Taking a ‘child’ish approach to living out faith

Taking a ‘child’ish approach to living out faith

Posted: Friday, March 25, 2011 8:02 pm
By: By Glenda Caudle

Next to their blood kin, who in this world loves little children better than anyone else?
If the answer to that question is not the church — the unified body of believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior — then we have missed something vital He tried to show us during His ministry.
In Union City, there is evidence that the message has been received. The list of initiatives by churches; the programs funded, staffed and/or directed by Christians; the day-to-day efforts of believers for the good of little ones, not only within their own congregations but reaching beyond and into homes and communities without a direct tie to any local body of believers, is impressive. It is one of the strengths of our community.
But it is not enough.
The needs of children and their families seems, disconcertingly, always to be a step ahead of what is being offered. In recent years, the gap appears to have been growing.
As humanistic-inspired government policy, morally deficient popular culture and wrong-headed social initiatives impact family structure in ways that prove to be increasingly negative, children pay the greatest price. And the imperative for the church to offer solutions that are both immediate and eternal in their effect becomes clearer each day.
A small group of “church folks” met this week to discuss one aspect of the problem — little ones whose families are missing the mark in preparing them for their upcoming educational experience and instilling in them the ability and desire to become contributing members of society. The problem is bigger than that simple explanation, of course. And the pastors who organized the meeting under the banner of Obion County Ministerial Fellowship recognize that.
They know, as did the “grandparent” generation — the age group represented by all but one of those who attended the open session at Union City Municipal Building courtroom — that the children who are at risk are, most often, children who are being raised by parents who are still children themselves in many cases; parents who often represent second- and third-generation reliance on sources beyond themselves to provide stability and guidance within the home; parents who love their children but, lacking examples from their own upbringing, have no idea how to effectively discipline and guide or instill self-respect and respect for authority figures in their lives; parents whose lives are either in such turmoil or who are so weary from shouldering the burdens of making a living that they have little time and energy left to devote to making a life for their children; parents who are coping without benefit of another parent in the home. Then there is the all-too-frequent example of vigorous, energetic little ones whose upbringing falls, by default, to grandparents and even great-grandparents who no longer have the energy or resources to stay on top of the children’s needs.
They know families in crises are alert to, and scornful of, solutions that are far more “talk” than “action.”
They know it will be a challenge to identify families in need.
They know they may be faced with an even steeper hill to climb when it comes to persuading the heads of those families to take advantage of the opportunity to become better, stronger, more effective parents.
They are committed to beginning the effort, however.
Out of Tuesday night’s meeting, which was attended both by concerned citizens, members of the ministerial fellowship, local leaders in highly effective pre-school programs such as Head Start and Promethean Project and those charged with overseeing the local public education program, some suggestions for immediate action emerged.
• Parents must be engaged with the objective of helping them help themselves.
• Church folks have to be willing to “adopt” children — to become cheerleading “grandmothers” and “grandfathers” — early on by committing to a few hours a week of positive interaction that will stretch beyond the earliest years and, hopefully, follow those little ones as they progress through the school system.
• People of faith have to emphasize and teach the social norms that prepare a child to learn — self-control, respect for self and others, a delight in exploring the world.
• A single congregation in the community must begin by offering not just a free Mother’s Day Out program but a “class” taught at the same time for parents of the children involved in the program. The goal would be to help these family members become more effective fathers and mothers. An organization called “Strengthening Families” was suggested as a source for the parental training.
• Families must be alerted to the advantages offered by programs such as Head Start and given a “nudge” not only to enroll their children but to become involved themselves.
• Churches might pool energy and resources to establish a program that could be known as “My Sister’s Closet” or a similar title to “attract” young mothers to parenting classes by tying the opportunity to learn those essential skills with the chance to receive clothing, diapers and other child-care necessities.
• Parent-training-committed people of faith can reach out to additional volunteers through the University of Tennessee at Martin classes in social work.
• Families have to see ongoing proof that God’s followers care for them and are willing to help.
“Our objective is to reach little ones very early on, give them a jump start and lay a foundation for learning,” says the fellowship’s founder and president Elder Curtis McLendon.
The task is neither simple, short-term or inexpensive in terms of the human capital needed to make it effective.
That’s why faith-filled people are the ones who can tackle it.
To become involved, contact McLendon at 885-9428 or the Rev. A.E. McCadney, fellowship member, at 885-7362.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 3.25.11

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