March 29, 2013

How Do You Minister to a Child Whose Father Has Abandoned the Family?

One of these partners has been with an American Pastor, Brian Croft, from Kentucky who is also the founder of Practical Shepherding Ministries. As regular readers and subscribers are aware, this is a blog largely aimed at men and women currently working in, or hoping to work in, areas of urban deprivation in the UK.

I am also aware that about 40% of my monthly traffic is from friends overseas. One of the reasons for the growth of this blog and the renewal of interest in revitalisation and church planting in Scotland’s housing schemes, is the many partners we have been forming both here and overseas. I am hoping to get them to contribute posts over the coming months and years.

Practical Shepherding is a gospel-driven resource center for pastors and church leaders to equip them in the practical matters of pastoral ministry.

Brian produces some wonderfully practical blog posts on pastoral issues that concern all of us who want to get involved in church ministry. He is also a board member for 20schemes and so today’s article is one of his. Please take the time to visit his blog and familiarise yourself with this helpful resource.

How do you minister to a child whose father has abandoned the family?

Last week, I was summoned by a 6-year-old little girl in my church. I have a good relationship with her and she wanted to talk to the pastor, so I agreed. Her mom brought her by our house one evening to talk. She had some questions about why her daddy had left her and her mommy and was no longer living with them. Much like the situation I faced last year in my discussions with the 5-year-old girl who lost her daddy in a car crash, there is no playbook or minister’s guide when a hurting 6-year-old girl wants to talk and wants some answers. Here is what I told her:

What her daddy is doing is wrong. We can be tempted to sugar coat painful issues with children, but I was in no position to spare her pain. She was already experiencing plenty. What she needed was truth. Truth understood at a 6-year-old level, but nonetheless . . . truth. I affirmed what she already knew: the fact that her daddy simply deciding he does not want to be married to her mom anymore, and left as a result, is wrong. It is against what Scripture teaches. It is sinful and God is not pleased. Realize you are speaking to a child, so keep that in mind, but do not shy away from speaking truth to her. If she comes to the pastor to ask thoughtful questions, we at least owe her brave little soul that.

God teaches us important lessons when we suffer. A very thoughtful question that came from her mouth was, “Why is God allowing my daddy to leave? If God is good to us, then why would he allow this?” Yes . . . only 6 years old. I can’t tell her that her daddy will come home and everything will be alright. I do not know. What I did say is she needed to know a common way God is at work in the lives of all Christians, regardless of our age. God teaches us some amazing lessons when we suffer. We may not see them now, but we will see them clearer when some time has passed. I believe this smart little girl, as well as other children, can begin to understand this merciful quality about our sovereign God.

Jesus will always be there for you. I am uncertain if her daddy will come home, but I am certain that if this little girl trusts in Jesus Christ, Jesus will never forsake her or her mom. Whether 6 years old or 60 years old, we must always turn the eyes of others off the struggle and urge them to fix their eyes upon Christ (Heb. 12:2). I reminded her that even though those she loves in her life will let her down, Jesus will never forsake her. I shared the gospel with her and allowed this to be a key time for her to see her need for Christ both for forgiveness of sin as well as to have a King and Father who will always be with her.

It is hard to know the fruit from this conversation. Yet, can you imagine the work God could choose to do in this little girl’s heart if she believes these truths about God and how he works his grace in our lives as her world crumbles around her.

Speak truth. Remind children of the character of God and that he is faithful even in suffering. Remind them of their need for Christ. Do not be amazed years later if you look back on this painful moment as a turning point in that child’s faith, as they grasped the truth of God’s Word because of a heightened desire for answers that provide hope.

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and is the Founder and Ministry Development Director of Practical Shepherding, Inc. He is the husband of Cara and father of four children, son, Samuel and daughters, Abby, Isabelle, and Claire. He has served in pastoral ministry for over seventeen years and is currently in his tenth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. Brian has written several books to help serve pastors and church leaders on the practicalities of pastoral ministry. Topics which include caring for the sick, training and identifying leaders, conducting funerals, dealing with issues of sin, and prioritizing the pastor’s family. Brian’s next book, The Pastor’s Family, was co-written with his wife Cara and will be released by Zondervan in August 2013. 

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