QBKidsChildren invite & challenge: Children invite our attention. Children invite our relationship with them. Children challenge us to connect with them in order to understand and meet their needs and help them to continue to grow as whole, faith-full people.

Even before our daughter was born her very presence was an invitation to us as parents. She invited our attention.

There was no escaping this invitation. “Here I am, please attend!” After her birth her invitations to us revolved around her basic needs. If it was time for a feed, she would invite our attention by crying. If she needed a nappy change or was tired she would continue to invite our attention until she received it. Perhaps the word ‘invitation’ is being generous. Perhaps the word is ‘demand’.

Along with the ‘invitation’ to attend to her to every need also came an invitation to marvel at the wonder and miracle of new life. As well as the crying, her smiles and gurgles were plentiful. We loved saying “yes” to her invitation to smile and play.

Along with the invitation also came the challenges. Her very presence made a difference. Life was different now. For many new parents like us, meeting her needs and making the necessary life adjustments were indeed a challenge.

A child in our midst makes a difference to everything. All our relationships to each other, time, things and space is changed. That’s the invitation we are given. It is the challenge we wrestle with.

A child in our midst

When a child invites us to pay her some attention it is an invitation we can refuse or accept. Even the worst parent is aware of such an invitation of a child. Every parent knows something of the choice to accept or refuse the invitation of their child; to respond well or react badly.

The idea of refusing is scandalous of course. How could we possible ignore such a dear precious bundle … so much personality; so much potential; so much gorgeousness wrapped up in one little poppy (despite her squashed over nose); so much titian hair and … so much noise!!

The reality in the world is that this invitation of newborns is sometimes ignored. Often abuse arises out of ignorance of what is a healthy, helpful response to the needs of children. Another tragic reality is that help is not always possible. In any events like these, children suffer.

Fundamentally the invitation of a child at this age is to invite each of us to be trustworthy … to live up to the trust bestowed upon us as a parent, carer and/or provider of the healthy, helpful and good things the world has to offer. Trust is earned and a child will yearn trustworthy people and situations in their life until she finds them.

At every stage of life and development a child will continue to invite attention in a growing variety of ways and on a variety levels. We will continue to choose how we will respond to those invitations. We will continue to rise, or not, to the challenges presented.

A child in our midst makes a difference to everything. All our relationships to each other, time, things and space are changed. That’s the invitation we are given. It is the challenge we wrestle with.

God as ‘loving parent’

One of the facets of God’s story is the one that comes to us of God as ‘ultimate loving parent’. It is the story of God’s willingness to come to individuals and into the midst of faith communities upon their invitation. It is the story of God dealing with challenges along the way. God has been forever writing new chapters on relationship with us humans. We also have also added our story chapters down through the ages of our experience of this God who comes to us.

To put this another way, as humans coming into the midst of God, our very presence is an invitation to God. God is not disinterested even though we may be. God also awaits out specific invitations to come and to relate well with us. God responds with special attention whether we deserve it or not. God comes to us even though sometimes we don’t feel that he does. God’s story is a story of willingness to respond to our invitation. God comes. God listens. God relates. God provides. God rescues.

A child in the midst of a faith community

When a child comes to church she enters into a new, much larger family where again, her very presence is an invitation for attention. As the church family we are made up of all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds and with a variety of ways of expressing our Christian faith. Children in our midst are people we just can’t ignore. Because of who they are, they invite our attention through a number of remarkably lovely ways as well as some potentially challenging ways.

Here again we have a choice. Even though they are amongst us we can choose to ignore them or to pay attention to them and their needs. We can choose to stay ignorant of their needs … or not. We can choose to do nothing and fail to provide for their nurture … or not.

[blockQuote position=”center”]Herein lies the challenge … because if we ignore children, they will go away. If we don’t provide spiritual nurture, they will go away.[/blockQuote]

In attending to children, the challenge is to give ourselves to the work of understanding each child. Each and every child is different. They come in different sizes, have different physical abilities, different social, mental, spiritual and emotional needs. They develop differently, have different personalities. The list goes on.

A child can not often put into words what her ‘needs’ are. ‘Wants’ are often inappropriately expressed. Nonetheless, she does invite us to attend to her ‘need’. One of the most precious things we can do to show our acceptance of their invitation is to be as God to them. Be a loving parent. Listen to them. Kneel or sit beside her or raise her up so that you are at her eye level. Pray for her as you listen to her. Pray for wisdom as to how to answer her ‘need’ even though her ‘want’ may be unreasonable. Please don’t show you are shocked even though you may be. Ask clarifying questions to gain understanding. Thank her for coming to you with her invitation for connection. Realise the honour and privilege it is that she has invited you into her world.

Herein lies the challenge … because if we ignore children, they will go away. If we don’t provide spiritual nurture, they will go away.

Children come in families

The parent/s have a primary responsibility to nurture and encourage the child so that he or she may develop as a whole person towards maturity. Another challenge for a Church family is to journey with parents in their task … to work out a cooperative partnership where the primary responsibility of parents is affirmed yet parents are equipped in and resource for their role.

The special relationship of the faith community towards the child can also be expressed through the nurturing of the parents in their own faith development so they may confidently help to guide their child in the ways of faith in God.

It has been said that the best way to help a child is to help their parents whenever this is possible. This is a challenge that faces us as a church.

Find ways to support and pray for individual parents and families.

Programs of teaching and encouragement may be helpful in nurturing parents and children’s workers. This may include programs such as parenting and discipline skills, understanding faith/spiritual development in children, leading a child/adult to faith, understanding your own and a child’s personality and learning styles

Many of us need healing in order to overcome brokenness, bitterness & damage caused by past relationship which impede our relationships with children. Providing support, healing prayer, education and appropriate referrals when healing in relationships is required will make a huge difference to a home environment. Healing is a circuit breaker for further generational damage later on.

It will be the church’s relationship with each individual child and parent and your prayer for them that will be the major deciding factors in whether or not they accept our invitation to faith and church family life together.

Children Invite! Children Challenge!

Children invite our attention. Children invite our relationship with them. Children challenge us to connect with them in order to understand and meet their needs and help them to continue to grow as whole, faith-full people.

For Reflection:

1. A child in our midst makes a difference to everything. All our relationships to each other, time, things and space is changed. That’s the invitation we are given. It is the challenge we wrestle with. Are children meant to make a difference by their very presence or should they be noted and then ignored?

2. In what ways do we ignore children at different times and in different contexts?

3. In what ways are we ignorant concerning children and their needs? (Trick question … How do we know what we don’t know and how will we find out what we don’t know.)

By Phillip Day
[Phillip Day © midst.com.au … This article is FreeShare … part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Footnotes: http://vcce.org.au/portfolio/617/Reference: Weber, Hans-Ruedi. Jesus and the Children. World Council of Churches. Geneva. 1979.

Notes: Where personal pronouns were required in this article, ‘she’ or ‘her’ were used; the next article uses ‘he’ or ‘him’.

[Phillip Day © midst.com.au … This article is FreeShare … part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.]

Post date: 03/04/2014Post Author: Phil Day

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Dear reader,

We would love it if you could use/adapt any of the post above or the excerpt below to reference our QBKids news post:

QBKidsI’m coming … ready or not!

Children invite & challenge: Children invite our attention. Children invite our relationship with them. Children challenge us to connect with them in order to understand and meet their needs and help them to continue to grow as whole, faith-full people.

For this post and others like it, please visit: kids.qb.org.au