Several years ago, I became aware of marriages in crisis in our church. I felt scared and concerned for those around us. I didn’t mention anything to our KidMarvel team or kids. I wasn’t trying to hide anything. But, my instinct was to let us leaders deal with the messes around us and to be a buffer to the children, carrying on in a way to try to give them a great experience. I thought that that’s what you’re supposed to do. God, however, showed me a better way! He brought the kids into the family mess so that they could be a part of the solution.
The children were creating prophetic art during SPLASH, our children’s worship time and time of creative expression. The leader Jazz asked them to draw what they saw in heaven—no direction, just “What do you see in heaven?”
Several kids—more than one—drew pictures of “moms and dads” and “brides and grooms.” It was too many to be a coincidence. This theme spanned both services and the children did not see each other’s art. One picture in particular stood out to me: a boy drew a picture of an arch over a bride and groom. It surprised me that a boy would draw a wedding scene, and my curiosity drew me to ask questions. He said that the arch was heaven’s protection. I realized that God was commanding a promise of protection for the marriages. I mentioned this during a staff meeting at church, and we were encouraged.
Soon after, the church started a marriage class. The class had so many sign-ups, that we had to move out of the River Room and into the sanctuary. The families that I knew of who were in crisis are still together today, and are thriving. I believe the children’s art was an act of intercession for those families, and that God was speaking to and through our kids on the adult’s behalf.
This journey led me to an important revelation: We need to bring kids into the family problems. Doing so gives them a boundary of peace, empowers them to provide solutions and teaches them how to manage disappointment.
Boundary of Peace
Kids are spiritually aware when there are problems in a family, especially the ones that affect them. They sense fear when their parents struggle financially. They sense anger when their older siblings get bullied at school. We can’t shield them from hard things in life, even in childhood. One of the worst things we can do is to avoid talking with the children. Because, where the parent or leader won’t speak, the enemy will. They sense family struggles, and they need to hear from their parents, but, more importantly their heavenly Father to receive His words and peace about them. What they hear will shape their relationship with God and their perspectives on foundational issues.
My own parents did this with me. I remember them pulling my siblings and I out to a porch when they went through a family crisis and telling us what the problem was and that we were going to get through together. The declarations they made that day set up boundaries of peace in my mind. I didn’t doubt that we were going to make it through as a family after that.
Part of the Solution
Now, when there are issues in the church that affects the kids, I try to mention them in age-appropriate ways. As with any other age group, we must use wisdom to bring up issues with honor and share only what the other person needs to know to do their part effectively.
The two times I’ve done this recently were when we hit snags in a building project we were working on, and when we decided not to do our usual children’s ministry summer outreach. The children drew pictures of what God was saying. They interceded as they created art.
Using art in these moments is so powerful for two reasons. For one, it helps children, especially little ones, to communicate more freely than they could through spelling or words. Another powerful use of art is that we can put it up and the whole family can remember the word the Lord spoke. Many times the kids’ art is so straightforward it’s almost as if you’re reading a word. I always have some kids’ prophetic art in my home and my office at work. If I see one that I think is particularly seasonal, I will laminate it. I don’t take it down until I get a fresh word, because I want to remember what the Lord is doing. The kids are able to sense what God is doing, in the same way that adults do. Their art carries authority to see it come through.
In both instances I mentioned, the words and visions the kids got from God encouraged the adults, and refined our determination.
When we decided not to do our summer outreach that the kids loved, I gave them time to color pictures to ask God what He wanted to do with them this summer. We believed that we made the decision after prayer, and that what was best for the big Christians would also be best for the little Christians. Sure enough, God had amazing things He wanted to do with the kids that summer. And, they had the opportunity to hear from Him about big issues, training them to seek Him when they are disappointed, even when they are disappointed with their leaders.
I am not their God—and I will disappoint them. But thankfully, they can turn to the same Savior that I do when those in authority in my life disappoint me. That will help shape the kind of world-changers we truly need. Ones who can rise after leaders and influencers fall, strengthen themselves in the Lord, and then turn around and bless them with a word and offer a solution.
It takes a level of vulnerably and bravery to bring children into the family problems. But, what better place for children to learn to handle messes than in the safety of their own home with the people who love them the most in all the world?
Don’t try to shield your children from the issues that affect them. Honor the fact that they are likely already aware that something is off, and speak peace into their hearts and minds. Let them be a part of the solution. And, allow them to deal with disappointment by turning to God—the one who will always be there for them.