Recently I read the book, “Cheering for the Children” by Casey Gwinn. This is an amazing book and while not written for church leaders or children’s ministers it is a worthwhile read to anyone ministering to children especially children who have experienced early trauma including the divorce of their parents.
Casey Gwinn is a man who understands that children who have been hurt by those they love can also feel abandoned by the church. He writes in the chapter, Dealing with Trauma in Children of Faith,”The church and organized religion have often failed to understand and address child abuse and domestic violence.”
One of the answers to helping children who have experienced early trauma might be in how the church quantifies children’s supporters.
Casey Gwinn calls these people “cheerleaders.” He says something to the effect that if every child has a person that passionately believes in them, loves them and supports them, it changes the child and the outcomes in that child’s life.
Alicia Stephens, the Children’s Minister at Joy Lutheran Church, Tulsa, OK calls these people “Grandbuddies” a term she coined for her church. Every child is assigned a grandbuddy even her own child has a Grandbuddy.
She says her child’s Grandbuddy has been an incredible mentor to her. When she was telling me about the Grandbuddy idea her child’s Grandbuddy was scheduled to read a passage at church on Sunday. She had invited Alicia’s daughter to join her on the platform and to help her read to the entire congregation that morning.
In interviewing Alicia for this article she said, “I am incredibly grateful for the adults that work diligently to love kids and help them grow. I am especially thankful for those in my kids’ lives that walk with me as I raise my children, loving them, supporting them, and helping them become amazing people.”
Educator Rita Pierson in a Ted Talks Education says, “Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.”
The secret sauce to helping kids in today’s world survive just might be one of these important people.
This could be a person that spurs the child on to success by
- Cheering for the child at just the right time
- Loving them at just the moment they need it
- Reading them a scripture at a time of joy
- Encouraging them with a dose of hope when all hope seems lost
This is not to say that parents aren’t important. Oh, they are, but sometimes even the best of parents need a little help from the outside. This is especially true in our mobile world where families don’t live close to extended families and in a world where divorce and division of cohabiting couples continue to increase.
Ways to inspire a child
- Shout-out when a kid gets a good grade on a test
- Encourage the child to tell you about a specific incident or day at school
- Give a big “hurrah” for taking part in a sports event. This doesn’t mean the child did anything spectacular except participated
- Cheer on a child who quotes a scripture even it if isn’t on the list and he or she can’t quote any of the scriptures they are supposed to be memorizing.
- Make the saying, “You did it” your go to comment for anything the child does. Saying “You did it” gives the child a shot of serotonin, the feel good chemical in the brain
- Give a child hope in any way you can
In the article, The Role of Adult Mentorship in Helping Children Deal With Trauma writer Jessica Lahey says, “Hope begets resilience because it is the magical force that enables children to adapt and heal emotionally from their adverse childhood experiences.”
Hope is exactly what the cheerleader, the Grandbuddy, the champion, and the mentor can give to a child.....