Kids are drawn to first responders. They see police officers, EMTs, firefighters, doctors, and even soldiers, as heroes. Many view teachers, coaches, pastors, and Sunday school teachers the same way. Parents, however imperfect, land in this category as well. This was true for my friends and me as children. I’ve seen it in my own sons and their friends, and I’m sure it’s been your experience as well. Why? There’s something special about how first responders pay particular attention to children. They’re not just tasked with or trained to notice kids; it’s in their core. First responders believe children matter deeply and will do whatever it takes to keep them safe and healthy in every way.
The Key to Helping Kids in Crisis
Children’s ministry leaders are well aware that kids are in crisis worldwide. Awana CEO Valerie Bell reminded her global staff about this recently. She emphasized how kids all over the world, in wealthy and poor communities alike, face hardships starting at home. They wonder where dad is and when mom will return from work. They struggle to make sense of life while adults run around trying to keep up with the Joneses or simply make ends meet. Valerie essentially highlighted how children of all ages are physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually impoverished. While many are subject to a spectrum of malnourishment and abuses, others are catered to in superficial and unfulfilling ways. The crisis in children’s lives is real; and, life-changing solutions are desperately needed.
Despite the daunting statistics, troublesome realities, and overwhelming challenges, a ray of hope keeps shining through. Kids in crisis can experience a better today and brighter future. Valerie, noting the one area where experts agree, said: ”The mitigating factor in the lives of children is the presence of a caring adult.” In other words, a child’s trajectory changes when someone with the heart of a first responder intervenes. And, when he or she is empowered by the Gospel and God’s love, a kid’s life can be transformed now and for all eternity!
“The mitigating factor in the lives of children is the presence of a caring adult.” – Valerie Bell, Awana CEO
Kid-influencers are called, equipped, and sent by God as first responders in children’s lives. They don’t just attend to spiritual needs, they’re at-the-ready and fully present to care for physical, emotional, and relational needs as well. Your children’s ministry can’t thrive without people who advocate for and actively engage in reaching and rescuing kids. Fill your children’s ministry with first responders and watch how kids’ lives change.
How Do You Find Kid-Influencers with the Heart of a First Responder?
Consider your current roster of children’s ministry leaders. What’s your ratio of helping hands to first responders? This isn’t a question about how many public servants volunteer on your team. It’s about how many are “here to help out” versus those who have the “heart of a first responder” toward kids. The kids in your community need the presence and care of Christ-centered kid-influencers. Here are five questions that will help you find first responders who will know, love, and serve them in the way of Jesus.
1. Who sparkles around kids?
Be on the lookout for people who sparkle when children are around. Who smiles, waves, or cheers whenever a crosses their path? Who asks to sit at the kids’ table at holiday meals? There are people in your church and community whose eyes glimmer in response to children. This could be your first clue that he or she has the heart of a first responder.
2. Who has a heavy heart for highs and lows?
Follow up with people who’s hearts respond to the highs and lows kids face in the world. Who loves cheering at children’s sporting events or celebrating their achievements? Who pays close attention or tears up when you share statistics of kids in crisis? Who Tweets or talks about news stories involving children and families? Take time to meet with people who care deeply about what kids care about.
3. Who catches vision and connects quickly?
Whenever you find someone who fits questions 1 & 2, invite him or her to a vision visits in your ministry. Let them experience your children’s ministry mission in action. Give them a taste of what your team and time together with kids is like. Then, take note of quick relational connections. That is, who resonates with the leaders and children right away? First responders can’t help but engage, even if they’re only invited to observe.
4. Who can’t stay away because God stirred up their spirit?
Pray and wait for people who’s spirits are stirred by what your ministry with children is all about. Who can’t wait to call you to sign up? You might have someone with the heart of a first responder on the line; then again, maybe not. Whatever you do, don’t rush it. Take your time in selecting kid-influencers who are godly first responders. Resist the temptation to follow up too quickly or come across too eager. God will send you the right person at the right time.
5. Who takes Jesus’ call to care for children seriously and spreads the word?
Ask around for examples of people who actively know, love, and serve kids in the way of Jesus. Spend time soaking in Matthew 18-19 on your own and as a children’s ministry. Christ was crystal clear about how valuable kids are in His Father’s eyes. Who is living this out in your church and community? You’ll find that first responders multiply ministry with kids along with the Bible’s message behind it.
Choose Those Who Know the One That’s Responsible for Reaching and Rescuing
Helpful hands are simply that—they’re helpful in a pinch. Too often, people offer to help as a way to ease their conscience or be the momentary hero. What your children’s ministry really is looking for are kid-influencers who know, love, and serve Christ first. They’re devoted to reaching kids, but they always rely on Christ to rescue them. Once this firm discipleship foundation is in place, it becomes the springboard that launches people out as first responders in God’s family. Find and multiply disciple makers who respond to Christ by knowing, loving, and serving kids on His behalf. Invest in the ones who are willing to do anything to reach kids in any crisis and give God the glory for rescuing them.