May 12th, 2022 by Sara Buffington
Have you ever sat in a restaurant booth? It’s like being in a little pod. You are so close to the people in the booths beside you, but they feel a mile away. You feel enclosed; you have privacy.
Not so if there is a young child in the booth next to you. Kids don’t respect the privacy of the booth. They stand or kneel on the booth seat and peer over the top to see what their neighbors are doing.
They outright stare.
You are eating your shrimp tacos and chatting with the people in your party, and the neighboring child is watching every move you make. They don’t smile when you smile. They don’t wave when you wave.
They watch you.
It can be a little disconcerting to receive the boldly curious stare of a toddler or preschooler. Even babies can be intimidating.
I remember before I had kids, I was very nervous around babies. I was the youngest in my family (I was the baby), so I never had practice taking care of little siblings. The blank face and steady gaze of a baby seemed to communicate to me, “I’m judging you. I’m judging you. And I am not impressed with what I see.”
Even when I had my daughter, I was very nervous for the first 6 weeks of her life. I wondered if she even liked me. All she did was cry, and I was sure she could tell that I had no idea what I was doing. When she first smiled at me, a wave of relief washed over me. “She likes me! She really likes me!”
Having my own kids made me a kid person. Once I learned about them, it was much easier to figure out what they were thinking (and they really aren’t judging you most of the time).
They are people just like the rest of us, with no understanding of social cues and etiquette, no filter, and very little emotional regulation. Hey, I know some adults like that.
It’s incredibly valuable to interact with children, even if you aren’t at a stage of life where you have kids in your home. I think every Christian should make a point to connect with children because they are great teachers.
Children are marked by their enthusiasm. If you have ever played peek-a-boo with a baby, watched a parade at a theme park, or witnessed the mad dash for candy when a pinata breaks, you know what I mean.
They know how to love everyday stuff. They don’t take anything for granted. When Emmett was a toddler, he was obsessed with the moon. He was too young to know about space and rockets and moon phases; he just liked to spot the moon in the sky. Whenever he found it, he would get so excited and point at it and say, “Moo.”
Why didn’t I do that? He was right; it’s amazing that a celestial body hangs in our sky day and night, orbits our earth, and gently illuminates our darkened land with the sun’s reflected rays.
For children, everything in life is new. They approach the world with wonder and enthusiasm. We can learn from that. The beauty of our world–when did that become dull? God’s amazing grace? When did we just accept that as old news? The miracle of Easter and its implications? When did that cease to make us clap for joy?
Children remind you how to pray. “God, help me to see and appreciate anew all that you are, all that you’ve made, and all that you’ve done.”
Children have no filter. I remember taking my preschool-aged son to the playground where there was another mom who had terrible rosacea. Her face was very red. My son walked up to her and said, “Why do you have poison ivy on your face?”
I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
I mumbled a remark about an urgent appointment and dragged my son out of there. He was not trying to be mean; he was just remarking on what he saw.
I am not saying adults should be that way, but I do think we should take a page out the kids’ book and add a dose of boldness and directness to our conversation. My kids have marched up to new children and introduced themselves and asked to play. Even as teenagers, they will engage in conversations on tough or sensitive issues with their peers.
I remember waiting in the drive-through lane at the bank and turning down my Christian music so I wouldn’t offend the bank teller. When did I get like that?
“God, help me to be who I am, to be unashamed of who you are to me, and to reach out to others instead of staying in my own bubble.”
Kids are receptive. They are open to new ideas. They aren’t entrenched in their own positions and convinced that they are 100% right. Even teenagers will claim to be right, but they are also flexible enough to change their minds about things.
James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (ESV)
Did you hear that? Wisdom from above is open to reason.
Children are open to reason. Our church is getting ready to host VBS, and it is a vitally important week. Children are open to receiving God’s message of salvation! They are listening, watching, learning–and deciding–during that week.
Can you imagine if we dropped 50 adults on campus for 5 days of Bible study (with snacks and games)? How many minds would be open to hearing something new? I would hope that a few would, but I am guessing that the adults would be more closed off than the children.
“God, give me the kind of wisdom that is open to reason. I want to be teachable so that you can teach me.”
We have an opportunity at our church. We have a lot of kids on our campus during the week for preschool and children who come to church on Sunday. We are hosting a VBS for our community this June. Have you considered getting involved?
Kids are not difficult to understand. Honestly, they are just like adults, but they are still dipped in the freshness of life. They are open and artless, energetic and enthusiastic, and eager for kindness and connection.
How do you connect with them? Be positive, gentle, and kind. Smile. Look them in the eye. Don’t talk down to them. Be interested in what they are interested in (I know so much about Legos now!).
Don’t treat them like they are invisible or less than adults. Jesus never did that.
We can learn a lot from children if we make ourselves available.
Would you like to get involved with our children's ministry or VBS? Contact Marci Strickland.