doubt, that with every single thing I can trust him. I can trust God with leading me to the right specialist, helping me with school IEP plans, putting amazing teachers and school administrators in our lives, handling the times the kids are distraught, helping me cope on bad days, and giving provision for the ever-mounting expenses that accompany all of this.
For us, our church walked this journey with us. In the beginning of it we tried to hide what was going on with the boys because the behaviors that accompany their challenges just appeared like “bad” behavior. Once we hit that crushing point with Peter at age 6 though, we knew we needed our biblical community more than ever. We were so thankful that they came on this journey with us. They prayed with us and for us, wept with us, cared for us in the very dark times, rejoiced with us in the good times, learned with us as answers were found. They became a part of our special needs family. Our church congregation is very small. For the small size of our church, it is unreal how many special needs children are in our congregation. My husband and I joke to each other that it is like we attract special needs families! It is true though, maybe because they see we understand something. We do not have tons of resources. Our church building is very old and not even fully handicapped accessible in all areas (something that totally grieves us, and we are working on it slowly with any finances that become available) Despite that, we have been able to connect on a level of unique understanding with other families. Our kids are not all the same. Their special needs are not the same, yet we all share this common journey.
Our COG leadership was not afraid to embrace the situation we found ourselves in once we opened up about everything. In those early years, when we did not realize what exactly was going on with the boys, we did face some judgment that they were just poorly behaved (or that was our perception). Once we realized what was happening, and became transparent with our leadership, that judgment feeling disappeared entirely. Knowing the situation is the key. People cannot understand what they do not know. You must educate people about these challenges. They embraced our family entirely. They prayed with us, and wept with us, and celebrated with us too. They also gave some tangible help with finances for some of the things Peter has needed along the way. Most importantly, they were not afraid to pray for guidance when guidance was needed, and healing too. Our youth director did not shy away from praying for healing at a regional event, and it brought Mary some temporary remission. Then about a month later, at our Montana Camp Meeting last year, when Mary was in the depths of her devastating bout of Tourette’s she went up for prayer. Some leaders may have chosen to avoid such a touchy subject. After all, there were plenty of people praying over Mary at that moment, us included. Our Regional Bishop though was not afraid to pray with everyone for Mary’s healing in that forum. We are so thankful for his leadership!
God did deliver Mary from those devastating tics that very night, that very moment! I believe the Lord took that from Mary because it was too much for her. She still has some small things, but nothing like before. She regained her strength in the months that followed and has returned to her “normal” life. I believe God showed all of us what he needed us to learn through Mary’s struggle, and he is going to use that experience in her life in incredible ways. Mary already has shared what it was like for her to experience that in a video we made for school personnel to understand Tourette Syndrome better; this helps her brothers in a unique way because Mary was old enough to express things they could not. She believes God wants her to become a doctor and has begun planning her high school course selections with a medical prep college program in mind. She also shares her experience with how the church responded to her experience in this video. Our boys continue to struggle, but we know with God they will overcome and do amazing things.
So back to explaining that feeling that sweeps over me. It is the twinge of pain of losing what I expected our family would be like, what our life would be like, what our kids would achieve, what our normal would be. The worry of how they will function in society as adults, and if they will be able to live on their own one day. Unexpected things that make me twinge can be anything. It could be walking into the school and seeing all the neurotypical kids ready to practice a school play, knowing that my boys just couldn’t handle it. It could be swiping through social media with everyone posting their children’s great academic achievements of the quarter (and no I don’t expect you not to – I do it too for my more neurotypical kids). It could be glancing out the window and seeing my kid in the school yard standing alone. It could be sitting in an IEP meeting hearing the reality of where my kids are in their school situations. It could be (and has been) sitting at the T-ball game and seeing all the other kids trying to play the game while my boys are in the outer part of the field making dirt-angels (or snow angels – remember it’s Montana) and picking at blades of grass. It could be sitting in the movie theater, all having fun, and then when it gets quiet looking over at the boys and hearing and seeing them tic. It could be enduring the after-school inevitable meltdown because they have held it together all day. It could be in church when I see my children’s leader frazzled by the challenging time she had with the boys that morning. It could be when my husband texts me in the morning and says, “celebrate cheesy eggs with me” (meaning that our one son with sensory food issues actually ate something different, and a food that was touching another food).
It's the twinge. The thorn in my flesh. I am thankful for it now. I am blessed beyond measure.
Why? Because His grace is sufficient.
My perspective will never be the same.
That is the gift these special boys bring to everyone who dares to journey with them, and with us.
I will never be the same.
If you dare to have your church embrace special needs families, know these facts:
His grace will be sufficient.
Your perspective will never be the same.
It will all be a gift to your biblical community.
Dare to do it.
Journey with them. Cry with them. Celebrate cheesy eggs with them.
You will never be the same, and you won’t regret it.
Recently someone asked me,
"Could you imagine the King of Kings washing your feet?"
That is something to think about isn't it? Especially when you consider the context of feet washing in their day. It was one of the most menial tasks for the servant who got all the jobs no one else wanted to do. People's main mode of travel was walking. Some would have donkeys, camels or horses, but most could not afford them, so they walked. They did not have nice paved sidewalks to walk along; it was dry dusty roads often covered by dung from the wealthier travelers' donkeys, camels and horses. The nasty dust and dirt from the roads would cling to the sweaty feet of the travelers. Keep in mind that they did not wear Nike shoes with comfy socks to absorb the sweat.
It was so important to have their feet washed. Especially as you consider how they sat for dinner. They did not sit at dinner tables with high chairs like we have today. They would sit on the floor at lower tables so their feet would be right next to the guest next to them. How nasty that would be to not have your feet washed. This is the context and setting when Jesus, the King of Kings, took the opportunity to show his disciples the heart of a true servant. How powerfully humbling that would have been. Smelling the nasty sweaty feet as you sat down to eat dinner and knowing that you were too prideful to humble yourself to serve. And then Jesus, the King of Kings, washing their feet one by one. Wow! Jesus was secure enough to serve. It says in John 13:3-5,
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him."
Jesus was secure enough in his identity to stoop down and do the most menial task, wash feet. When we think about the “dirty” jobs or jobs we feel are not important what comes to mind? Serving in the nursery or preschool at church? Volunteering to show up to property workday or work all week at Vacation Bible School? Cleaning the restrooms? How about the “dirty jobs” at home? Loving your wife by cleaning the bathroom or doing the dishes? Helping your son or daughter with that art project? Taking out the trash without being reminded too?
We need to follow in Christ's footsteps and know who we are in him and commit to a lifestyle of servant hood. Those who desire to be great in the kingdom of God will voluntarily choose to be a servant and will look out for the interest of others. Many of us say we want to be like Jesus. However, when we say this, do we have in mind that Jesus did the dirty jobs?
This scripture is all too familiar for many of us who grew up in the church, as the passage that taught us in Sunday school about doubting Thomas. Personally, I think Thomas gets a bad rap. Everyone doubted. Thomas just had to wait an extra eight days to be given the privilege to see Jesus just like the others had. After all, we read about Mary Magdalene who thought she was speaking to the gardener when in fact she was speaking to Jesus (20:15-16). That same day, Mary Magdalene tell the disciples who were hiding in the upper room that she saw Jesus (20:18). As the doors were locked, Jesus appears before the disciples stating “peace be with you” (20:20). Without being asked, Jesus shows the disciples his pierced hands and side. After seeing this is when they rejoiced because they just saw the resurrected Messiah (20:19-20).
Then enters Thomas. We read that Thomas was not present when Jesus stood before the disciples the first time. In their excitement, the other disciples told Thomas how they saw Jesus. Although not documented, one can go with the idea that they told Thomas how Jesus showed them His pierced hands and side. From this, Thomas proclaims, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (20:25 ESV). During this time of crisis, I think Thomas felt “ripped off” that he was not present when Jesus appeared before the disciples the first time. This prompted him to exclaim his displeasure.
Eight days pass and we read that Jesus appears again before the disciples, who locked themselves in the upper room for fear of the Jews. This time Jesus seeks out Thomas. Jesus tells Thomas to reach out and touch His pierced hands and pierced side and not to disbelieve but to believe (20:26-27). At this Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). This exclamation is a beautiful proclamation that Jesus is God!
Jesus used the imagery of his pierced hands, and the stab wound in His side, to prove to the disciples that He is indeed the resurrected Messiah. He is the one who was crucified. He is the very same Jesus who was flogged and nailed to the cross. He is the one who fulfilled the prophecies, and that He is the one who was pierced (Zech. 12:10, Isa. 53:5). He is the very same Jesus who told the disciples that he would be killed and three days later would raise from the dead (Mark 9:30-32). Jesus used the imagery of His pierced hands and stab wound to help all of the disciples move from disbelief to belief. Jesus offering for Thomas to reach out and touch His wounds was a request granted. This granted request helped to strengthen Thomas’s faith in Christ. This act helped Thomas turn his unbelief into belief. The witnessed imagery of Jesus’s pierced hands and stab wound on His side gave the disciples a testimony to share with those who they come into contact with when fulfilling the Great Commission. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (20:29 NIV).
(Don Steffy is the lead pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Great Falls, Montana)
This article was published in the April 2017 issue of the Evangel Magazine (page 22)
Family is very dear and precious to my heart and I am certainly sure it is also to Christ.
The family is the primary agent of socialization where values and beliefs are instilled, the self and traits are nurtured and one’s worldview is established. It is an environment behind closed doors that either provides a safe place for growth, experimentation and learning with secure parent-child attachments or a place of fear, despair and confusion which thwarts cognition and produces unhealthy behaviors. According to Albert Bandura’s social theory (1977), children internalize and mimic the behavior in their environment; ‘what monkey see monkey do.’ Thus it is imperative that parents be positive role models to their children. However, what about parents who themselves were raised in atrocious environments? Can the vicious cycle be broken? Taking culture into consideration, I will attempt to integrate a biblical view of developing a healthy Christian family despite previous hurt a person may have experienced in their upbringing.
Relational aspect of the Trinity & Personhood
Ideologically embedded within some cultures is the highly individualized self that is autonomous and determined distinctly from the other; the perception of ME, MYSELF and I. The acknowledgement and understanding of the Triune God, however, automatically uproots that very misconception of personhood. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct but never separate from the other; an intimate dance and fellowship of coequals united in love and harmony. It is within this beautiful relational portrayal that God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen 1:26-27). Therefore, “If God is a communion of persons inseparably related, then…it is in our relatedness to others that our being human consists” (Cunningham 1998, p. 19). Reflecting the Imago Dei, self must be undifferentiated, that is, the process of maintaining a separate identity while simultaneously remaining connected in relationship, belonging and unity (Balswick & Balswick 2014, p. 4).
I will examine four characteristics that embody the Holy Trinity and how these can be integrated into family life to promote healthy relationships. (These sub-headings are taken from Stephen Seamands (2005), Ministry in the Image of God, p. 48-52).
The scriptures reveal Trinitarian equality, for example, in John 5:18, Jesus was not only breaking the Sabbath but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God or in John 1:1, “The Word was with God and the Word was God.” In a family setting, equality does not mean equivalence but “a healthy respect for and valuing of the various members of the family and recognition of their full personhood” (p. 48). This occurs with the implementation of healthy boundaries that determines the family’s structure, roles and responsibilities of members as well as acceptable patterns of communication, behavior and interaction. With this understanding there is mutual respect for the authoritative parents as well as room for exploration and experimentation of growing children in search for self. This will avoid triangled or enmeshed relationships where over emotional involvement and dependence curbs growth and development. Reiterating Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, children will only practice healthy communication styles and behaviors if consistently demonstrated by parents. Even though with the joining of marriage, two shall become one, it is imperative that an undifferentiated self is established and clear and unimpaired boundaries for growth and change are also set. This will foster a flourishing relationship between spouses and a unified parenting style for nurturing their children. Validating and valuing each member’s role in the family is essential.
Scriptures that vividly depicts submission is God the Father sending His only Son to redeem humankind and Jesus who humbled himself by becoming obedient even to death on a cross (John 3:16, Hebrews 10:7-9, Philippians 2:8) and who after His ascension prayed to the Father to send another Paraclete/Comforter” (John 14:16,26). These verses depict glad submission to the will of the equally divine others within the Trinity. Recipients of such extravagant love should compel us to also practice selfless and sacrificial love for one another in the family unit. Such understanding should break cultural barriers of the man as the absolute rule and authority of the home and women alone subservient to the husband but rather promote a loving submission one to the other in the family in reverence of Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is the Father who glorifies me (John 8:49)
This implies a high distribution of responsibilities and power in the home where everyone has the opportunity to participate. Inculcating a culture where all members are given a voice, encouraged to freely and comfortably share perspectives and opinions without being ridiculed, emulates mutual deference. It dismantles the patriarchal deep seated ideology as the man as perfect and in absolute control since he is the more rational and intellectual being. Rather “there is a willingness to defer to one another based on wisdom, experience and the nature of the situation at hand” (p. 49). Structures and roles are flexible and empowering individuals in the family rather than maintenance of power by one is the goal.
“The Father and I are one; the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38, 38). The beautiful interplay and unique intimacy of knowing and being knowing is portrayed in the Trinity. For the purpose of this blog, I will not focus per say on the married couple but this tenderly affection displayed within the family unit.
In an environment where unconditional love is experienced and appraisal of an individual’s strengths as well as acceptance of the individual’s weaknesses occurs, persons are valued. Members are not fearful of sharing thoughts and opinions and can enjoy each other’s company even in silence. Communication is not only heard but also demonstrated through the love languages of touch, acts of kindness, shared experiences, receiving of gifts, words of affirmation. When a family celebrates and acknowledges a Heavenly Father who saw it fit to redeem mankind by sending His only Son, a Christ who was obedient even until death to demonstrate his selfless love to mankind and who did not leave us alone after His ascension but left the Holy Spirit, our comfort, they are able to integrate such integral interactional patterns in their daily living. If individuals enjoy sweet intimacy connected to the true vine, they are able to extend such self-sacrificing love to other family members even when faced with challenges or hurt. As the family practices the agape love of God in their household first there would be an easy unified outflow of love and compassion for others.
The concept of self is shaped first by our vertical relationship with the Holy Trinity. There are times when we experience unfathomable pain from our family members or even persons close to others. While we may seek help from social services or mental health practitioners, God is our ultimate Healer, the Great Physician. He restores the shattered self to reflect the glory of His image. When we are committed and able to love the Lord with all heart, soul, strength and mind and experience pure love, intimacy and healing, we are then enabled to appropriately have horizontal relationships, loving our neighbor as our self.
Sandy-Joy BasdeoMaster's Student at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary
David Cunningham, These Three Are One: The Practice of Trinitarian Theology. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
Balswick, Jack O. & Balswick, Judith K., The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contempory Home (Fourth Edition). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16). Our passion and commitment in children’s ministry is not only to let them come, but to bend down, gently take them by the hand, and lead them to Jesus, who already is reaching out to them with open arms.
Children’s ministry (like all ministries) is about two relationships: First, as parents and ministry workers, we seek to have a loving relationship with the children. Second, we seek to help children have a devoted relationship with Jesus. In this second relationship, we have a four-part strategy. First we introduce children to Jesus (seeking the lost). Then we help build them up in Jesus (nurture believers), we equip them to minister with Jesus (equipping workers). And then we equip some to be leaders among their peers (multiplying leaders).
Such equipping is not merely about programs, it is about a relational life-style where we (parents and children’s ministry workers) may walk hand-in-hand with the children through life, focused on participating with Jesus in his ongoing ministry as we go. One might compare this equipping relationship to apprenticeship. The adult in the relationship is the experienced worker, and the child is the enthusiastic apprentice.
Oftentimes, we adults tend to overlook the potential for children to be active in serving God. Likewise, in the Scriptures, we recognize that when David was a young boy, his father Jesse overlooked him when it came time to anoint King Saul’s replacement (1 Samuel 16:5-13). It seemed as though Jesse was blind to David’s potential for this assignment. Luckily, Samuel was open to hear from God on this matter. Perhaps that openness was related to his own experience when God called Samuel to serve him as a young boy (1 Samuel 3:1-21).
My prayer is that when we look at our children, we will see what God sees, hear what God says, and act accordingly to equip our children for God’s calling in their lives. We know, in general, that He calls them to be disciple-making followers of Jesus—working in that calling as an important part of the body of Christ, called to fulfill the Great Commission.
Pastors, you set the pace for this in your congregation. Make it a place that highly values children and actively involves them in the ministry of the congregation. Oftentimes, children are mere spectators in our worship services. It is great that the children have their own classes, but it is vital that they be equipped and then allowed to take an active up-front role in the main worship service. This sends the message to the children, and to the adults watching, that children are an important part of the congregation. They are the future of our churches and we must prepare them to fulfill their role in it. If we do not prepare them, "Who will?"
Youth ministry workers, you are called to be primary equippers of children in your congregations. Invite the children under your care to be your apprentices, and then work to impart to them the ministry skills you have developed. Make young disciples who will, in turn, make other young disciples. We must all show an active concern for every child in our congregations, and even every child in our lives outside the church walls. These children need our gifts, love, time, and equipping.
I am not stating with the title of this piece that God is not enough. He is. Our God is sufficient for all our needs (Phil. 4:19). I am also not stating that prayer might not be enough. God has the power to instantly respond and even conduct a miracle in response to prayer. And, he has. I am stating, however, that there are times -often times- when just asking is not enough. God wills that we act as well. Consider the examples in Scripture. James wrote about ‘faith without works’ (James 2). Jesus and the apostles, when performing miracles, urged people to act (Luke 17:14;Matt 9:6;Acts 3:6; 9:33). Actions are just as important –and at times more important –than just making a request.
The same is true when praying for individuals with special needs. Prayer is often times not enough. We must act. Your actions will reveal your faith. Do you believe God welcomes everyone, even those with special needs? Does your church constituency reflect this? If you do not have individuals with special needs in your church, why? They are out there. They too are in need of a relationship with the creator and savior of the world. They too are in need (desperately at times) of community / fellowship with believers. They too are in need of peace and wholeness. Often times churches lack a ministry to individuals with special needs for two reasons: a lack of knowledge and a lack of resources. Do you believe God will supply all your needs? If so, he can provide the knowledge and resources lacking for you to have a vibrant, far reaching ministry to individuals with special needs, individuals ‘differently-abled’.
Don’t just ask, though, act.
1.Be informed. Individuals with special needs have a range of challenges whether cognitive, physical, emotional, or behavioral. How much do you know of these challenges? Understanding their needs will help you understand how best to minister to them. If necessary, educate yourself. A lot of literature exists.
2.Tap into the resources around you. Libraries, the Internet, nearby professionals, governmental agencies, advocates, parents, and even individuals with special needs can provide information to you. Everyone is more than willing.
3.Solicit help. Are there professionals in your church who could help with the ministry? Perhaps there are therapists, nurses, practitioners, or special education teachers. Ask the professionals in your church and/or community if they would like to help start the ministry, help with the ministry, or educate the church on some of the needs of individuals ‘differently-abled’. Ask God to send you laborers and keep your eyes and ears open.
4.Judge not. The needs of individuals ‘differently-abled’ are real and must be embraced whether or not you understand. Desiring for them to ‘accommodate’ to your understanding of what’s right only communicates rejection or that they are ‘not enough’. Is this the heart of God? There are children with autism who will not enter sanctuaries (or other similar places) because of the loud noises and number of people. The ‘sensory violations’ they experience lead them to shut down. Other children act out. Their behavior is misinterpreted as defiant when all they are trying to do is stop the pain or cope with it. Is this the heart of God? Forcing unpleasant experiences? Wanting people to shut down in his house? Not understanding or embracing?
5.Accommodate for all types of challenges. Does your church have a ramp? If not, not only are you ‘unwelcoming’ of people in wheelchairs, but you’re also breaking the law, per the Americans with Disabilities Act. Does your bathroom have a large enough stall for two people as when a caregiver must help a disabled person? Do you provide words on a screen or sign language throughout the service for those who are deaf or hard of hearing? Do you have a plan in place should anyone (or a person with epilepsy, for example) have a seizure? Is there a quiet classroom available for individuals who experience sensory challenges? Do the children in your church know how to interact without staring? Do the adults?
What are the repercussions of a church acting and not just praying and thus ministering to all types of challenges, especially people with special needs? Too many to share, but here are a few.
Prayer is not enough when wanting to minister to people with special needs. You must act. And… there are so many ways to do so. God is sufficient for everyone’s needs. We must, however, do our part. Be informed. Tap into resources. Solicit help. Judge not. Accommodate.
Here are a few resources:
Other equally important resources providing valuable information about special needs / disability / conditions (not an exhaustive list):
A few days ago I was scrolling through a social media website and came across a post that displayed a flier for a Holy Ghost Rally. My first thought was that you dont hear that word used much anymore. Rallies, Crusades and Camp Meetings still take place, but you dont see or hear about them as much in this day as in the past. The second thing that I noticed was the time listed was from 2 p.m. til midnight and there were 11 speakers listed for the event.
We live in time now where we expect everything to fit neatly into a time frame. We have machines and devices to do almost everything for us, but what have we traded out for all of this convenience? We dont remember phone numbers anymore, because they are stored in our mobile devices. We have machines to cook and clean for us, and some even have a button that will start the car. The car has sensors that tell you when you need an oil change, so you dont have to raise the hood and check the oil, and on and on. We live in a day when many people pick up food from a drive by instead of cooking at home. How has this life of amenities and conveniences changed our way of thinking about church service and the Holy Ghost?
Shut ins and Tarry Services are historically significant to Pentecostals. The understanding is that God is sovereign, and the waiting is with expectation, so much so, that waiting was part of the process to learn discipline and patience in one's prayer life. By removing one’s own feeling of control over the situation, one learned to surrender the will of self, replacing it with an open heart for what God would do in God’s Power and Authority.
This kind of expectation comes in the context of knowing that one must be willing to wait, prayerfully wait. Testimonies of past services would give those present the expectation and desire to remain present for hours because there was the hope of a blessing, deliverance, sinners coming to Christ, and much more. The unity of expecting God with other saints would charge the service with heart felt and jubilant singing, preaching, and praying. Waiting for God was not a frustrating time, but a time of joy, hope and expectation.
What are we teaching the next generation of Christians about waiting on God? How do we learn about waiting on God? When children learn to pray, they follow the examples set by the adults in their lives. This can be church leaders, but most often it is the adults that are closest to the child, the parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles, etc., so the model of prayer that is set in a child's life become the way the child will understand prayer. What a great opportunity to teach a child about praying and waiting on God, and especially about patience.
Now that we have Bible apps, and streaming services, and Youtube videos, what about the local church? What about the local community? Does the local church still need Tarry Service?
Marva C. Williams, M. Div
"The Comforter Has Come"
“What Is the Family?”
The Bible defines "family" in a narrow sense as the union of one man and one woman in matrimony which is normally blessed with one or several natural or adopted children. In a broad sense, this family also includes any other persons related by blood (the extended family). In the Book of Genesis, we read that in the beginning God created first a man (Adam) to exercise dominion over his creation and subsequently a woman (Eve) as the man's "help mate" (Genesis 2:18, 20). Then, the Scriptures say, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24 ESV). This verse sets forth the biblical pattern as it was instituted by God at the beginning: one man is united to one woman in matrimony, and the two form one new natural family. In this regard, "they become one flesh" not only does this refer to the establishment of one new family but also to the husband and wife's sexual union leading to the procreation of offspring. This, in turn, is in keeping with God's original command to the first human couple to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion" over all of creation (Genesis 1:28, ESV).
These aspects of marriage--the complementarity of male and female, and the irreplaceable role of male-female relations in reproducing the human race are all part of the original order of creation, and are evident to all human beings from the enduring order of nature. These common elements of marriage are at the heart of our civil laws defining and regulating marriage. Therefore, people of all cultures and religions, including those who lack faith in God, Christ, or the Bible are capable of participating in the institution of marriage. However, Christians believe that the fullest understanding of God's Will for marriage can be derived from a careful examination of scriptural teachings. It is incumbent upon the church to educate both itself and the larger culture regarding the full breadth and depth of God's intentions for marriage.
“Marriage: Contract or Covenant?”
Today, marriage and the family are regularly viewed as social conventions that can be entered into and severed by the marital partners at will. As long as a given marriage relationship meets the needs of both individuals involved and is considered advantageous by both sides, the marriage is worth sustaining. If one or both partners decide that they will be better off by breaking up the marriage and entering into a new or better marital union, then they will pursue this new relationship.
However by contrast, the Bible makes it clear that marriage and the family are not human conventions based merely on a temporary consensus and time-honored tradition. Instead, Scripture teaches that family was God's idea and that marriage is a divine, not merely human institution. The implication of this truth is significant indeed, for this means that humans are not free to renegotiate or redefine marriage and the family in any way they choose but that they are called to preserve and respect what has been divinely instituted. This is in keeping with Jesus' words when his contemporaries asked him about the permissibility of divorce: "What therefore God has joined together let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6). For this reason, marriage is far more than a human social contract; it is a divinely instituted covenant.
But what is a "covenant?" In essence, a covenant is a contract between two parties that is established before God as a witness, a contract whose permanence is ultimately safeguarded by none other than God himself. In this sense, marriage is a covenant: it is entered into by the husband and the wife before God as a witness. Because it is ultimately God who has joined the marriage partners together, the husband and the wife vow to each other abiding loyalty and fidelity "till death do us part." Rightly understood, therefore, a marriage entered into before God involves three persons: a husband, a wife, and God. For this reason, it is not self-interest, human advantage, or an unfettered commitment to personal freedom that governs the marriage relationship, but the husband and wife's joint commitment to conduct their marriage based on God's design and sovereign plan.
Therefore, marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God. Marriage is not only permanent, sacred, intimate, and mutual; it is also exclusive (Genesis 2:22-25 & 1 Corinthians 7:2-5). This means that no other human relationship must interfere with the marriage commitment between husband and wife.
By: Teresa Durstine