Family Friday Links 9.14.18

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Sorry about last week’s links, I got busy and forgot.

Here’s what we’ve been digging into online this week:

Scott Kedersha had a post on growing your marriage. This post offers a few practical how-to’s on this often neglected topic. If you are married, check this one out.

Dan Istvanik had a post listing different kinds of youth pastor/leaders. While it’s very funny, it’s also very true. If you work in youth ministry figure out which one you are.

Real-ationships Matter (a blog by my friend Heather Pace) had a post on how to help our kids with back to school. These are helpful reminders that parents would benefit from keeping in mind.

What have you been reading online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.

Kids and church, part 3: Who is responsible to feed the lambs?

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Before jumping into this post, consider reading...

Being a parent isn't easy under the best of circumstances. Our kids don't come with instruction manuals. As if the challenge of helping them mature physically and mentally isn’t enough, the challenge of helping them mature spiritually seems impossible. And it is. As parents, God has blessed us both with a great treasure and a great responsibility (Psalm 127:3). But what does that responsibility look like practically? Are there others who are responsible, too? If so how?

Parents

Parents are the primary disciplers of their kids. Scripture is very clear on this point. It is the responsibility of both dad and mom to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” But how do we do this? According to Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we are to use the ordinary “teachable moments” throughout any given day or night to point our kids to God.

Brothers and sisters, the work that you have to do for Jesus is in no sense for yourselves. Your pupils are not your children, but Christ’s
— Charles Spurgeon

This means that we not only live our lives in such a way that our faith can be practically seen, but also we guide our kids towards God by helping them see how faith intersects with their daily lives. Both of these things can happen in a lot of different ways, depending on circumstances. The bottom line for parents is faithfulness. Make the most of the time God gives you.

Church

The church bears some of this responsibility as well. While yes, parents are the primary disciple-makers in their kids' lives, they are not the only disciple-makers in their kids' lives. The church exercises this responsibility when it comes alongside parents, encouraging and training them; and the church exercises this responsibility when it comes alongside kids, teaching and encouraging their faith as we seek to help them become lifelong worshipers of God. This responsibility God has given to the church community calls for the same faithful commitment that parents should have toward their own children.

Jesus

Finally, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He feeds little lambs as well. God does not call us to convert our kids, but rather to be faithful with his message of salvation. We sometimes get this wrong. We sometimes think cultivating our kid’s faith is within our power. But even if it doesn't seem proud on the surface, that's a gross over-estimation of our abilities. Such parental pride can get in the way of what God is trying to do. Only Jesus can take our kids from death to life. Only Jesus has the supernatural ability to transform our kids' hearts for his glory. This is the part he plays, to do what only he can do.

This bring up a number of questions. Do we trust him? Do we trust him to hold up his end of the bargain? Are you being faithful to hold up yours? If not, what needs to change?

Here’s a quote from Spurgeon's Spiritual Parenting,  that sums up this truth: “Brothers and sisters, the work that you have to do for Jesus is in no sense for yourselves. Your pupils are not your children, but Christ’s” (p. 57).

Family Friday Links 8.31.18

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Here's what we've been reading online this week:

Gospel-Centered Parenting had a post about praying for our kids. It reads, "... we’re forgetting something crucial about prayer ... God is our Father." This post reminds of this fact over and over. If you are struggling with prayer in general or praying for your kids specifically, this post will encourage you.

Christina Embree had a post on the topic of discipleship at home. She reminds parents, "Discipleship at home is not about adding more to my already full schedule. It is about inviting Christ into what I am already doing." Discipleship is as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be. Parents (and pastors) this is helpful.

And finally, our own Jared Kennedy shared a list of resources that his church has for parents and the challenges that parents face at each stage of their child's development. This is a great list of great resources that your parents need (... or at the very least a great place to start putting your own together).

What have found online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect

At Sojourn Church Midtown, the church where I serve as a pastor, we're now using a series of training videos both to equip parents as disciple-makers in their homes and to orient and update our children's ministry team on our ministry policies and procedures as well best practices when teaching kids. 

I'm planning to share these videos here at gospelcenteredfamily.com as we release them to our church community. This third video in the series is designed to orient volunteers to our church's reporting policies for child abuse and neglect. It outlines three things: (1) our responsibility as mandatory reporters (2) how to report, and (3) how volunteers can guard themselves from accusation.  

Our Responsibility as Mandatory Reporters

The first representation a child has of God is their parents and regular caregivers. That’s a truth that should encourage us to be hyper-vigilant about protecting children from predatory or abusive influences. Sadly, most abuse takes place within the context of an on-going relationship.  Over 80% of the time, abusers are people who are well-known to the victim. They are the people we’d least expect.

In Matthew 18, Jesus warns us, “If  anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” This a strong warning, but it’s one that highlights our responsibility before God to protect kids.

We believe that reporting abuse is a responsibility we have before God. But it’s also a responsibility we have before the governing authorities. It’s important to know that all Sojourn Kids volunteers are mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect according to both Kentucky and Indiana law.

How to Report

So, what do I do if I suspect that a child has been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused? The short answer is, Report Immediately!

In the case of suspected abuse by a staff member, volunteer, or parent, volunteers should immediately make a report to Child Protective Services in your city or state. We also ask that you report your concerns to a safe staff person or pastor at the church. If you’d like, we’re willing to call Child Protective Services with you. After all, you are a mandatory reporter and we are mandatory reporters as well.

Here’s a couple of things about reporting that it’s important to know.

  • First, it’s not your responsibility (or ours) to substantiate your suspicions. We simply have a responsibility as a church community to comply with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and cooperate fully with both Child Protective Services and the law enforcement officials in our community. If you’d like to learn more about what constitutes abuse, take a look at the checklist that accompanies this video. But I’d encourage you to err on the side of caution and report any suspicions you have.
     
  • Second, know that you should not discuss the report with other parents or childcare workers. This is for the sake of privacy. But also, if a child is disclosing that a parent or another adult is causing harm, DO NOT talk with that parent or adult. Talking to a potential abuser could result in additional shame or abuse for the child. Instead, as we’ve already said, Report Right Away!

How Can I Guard Myself from Accusation?

One question that regularly comes up when we’re talking about abuse reporting is the question of protecting yourself from accusation. This is important because appropriate physical contact with children can be really helpful (and even necessary!) in a children’s ministry environment. A hand on a child’s shoulder may be helpful for aiding communication, redirecting attention, or calming restlessness. But physical touch can also be easily misinterpreted. So, whether you are serving in children’s ministry or are just interacting with kids in your community group, here are a few simple rules to abide by:

  • Always remain in open sight of other adults.
     
  • Know that appropriate physical contact varies according to the child’s age. What is appropriate for nursery age children (holding, rocking, assisting in the restroom, etc.) is not appropriate for kids in grade school. Sitting on laps for instance may be appropriate for a toddler, but it’s not appropriate for a first grader.  
     
  • Because the majority of sexual offenders are men, our policy at Sojourn Kids is that only females may change diapers. Also, we don’t change the diapers of children over age five.
     
  • Also know that in some situations, a man will need to limit physical contact more than a woman in the same situation, especially when working with older children.
     
  • All caregivers should refrain from roughhousing, wrestling, or giving shoulder or piggyback rides to children. Physical contact in group activities such as ultimate Frisbee, freeze tag, touch football, etc., is reasonable and understandable. But rough play and the kind of personal attention given by a shoulder ride is not appropriate for a classroom setting. And generally speaking, these types of activities should be avoided in a community group setting as well—particularly if a child’s parents are not present or within sight range.
     
  • It’s also important to use care and discernment when hugging a child. Brief side-hugs when greeting or comforting a child are generally appropriate. Prolonged, frequent, or frontal hugs are just not. In older classes, volunteers should not initiate hugs, particularly towards children of the opposite sex. If an older child initiates a hug, redirect them to more appropriate contact such as a side hug or gentle "high-five.”
     
  • Never touch a child on or near any region that is considered private or personal unless you are changing diaper or assisting toddler or preschool age children in the restroom.
     
  • And never touch a child out of frustration or anger. Physical discipline is never an appropriate means of correcting someone else’s child.

Thank you for joining us for this training reporting and protecting children from abuse and neglect.  These are heavy responsibilities that we take very seriously, and we trust that you will as well.