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Christchurch Shootings—Ministering to Children and Families

Hi Children & Families Leaders and Pastors,
I have been asked for some ideas on ways to minister with children and their families tomorrow in light of the tragedy in Christchurch. I am no expert in this field, but I have asked colleagues and others for thoughts and ideas, and these are shared below. There are links to articles plus a great prayer resource. I have also included some ideas on what you could do at church tomorrow, or even next Sunday.

Links and Advice: 

How to talk to children about terrorism - from The Conversation

How to talk to your kids about trauma - from The Parenting Place

Some advice for parents from Brainwave Trust expert, Nathan Wallis. From his FB page:

  • 1. Turn off TV and media - it will reinforce the trauma.

  • 2. Show you are concerned like them, but still feel safe now. If you feel safe, they are likely too

  • 3. Express confidence in how quickly the police responded and their ability to protect us.

  • 4. Be especially aware of how your “tween” is responding. Eleven is a very vulnerable age for loss and grief and our eleven yr olds have already been traumatised by the quakes

  • 5. Give them a sense of agency by telling them that people are wearing red to show their support of Muslim people and Christchurch people in general. The red stands for a united Canterbury and also signals love. A simple gesture like this can move them into action mode and help to relieve the victimisation feelings linked to trauma.

  • Pamper them, cuddle them, support them. If they are responding particularly badly - take them to a safe place out of Christchurch if you can - the sooner the trauma stops for them the better they will recover.

Here is a great prayer resource from Strandz

A song of peace – David LaMotte – This is My Song

Sunday Thoughts:

It is important to make sure that both children and families feel safe as they arrive at church. To achieve that you might like to:

  1. Enable families to stay together, either in the main service or in the Children Ministries. This may mean that you do things a little differently to cater to this wider audience – especially in the main service.

  2. Email families to let them know what the church service will be like tomorrow. This will let them know ahead of time what they and their children will be doing and what their options are. 

During the Children's Ministry programme:

  1. Keep as much structure as possible. Children cope better when they know what is happening, so use as much of your normal routine as you can.

  2. Older children will want to talk, whereas younger ones may be more unaware. Make sure that you cater for both, so be careful what you say to the whole group but allow talking space for older children who may need it. This may be in a separate room with competent leaders or it may be in a corner of your main space.

  3. Acknowledge what has happened, but ensure that children understand that this is not normal in NZ and it is not what God wants from us. Make the focus on loving others and talking about ways that we can do this. Giving kids a sense of agency, as Nathan talks about above is really important. Help them find ways that they can show love to others, no matter who they are. You might like to give the children, and any families who stay, the opportunity to do something together that they can give to others eg. make cards, ice or make biscuits, make posters that can go up around your town etc. Older children might even be able to do something in the digital space. 

  4. Make sure that prayer is a big focus – for each other, for the victims, for the nation and also for the shooter/s. Remind them that our God is a God of forgiveness. There is a link above to a great prayer resource on the Strandz website.

  5. The National Anthem is sung in schools and will be familiar to children. Maybe you could sing the anthem, then talk about the words that are included and how they speak into this tragedy – and also how they help us respond going forward.

  6. At times like this we all need things that bring us comfort, so why not include that concept and make hot chocolate together!

  7. You might also like to include something that children can make or take home that reminds them that God is always with us – one church in Christchurch are using rocks on which they can write God’s promises. 

Please let me know if you have other helpful resources or ideas that we can share with the churches.

Let’s pray that this will pull us together as a nation and bring even great unity. My prayers are with you all as you respond to children and their families tomorrow.

Kia kaha,
Karen Warner
Children & Family Ministries National Team Leader

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