I love kids.
No, this isn’t a disclaimer, nor does it follow with a ‘But…’. I genuinely love kids.
Every Monday afternoon at the Pelaw View Centre, I and a few others run the Achor Kids Group for children and young people on the Sherburn Road estate. They’re such a great bunch.
We often begin with biscuits, drinks and board games (Dobble’s a particular favourite). Then we play some group games (e.g. musical chairs, keys). Sometimes we share a Bible story or talk about Jesus (skits are always keenly participatory and fun). Then we do crafts (e.g. making cards, writing letters) or play even more games (I’m a master at hide and seek, ask the kids).
At least that’s the plan.
More often than not, I find myself fending off the hungry horde asking if they can have more biscuits. More often than not, I find myself keeping an eye out for the kids who are more susceptible to being bullied, placating warring parties.
I have to enforce the rules and discipline those who break them, finding myself constantly discerning in the moment as to the best way: to try and reason with them, or to raise my voice? How many warnings should I give? How strict should I be; how merciful should I be?
It’s in these situations when I’m challenged to embody the Father’s heart to a greater degree. There’s a place for being firm and discipline, but if that’s done from a place of anger instead of love, it’s useless. It’s meaningless. I’d have missed the point of opening up this safe space where they can discover who they are in Christ, who they’ve been created to be.
How do I love them like God our Father loves them…loves us?
Maybe you get the impression that I’m painting a bad picture; that’s not my intention at all. The majority of kids who come are well-behaved and respectful. We often laugh, at times cry, and share how our lives are going, both the good and the bad.
And there’s the flipside: how proud I am when they demonstrate growth and maturity. Whether that’s a girl exercising leadership by organising and leading us in a game. Whether that’s a boy who played a prank on another sincerely apologising, leading to reconciliation.
I’ve no doubt that’s how our heavenly Father views us: with utmost love and utmost pride. Yes, there are times when we run around, refusing to listen to Him, but He’s always gentle and tender. Spending quality time with these kids every Monday has given me a greater revelation of our Father’s heart for us all.