I See You

As religious educators and teachers we are asked to do a lot with limited time to create a welcoming and inclusive ministry for all the children who come to our churches. Some religious educators are part time, parent/teachers are busy with the daily activities of caring for families and making a living, and ministers have an entire congregation to care for. We are not a social service agency, so how do we respond to children that need more time and attention than others?

If you have attended one of my workshops, you know that I emphasize cultivating an attitude which looks for the positive in children rather than focusing on the negatives implied by the label. Children are more apt to act in constructive ways when they feel positive, unconditional regard from the adults leading the RE program. Instead what often happens is that teachers expect behavior based on past inappropriate behavior or based on the deficits implied by the label. Therefore it becomes easy to fall into the trap of trying to control the behavior rather than trying to understand why children are behaving the way they do. We do not have to condone the behavior in order to embrace the child. And really it is as simple as that. Conveying to the child, “I see you, not the label, not the difficult behavior, I see you.” All the teaching techniques in the world are ineffective without the attitude of positive, unconditional regard for all the children in your RE program. Changing our minds about the children we perceive as difficult frees us to be more creative and our task becomes easier. We do not have to be a social service agency; we do not have to do it all in one hour Sunday morning and at other church events. All we have to do is affirm the worth and dignity of every child by seeing past the labels to each child’s unique gifts. The rest will follow.

Categories Tips for Inclusion for Churches | Tags: | Posted on January 16, 2009

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