Prayer is an essential element in inclusive children’s and youth work… seems an obvious thing to say doesn’t it? Yet it still surprises me how many times we overlook including God in what we are doing…
Take the ‘phone call I received once as an example of this… In the role that I have, I tend to be the person that children’s and youth leaders get put through to in our office if they have any questions or queries about working with children with additional needs. One call got put through to me that I will never forget!
“I’ve got this lad in my group, he’s got ADHD and is a complete nightmare, what can I do to exclude him?” Quite an opening line, but that’s what I got from the youth worker in question… I took a deep breath, and suggested that he told me what had happened. There was quite a story, but many opportunities had been missed to help and support the lad in question… You can read the full story of what happened and what we did to put things back on-track in my blog on ‘Lessons From Exclusion’ https://theadditionalneedsblogfather.wordpress.com/2017/04/27/lessons-from-exclusion/
There is much more to this story though, as when we had successfully got things back on-track again, I asked the youth leader a question that I had a pretty good idea I already knew the answer to… “What did you pray about at the beginning of your session?” I asked this as a way of challenging the youth leader to think about how prepared he and his team had been spiritually for the session they were just about to run, and I got the answer I had half-expected…
“Oh we didn’t have time to pray! We’d been at work all day, rushed home for something to eat, then down to the hall to get everything set up. Then the parents arrived with the children and we were greeting them and sorting everything out. We simply didn’t have time for anything else…”
It’s easy to see how that happened isn’t it? Busy people, lots to do, very little time available… I’m sure many of us have been there, just about getting everything done in time, constantly glancing at our watches… Servant hearts willing to serve, but not checking in with God to help them understand how to serve… And then it all unravels…
Praying doesn’t guarantee a smooth running children’s or youth session… but it might make the difference between us being able to cope or not. It might make the difference between us feeling that this is all down to us, or recognising that God is bigger than all the difficulties we might encounter… It is so important to pray as we prepare to do God’s work with the children and young people, whether they have additional needs or not… Why would we not include him?
Pray, even if it means the room isn’t laid out how we would like when the children arrive, even if it means the drinks aren’t ready, even if it means we have to open the doors a couple of minutes later! Pray…
- Pray that God would be with us all, preparing us to serve him and the children, and helping us to be Jesus to them.
- Pray that he would have prepared the children and young people for the session, opening their hearts and minds to what we might share together.
- Pray that he would speak through us as we share his word with them, through all we say and do.
- Pray that if there is a special word that we need to give to a particular child, that God will use us in that way.
- Pray that the needs of all the children will be met.
- Pray that God’s peace and protection will cover the building and all within it.
Pray about any or all of these things, and more, but pray… God hears our prayers, God responds to our prayers, God recognises that in praying we are saying to him “this isn’t all about me and what I can do, it’s all about you and what you can do through me”…
Prayer is powerful, prayer works, and prayer connects us to God in ways we can’t even understand… but he does. Whatever else we do as we prepare to lead children’s and youth work next time, let’s all make sure we have time to pray!
27th July 2017
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