Caring for children amidst COVID-19 and beyond
August 31, 2020 / By By Deacon Carrie Wolfe, Olean: Christ UMC
Editor's Note: The Summer 2020 issue of the Advocate focused on the theme "Keeping Connected." The following article was featured in that issue. Click here for the full issue.
In Matthew 18:6 (GNT), Jesus says, “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around their neck and be drowned in the deep sea.”
In this scripture, Jesus makes it clear that he feels strongly about his disciples taking good care of children. This is why, now, in the midst of a global pandemic when children need extra care, it may be helpful to pause for a moment and ensure that we are not in jeopardy of being drowned.
I offer you the following Cs of Caring for Children Amidst Covid-19…and they are good practices to continue when life returns to “normal.”
Church, the Little Church to be exact, is a term borrowed from the Orthodox tradition where families are encouraged to make their homes little churches that create a reciprocity with the parish church where the responsibility and blessing of Christ formation in children finds cooperation and mutuality. In a time where we are unable to worship corporately, it is a wonderful time for families and churches to invest, together, in building Little Churches (see Joshua 24:15).
Code, as in code of conduct for scary times, is borrowed from Mr. Rogers whose favorite number was 143 (I = 1 letter, LOVE = 4 letters, and YOU = 3 letters). God’s Word teaches us that “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Children need to hear God’s, their famiy’s, and their church’s “I Love You” more than they hear about scary things.
Cozy is a favorite childlike word because when we are feeling cozy, we are usually most deeply feeling God’s Love. It may have something to do with 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5’s promise that God is the God of all comfort. Children need comfort right now; they need to feel cozy. So double up on whatever comforts your family/church family, remembering that the Corinthians were told of God’s comfort in troubling times for their own sakes AND because they would, in turn, be called on to comfort others.
According to Romans 5:3-5, character is a product God’s love produces in us when, with God’s help, we persevere through suffering (like COVID-19) AND character is what God’s love uses to produce hope in our lives. In a way, character is the hinge between darkness and light and is therefore essential for families and churches to teach with words and probably more importantly, through example.
The Book of Genesis reveals to us that God is creative or imaginative. God creates and God decided to make humankind in their image so we are created to be creative. Also, in Genesis, we realize that time is linked to creativity and Covid-19 has given us time. Not more time than we had before the pandemic but a different kind of time. A time seemingly riper for the mystery of transformation which requires families and churches to purposefully and diligently help children identify and exercise the creative Godprint left on them.
Finally, let’s not forget to celebrate! Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, “there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” The beauty of this passage is that it invites us to celebrate not only the times it feels natural to celebrate but it calls us to celebrate the dignity offered us by our gentle and good God who acknowledges our complexity of experiences and responses to those experiences. Children do not need to laugh and dance all the time. It is good for them to sometimes weep and mourn, especially when their families and churches have taught them that God is with them in the weeping and mourning as much as God is with them in the laughing and dancing.
In the end, I pray that those who serve children have, themselves, built a Little Church; I pray they are assured of how loved they are; I pray they are comforted and cozy; I pray their character is producing hope; I pray they have located the creative Godprint left on them; and I pray they are able to celebrate the full range of all they have been feeling throughout this pandemic. I pray these prayers because I know from experience that we who are called to serve children cannot give them what we do not have (they identify a counterfeit almost immediately). So, go deep my friends; our children are thirsty.