Are you prepared when God, by His gracious and wise providence, brings a child from a non-Christian home into your classroom? How can you best minister to this child? What are some challenges that you may encounter?
The first thing that should come to mind in this situation is thankfulness to God. He has brought an eternal soul into your midst to hear the life-giving news of the one and only Savior! This is an opportunity of eternal consequence. Your words, demeanor, and actions can serve as a beautiful demonstration of the gospel to this child. At the same time, you may need to deal with issues that arise from a child who is not being spiritually nurtured in the home, requiring a greater investment of your time and attention. For example, while all the other children may be quick to find an assigned passage of Scripture during the lesson, this child may have never even opened a Bible and be completely unequipped to find even Genesis 1:1.
The following are some suggestions to maximize the potential for spiritual impact on these students:
- Understand that children from both Christian and non-Christian homes have the same basic spiritual need: They are sinners in need of a Savior. Do not assume that a child from a difficult home situation has a heart that is any more desperate than a pastor’s child. Both children need to hear and respond to the same biblical truths.
- Whenever possible, introduce yourself to the parents in person or via phone, letter, or e-mail. Try to connect with the parents on a regular basis, even if it is by simply writing a short note for the child to take home after each lesson. Additionally, asking the parents, “How can I pray for your child this week?” may provide a nonthreatening means of initiating a beneficial relationship with the parents.
- As a leadership team, commit yourselves to weekly prayer for this child and his parents.
- Provide the child with any resources that he may need, especially his own Bible.
- Have an adult leader sit next to the child during the lesson to help look up Bible passages, if that is needed.
- A child may be greatly helped by providing him with a good, doctrinally sound resource to make him familiar with the overarching narrative of Scripture, namely, the gospel. For example, The World Created, Fallen, Redeemed, and Restored—The Gospel Plan of God, or God’s Gospel. If at all possible, have one of these or another gospel-based resource available to give to the child before he leaves the classroom so that, even if it was a one-time visit, he will have the message of the gospel to take home.
- If possible, seek out a mentor family from your church to provide the child with spiritual nurture beyond the classroom. Be sure to do this with sensitivity and with permission from the child’s own parents.
- Create a welcoming atmosphere in your classroom. Be careful not to make the child feel odd or excluded because his parents are not Christians. For example, try to avoid statements that assume parental belief such as, “Your parents read the Bible to you and pray with you. Your parents follow Jesus.” Rather, try to use language that takes into account that, although this is God’s desire for all parents, this is not necessarily the experience of every child.
- If you encounter any problems in communicating with the parents or interacting with the child, seek counsel from your children’s ministry leadership and/or a pastor or elder.
To help your volunteers be better prepared, here are two concise resources you can print for them: