EDITORIAL NOTE: For some 40+ years the late Dorothy Gardiner (left), with her husband Ken, led the enterprising Life4Kids kids’ ministry touching thousands of children’s lives with care, helping them discover the love of Jesus. Ken Gardiner still leads this children-centred ministry, encouraging churches, especially leaders, to care for their church kids in these troubled days and assuring children that God is still in control and cares for them. The following is excerpted and updated from one of Dorothy’s caring teachings.
(December 10, 2022) Dorothy Gardiner urges kids’ workers to really care in these dark days…
‘John’ (not real name) sits with his shoulders slumped, head bent, tears streaming down his face and with a voice filled with pain says, ‘The day my dad left my whole world fell apart and I can’t put it back together.’
No, he can’t put it back together, but when Jesus becomes the centre of his life he can know and experience the wonderful love of a heavenly Father who is bigger than any circumstance or hurt. God will see him through, lift him up, support and hold him.
God’s Word – the Bible – tells us that He will be a Father to the fatherless, that even if our own father and mother forsake us, He will lift us up. (See scriptures such as Psalm 68:5).
But… how will they know without someone to tell them? God-inspired churches and really caring kid’s ministry workers can offer–
This is the task of those in kids’ ministry and pastoral leadership that is needed most upmust today – reaching out to children with love and understanding! We need to be…
- Our God’s hands and feet.
- His eyes and ears
- His mouthpiece, pouring out words of comfort and encouragement.
- Letting kids know that our heavenly Father has not abandoned them.
- Telling that He has brilliant plans for their lives.
- Assuring them that He is interested in them personally.
- Encouraging them that they truly can be champions with His help and guidance!
For years Ken and I have listened to the heart cry of these little ones as they try to adjust to circumstances beyond their control.
Often people have the mistaken idea that children will bounce back, that they are flexible, that they will get over it. But we discovered these children were not bouncing back, they were not getting over it. Many were finding even the everyday tasks of life overwhelming.
Hope is many a kid’s need!
One little girl had a very valid observation: ‘When Grandma died everyone came and helped us, brought meals and sent nice cards but when Mum left no one cared. No one came to visit, they didn’t even talk to us and I didn’t know what to do when Dad cried.’
We are listening here to the cry of a little girl who feels she has been abandoned and left to cope alone.
The greatest gift we can give such children is our time. Time to listen and really hear their pain. Time to give words of encouragement and comfort. When these children need their parents the most, they are not emotionally available to them due to the trauma of their own pain and suffering.
- Many kids of divorced parents feel that somehow they were the case of the divorce!
- We must listen to their heartcries!
- They are hurting and we kids ministry workers must reach them with Jesus’ love and the message of hope!
- Jesus cared for little ones… as Mark 13:14-16 clearly records: ‘People were bringing little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.’
- We must care as Jesus did… allow no one to hinder children from being blessed by Jesus. Kids troubled for whatever reason need to know Jesus, need hugs at times especially a ‘spiritural hug’ by Jesus!
- Kids from every nation need to find Jesus and His love for them all!
Kids know need to know that loving touch!
But please note that when we give children all the ‘right answers,’ they may still feel unsatisfied because explanations touch only the intellect. Deep emotional needs call more for tenderness and concern than just facts and logic.
It’s not enough for us to tell them God loves them – as I very quickly found out in the process of telling one little girl how much God loves her. Very softly little ‘Sammy’ said, ‘I know God loves me, I just need Him to hug me.’
Unfortunately in these days of certain ‘legal restrictions’ we Christian church workers can be so bound that we can’t even give an encouraging hug to a troubled kid , or even a gentle pat on the back that communicates sincere concern!
Studies have shown that when therapists touch their adult clients in such non-threatening ways, they are more responsive to therapy. Kids know how to read a loving touch! We should be God’s arms reaching out with His love. A phone call to ask how they are getting on also lets the child know someone cares and is interested in them personally!
Most of the children we have worked with in this area have had little or no knowledge of Jesus and His love. For many children’s workers, leaders and ministers it will be the same. To these children we are the face of our God, we are His hand extended. Eye contact too is so important. This leaves no doubt in the child’s mind about whether he or she has your full attention.
Helping concerned kids move on
Some of you might be searching for material to help you in this very important area of ministry – especially for children wrongly thinking their parent’s divorce was their fault. After failing to find appropriate material the Lord led us to write our High Five Divorce Recovery Program For Children. Thiswas specifically written for children struggling to come to terms with the enormous changes that have taken place in their lives; changes due to the breakup of their family.
But times have changed and – kid’s workers – you need to be with it, creating or discovering and using modern programs and materials that will help you really touch kid’s hearts and minds!
‘Web Junkies’ became a fashionable term back in 2015! Computers, tablets, mobiles, TV programs have so captured even tiny young kid’s minds that it would seem they idolise some sort of technicalised God – yet another idol that can’t reachout to these kids with genuine love and relevant material designed to confront some of the issues and questions specific to their needs!
If you have ever counselled kids, you will know that you can go crazy trying to get them to talk to you. You sit there, and you know what is wrong with them because a parent has told you. But they don’t talk!
Knowing this, you need to run programs that use stories depicting actual situations kids may find themselves in, exploring feelings and fears that they may have. It then becomes much easier for children to respond and open up. They can see that you feel for them.
You can make a difference!
You can make a huge difference in the life of a hurting child just by being available to be interested in them and the circumstances that affect their lives.
May the words of another boy be the report of the children of divorce who cross your path and you’ve reached out to them: ‘I’ve found a lot of people who have supported me, and helped me; I just know God must be real.’
Dorothy and Ken Gardiner’s Life4Kids ministry is an interdenominational organisation reaching, teaching, equipping and resourcing the body of Christ. Ken Gardiner’s contact is firstname.lastname@example.org / mobile: 040 756 7933
Ken adds, ‘Although we no longer run the High Five program above, Life4Kids still cares for kids and can be contacted for encouragement and advice. We highly recommend Children of Divorce by Debbie Barr and have some copies of this helpful book on hand. We would be delighted to mail them to ministry leaders touched by hurting kids and desirous to share the love of Jesus.’