The other day, my kids broke a glass in the living room. We immediately sprang into action, protecting bare feet, sweeping up broken pieces, vacuuming up the tiny shards, and mopping up the ones we couldn’t see. To the best of our ability, we cleaned up the mess.
The next morning, I woke up early and did a workout. It went fine, except the push-ups because, well, they never go fine. But throughout the day, I kept feeling an irritation on my leg. Couldn’t see anything but kept scratching it and wondering what bug had bitten me when. By evening, the area was starting to swell and I was legitimately curious about what was going on. I got it into some good light and then, I saw it…the tiniest little shard of glass had embedded itself in my leg. Apparently we had missed one the night before and it found a new home when I was working out the next morning.
The tiniest little overlooked thing made an impact on my entire day.
Sometimes, our tiniest little overlooked words do the same thing.
Children are amazing sponges. They soak up and take in the world around them until they are full. And when Mom or Dad say something, it finds a home. Our words hold incredible power in shaping their day. Just like that tiny shard of glass stuck with me all day, irritating and aggravating, so can our careless words spoken in broken moments in their spirit.
But…imagine the power of your words of truth, words that lift up and encourage, words that draw them closer to God and call out His gifts and talents in their lives. Those are the kinds of words that can shape our children from the inside out, drawing them into relationship not only with us but with Christ as they grow in maturity and faith.
But.. let’s take it even further. Let’s take these powerful words into our faith community. Imagine the power that is held when children go to church and have faithful men and women who know their name, speak words of life and truth into their lives. Sadly, in many churches, this tiniest little thing is indeed overlooked. When children have limited or no contact with the larger congregation, these moments of “truth speaking” don’t even have a platform on which to happen. When adults and children are separated from one another and segregated into separate areas of the building, seeing one another only briefly in the hallway, the spoken word has little room to heard but the unspoken message of unimportance, unwanted, and unnecessary can ring loud and clear.
Fuller Youth Institute spoke to young adults as they were graduating and heading to college about their church experience. One thing they found was that the youth often felt unsupported by the adults in their church
As a research team, we weren’t all that surprised that, of five major sources of support (adults in the congregation, parents, youth workers, friends in youth group and friends outside youth group), high school seniors ranked adults in the congregation last.
What did surprise us was how far behind they were the other four groups. One graduate reported that his church “would talk about having students involved, but they never really did.” Another reflected that church members “wanted nothing to do with us… I think they see us as kind of scary in that we’re the people on the news, you know, who are dealing drugs and getting pregnant and all those sort of things…keeping us separate and treating us like we were a hazard.”
The tiniest little overlooked thing – the missing words of life and truth – can indeed impact a lifetime.
But.. what happens when these powerful words are not missing, not overlooked?
More than any single program or event, kids were far more likely to feel like a significant part of their local churches when adults made the effort to get to know them. One student beamed as he said, “We were welcomed not just in youth group; we were welcomed into other parts of the ministry of the church: the worship team on Sunday mornings, teaching Sunday school to kids and helping with cleaning and serving. All these other types of things really just brought the youth in and made them feel like they had a place and even feel like they were valued as individuals.”
Such a small thing really – speaking words of truth and welcome. Knowing names. Seeing gifts. Speaking life. But these tiny things, often overlooked things, smallest seemingly insignificant moments can create a lifetime of “stickiness” to faith, to God, to church, to family.
It will take intentionality on our parts to make sure we don’t overlook the small things. But when we are intentional. When those small things find a place to implant and to grow, those small things become big things, and those seemingly insignificant moments become solid foundations for lives and faith to grow.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” Zech. 4:10
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com