Fostering Friendships

I remember as a child being painfully shy. I wanted to make friends, but I wasn’t sure how and I wasn’t sure anyone would like me. I remember my mom, who has always been a friendly person, saying, “Just be friendly. Ask what their name is and tell them your name.” It made sense, yet for some reason I just couldn’t do it. I did take some of her advice though and I did try to join in games or activities that others were doing. Still to talk to someone I didn’t know was very hard, so most of the time I just listened. Now listening isn’t a bad skill, still, just how do those of us on the shyer side learn to make friends? I am happy to say, I’e come a long ways since those shy days. I don’t consider myself shy any more. I am really more outgoing and I’m loving it. How did I get there and how can we help our kids make friends?

I prayed about it. My best friend Jesus heard a small girl’s prayers and little by little, He answered. He nudged me out of my comfort zone to introduce myself to others and to be the first one to say my name. I still mostly listen during conversations, but I find that people love to talk to someone who listens to them and who tries to understand how they feel. I also learned to smile and ask questions. When you give someone a genuine smile, they usually smile back and when you ask about their day or wish them a good day, it lets them know that you care. As I listen, I try to really listen and remember what someone has told me. When we listen only with the intent of thinking of what we are going to say, we often miss what the other person is really talking about, but when we listen to understand and then respond with genuine interest, we’ve gained a friend.

I also learned that most people are not trying to judge you. Yes, I suppose we all make snap judgements at times. I know I’ve met someone and thought, “Oh they must be a teacher.” because of something they said only to find out that they worked in a doctor’s office or I’ve thought that someone was rich because they dressed very nicely and later found out that they weren’t any richer than I was, but they knew how to shop the sales. Still most people aren’t automatically trying to judge you as a person or judge what you say unless you are responding in an unkind manner. Most people are happy to smile back at you and are glad that there are some friendly people in the world.

If you are in a group where you don’t know anyone and feel kind of alone, you can be sure that there is at least one other person feeling the same way. So just introduce yourself. Ask their name and then ask where they are from, where they grew up, what their job is or even about the weather. Just introduce yourself! You might make their day.(Did you know that you can find lists of “getting-to-know-you” questions on line if you need something to get you started?)

Ok, so I’m still not the life of the party and I sometimes wonder if I will ever have a friendship quite like David had with his friend Jonathan, but I’m happy to say, I have friends – lots of friends and I am definitely not shy!!! In fact, I belong to a Toastmaster’s group and I actually enjoy public speaking. I didn’t get there overnight, but little by little, with God’s help, I faced my fears. I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and I realized that there were a lot of other people, just like me who were little apprehensive about introducing themselves. I’m still growing in my quest to be braver and more outgoing. My next goal is to get enough courage to share my ideas in group meetings even if I’m afraid that everyone is smarter and has better ideas than I do, even if I come across as ridiculous. The only ridiculous idea or question is the one not asked or shared.

How can we ever hope to have a friend like David had in Jonathan? Perhaps the best answer is to genuinely love and care about others. When we can get our eyes off of ourselves and our fears, focusing on the other person instead, then we can be a friend. The best way to make friends is to simply be a friend to someone else.

PRAYER: Father God,
Thank you for being my friend and thank you for sending Jesus to the world. He lived among us and experienced what we experience. He knew loneliness, pain, hunger and thirst. He endured ridicule, misunderstanding and rejection. he also experienced love and companionship and through it all, He loved and served. He healed and helped. He lived selflessly and He called us to follow Him. He died so that we might live in relationship with our Father God. Thank you Jesus, for being my friend. Help me, Lord, to let go of my selfish fears and be a friend to others. I know that I can be a friend because you are my friend and you are always with me. Amen

SHARE A STORY: Good Friends – David & Jonathan – 1 Samuel 20:12-42
David and Jonathan were very good friends. They loved each other. (Give self a hug.) But Jonathan’s dad was the king and he didn’t like David. (Make sad, mean face.) He was jealous and wanted to hurt David. Jonathan promised David that he would find out if his dad really was mad, (Show mad face.) then he would let David know so that he could go away where it was safe.

Jonathan talked to his dad and King Saul was still very angry. He thought people liked David better than him. Jonathan was sad because his dad was mad. (Show sad face.) But He had promised to let David know and good friends keep their promises. Good friends help each other.

Jonathan went out to the field where David was hiding. He shot some arrows to let David know that his dad was still mad and that David needed to get away. Afterwards Jonathan sent the boy who was with him back to town so he could see his friend, David, one last time. David came out from where he was hiding to say good bye to his friend. They cried together, (Say, “Boo hoo!”) and they promised to be friends forever. (Say and clap, “Friends forever.”) They promised to be kind to each other.

David and Jonathan were very good friends.They loved God (Point up.) and they loved each other. (Give self a hug.)You can be a good friend too. Ask God to help you be a good friend and show kindness just like Jonathan did. Do you know who wants to be your good friend? Jesus! He really loves you. You can be a good friend to others because Jesus lis a good, good friend to you.

Dear God,
Thank you for my friends. Help me to be a good friend and be kind to others.
Help me remember to share. Thank you God for being my friend too. I love you! Amen

MEMORIZE: Proverbs 17:17 – (Hold hands open as though holding a book.)
A friend – (Hook pointer fingers together.)
Loves – (Give self a hug.)
At all – (Throw hands out to sides.)
Times – (Point to clock.)

VERSE SONG: (To the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)
A friend loves at all times,
All times, all times.
A friend loves at all times,
And Jesus is a friend of mine.
(2nd time through replace last line with Proverbs 17:17)

With young children, getting together with other families with young children is a good start. Young children begin to understand friendship as they simply play alongside one another. Playing with your child as he/she plays alongside others helps too – as well as having toys that can be shared – 2 trucks, 2 dolls, blocks, etc.

  • Teach your preschooler what to say when meeting someone new. “Hi! My name is …. What’s your name?”
  • Invite someone over to play one on one. with your child. It’s a little less intimidating one on one than in a whole group..

  • Introduce kids to each other. Have some of the friendlier, less shy kids be greeters to welcome other kids. Assign someone to be a new child’s special buddy the first day in class.
  • Play a name game in circle time by clapping different names or singing the names around the circle.
  • Include activities where more than one child is included – art activities done as a group or building together, doing a puzzle together, etc.
  • Model and role play how to introduce yourself and some get-to-know you types of questions.
  • With older kids, encourage friendships amongst kids who have like interests, but also amongst kids who are different.
  • Celebrate each child’s uniqueness.

Big Jobs – Nehemiah 1

PHOTO CAPTION: Setting up a lemonade stand is hard work!

We all encounter jobs that seem a little too big for us sometimes. Maybe it’s a new job that we are starting and we feel a little overwhelmed learning the ropes; maybe it’s something that we’ve been putting off doing around the house and the task keeps growing until it is bigger than we think we can handle or maybe it’s just that we’re having one of those days where we would rather be doing anything but what we are currently doing, no matter what the reason, BIG jobs can loom over us, sapping our energy and zest for life.

Often facing that BIG job is simply a matter of rolling up our sleeves and getting busy. Half the battle is just getting started. Hmmm – seems like I used to say that to my kids with their homework! But what about those jobs when we don’t know the outcome and we really don’t know what to do? What about those situations that literally are humanly impossible? What happens when God asks us to move mountains or at least it seems that way?

Nehemiah was faced with a situation like that. It came to his attention that the wall in Jerusalem was in disrepair and that the people there were struggling. He was deeply troubled by this news. He wanted to help and yet what could he, one man, do? He had several things against him. He didn’t live anywhere close to Jerusalem, repairing the wall would take resources and time that he didn’t have and he was a servant, albeit he was a well-respected servant of the king. Servants didn’t often get a lot of say about what they wanted to do. So what was he to do? How could he respond?

He could have simply prayed, “Lord send someone else to help because you know that I can’t!” He could have decided that the job was too BIG and that he just wasn’t the right person to help. He could have, but he didn’t. He spent days crying out to God, praying, interceding and asking for help. He confessed his sins and Israel’s sins. He asked for forgiveness and he asked that God would give him favor with the king. He didn’t give up.

I wonder how many BIG jobs I’ve given up on? How many times have I decided that the task is not for me without even taking the time to pray about it? Have I stopped short of moving a mountain or building a wall because I’ve given up? What about you? Yes, there are some things that feel overwhelming. Maybe like me, you feel too old, too inexperienced, too out of the loop to really make a difference, but that’s not God’s assessment. When God asks us to do something, the least we can do is to pray about it. Remember, God isn’t asking us to move the mountain or build the wall in our own strength. He’s asking us to be willing to go where He wants us to go and do what He wants us to do. He’s simply asking us to be the catalyst through which he can work.

Do you have a BIG job facing you? Get down on your knees and then roll up your sleeves! God is ready to move that mountain and build that wall. He’s only looking for that person who will say, “Yes!” to Him.

Father God,
I see so many jobs that need to be done for your kingdom and yes, I do at times get overwhelmed! The task is large. I am only one person and I’m well over 50, maybe I’m too old to do the job. Maybe I’m not relevant any more. Yet Lord, as you give me strength and purpose I will continue to do what you ask me to do. Show me the jobs you want me to do whether that job is as simple as picking up a piece of litter on the ground or as way out of my comfort zone such as writing that book or inviting someone from a completely different culture to church. Lord, give parents favor as they build “walls of protection” for their children. Give us all favor as we share the good news of who you are with our communities. Replace our fears with your love so that we may walk boldly. Teach me, teach us, Lord, to say, “Yes!” to the BIG jobs that you have placed before us one day, one minute at a time. Amen

* Whenever you can, let your child choose the job he/she is going to do.

* Break the job down into smaller pieces. “Pick up your Legos©, then I will help you make your bed.”

* Think of the obstacles and what you can do to overcome or get around them.

* Write down what the goal is in doing this BIG job – especially if it’s something that will take more than one day.

* Especially with young children, work together with them and praise them when they do a good job or actually with very young children, praise every attempt to be helpful.

* Track progress and celebrate!

* What Big or overwhelming jobs are you facing?

* Approach those jobs with prayer.

* Ask for help. If you, like Nehemiah, are afraid to ask for help, then ask God for opportunities and the courage to ask. Who knows, the person that you are asking may answer with a resounding, “Yes!’

* This is getting into next week’s story, but assess the situation and find out what is needed. Break the job down into smaller pieces.

SHARE A STORY: Nehemiah Prays – Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah lived in Susa and served the king there. He was far away from his home town, Jerusalem. One day some men from Jerusalem came to Susa. Nehemiah was happy to see them. He asked about the people who were still living in Jerusalem. He wanted to know how the people in his home town were doing.

The men said, “The people in Jerusalem are having lots and lots of problems because the city is broken down.”When Nehemiah heard this, he was very sad. He knew it would be a BIG job to fix the wall and without the wall, the people were in danger. He knew that the people would need help to fix the wall. He cried and prayed to God.

How could he help them when he lived so far away? He asked God to help him when he went to serve the king. He wanted to ask the king for help. He prayed that the king would be kind and give him what he asked for. Nehemiah prayed for a long time. He trusted God to help him know what to say and do.

When you have a BIG job to do, you can ask God to help you too. He will help you know what to say and do to help others. He will help you do the BIG jobs that come your way. He will give you the strength to do whatever He asks you to do.

MEMORIZE: Col. 3:23 NIrV (Hold hands though holding a book.)
Work at – (Pound fists together.)
Everything you do –   (Fan hands out to the sides.)
With all your heart –  (Place hands on heart.)

Dear God,
Thank you for making me so that I can do good things and help others. When I have a BIG job to do, help me to do it with all my heart just like as if I was helping you, God. Instead of complaining or feeling scared when I have a BIG job to do, help me to remember that you will help me. Amen

KNOW: Nehemiah prayed when he had a big job to do.
TALK ABOUT: Praying and helping.
ASK: Who made you? God made me for a reason.
AND DO: I can ask God to help me when I have a big job to do.

* Find little jobs your preschooler can help with around the house.

* If your child is struggling to learn something new, pray together asking God to help him/her with the task.* How can we help others? Ask God to show you how you can help someone and then help them together.