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.

Peace, Faith & Sharing

Last month I excitedly took on the task of doing a week long Bible teaching with preschoolers at the daycare center that operates through my church. I was excited because I felt God’s leading in doing this and also because I thought if preschoolers begin to understand putting on God’s armor now when they are little, then as they get older and are faced with all the craziness in our world today – the lies of the enemy, stress of who knows what and peer pressure, they will be equipped to fight and stand strong in their faith. If ever there was a time to stand strong in our faith it is now. We are in an unseen battle against a real enemy who would like nothing better than to deceive us and destroy our faith. But our God is much, much greater.

I took on this task with preschoolers knowing it would be a challenge and yes there were a few curve balls thrown my way, but I did feel God’s presence and direction in it. Looking back, I am very glad I took on the challenge, yet what I didn’t fully bank on was how to teach such abstract concepts to preschoolers. How do you explain to a preschooler what peace, faith and sharing Jesus means? How do explain concepts that even adults struggle with?

Believe me, it was with much prayer and reading and studying that I asked God to fill my mind with what He wanted to say and help me say it in simple terms that the kids would understand. In the process, I learned. I learned from what I read, but I also learned from what the kids said. When the week was over, I was amazed at what they remembered. I’m hoping and praying that they never forget. You see God’s Word is easy enough for even a preschooler to understand. Sharing our faith doesn’t have to be hard, it can be simple.

Faith is simply trusting Jesus no matter what. It’s believing that Jesus is who He said He is. It means knowing that He is our good shepherd. He is there to rescue us and indeed, He did rescue us when we wandered away and went astray like the little sheep in my blog last week. I can trust Jesus because He is good, He loves me and He helps me. He wants to be my friend every single day – that’s good news and it’s worth sharing. Preschoolers get that Jesus loves and cares for them and wants to be their friend. That’s the basis for faith; but what about peace? How do you explain peace to a preschooler?

In a tumultuous world with Covid, wars, prejudices, unrest, fires and unhealthy air quality due to the smoke in the air, how do you explain peace even to an adult? Yet God invites us to put on Shoes of Peace, not only for us, but also so the we can walk in peace and take the good news of peace to others. Perhaps peace is best demonstrated rather than explained. When I live at peace with those around me, they will take notice and they will wonder where my peace comes from.

Peace is two-fold. Peace means we have a strong foundation in Christ. We have peace with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus bought peace for us at the cross. It means we can stay calm no matter what or as I told the kids, “No worries, because Jesus is with us.” Peace is not external but internal. When we have on the Shoes of Peace, we can stand strong without slipping and falling because we know to whom we belong. We know that no matter what is going on around us, God is in control and He loves us.

I remember when my daughter was about 3 years old, we went on a camping trip. We had a tent, but it was not big enough for our whole family so my husband was going to sleep in our van. My daughter didn’t like that idea of ‘daddy’ sleeping in the van rather than in the tent with us. She wasn’t very peaceful about it. She cried and said she was scared. She had a lot more peace, when we let her be with her daddy. She knew her father loved and cared for her. She knew that he was big enough – at least in her eyes – to take care of her and protect her. When she was allowed to sleep in the van with dad, all of us were more at peace because she went right to sleep. Peace then, means, “No worries because we know our Father God is in control. He is with us.”

But peace also means that we share that peace, that good news with others. Ask yourself, “Who can I share God’s peace with this week?” Can you share with a harried mom of 4 young children? How about the stressed clerk in the grocery store or depressed friend who is going crazy with all the restrictions due to Covid or the teacher who is now having to teach her students remotely? Let’s share some peace because there are plenty of opportunities to share.

What is peace and faith? What does it mean to you? I like to make sure I can define what I am sharing before I try to share it. But don’t let that completely stop you from sharing. If you don’t know, share what you do know. You might spark a lively conversation and you might even learn something from someone else that helps grow your peace and faith.

* Kid’s definition of peace – No fighting, calm, no worries. I like to say, “I’m not worried or afraid because I know Jesus is with me.”

* Kid’s definitions of faith – Believing or trusting that God loves and cares for me. It’s believing that God is who He says He is and that Jesus is God’s Son.

Peace, faith and sharing – it all comes from the Father, our father God. Do you need a little more of these things in your life right now? Then ask Him. He’s a good Father. He loves you more than you can imagine and He wants to give you good gifts. He is a lavish giver and good, good friend.

Father God,
When I was teaching about your armor to preschoolers, it seemed like they accepted it so readily. Though I’m sure they didn’t fully understand the concepts what they did understand, they took to heart. They believed and were ready to receive your friendship and your love. Sometimes, God, I struggle with finding peace and faith in the midst of all that I see in my world. I get worried and afraid. I wonder, “Is my faith strong enough to survive?” But then I remember, it’s not reliance on my faith that is important, but rather reliance on you, God. It’s reliance on a God that loves me so much that He was willing to send His Son, Jesus, to the cross for me. It’s because of your great love, I have faith and peace. It’s because of your great love I can share peace with others. Lord, help me share that with my kids. Help me to love because you love. Strengthen my faith and give me peace. Amen


SHARE A STORY: Barnabas & Paul – Acts 9:26-28,13, 14 – Below
 KNOW: God gives us peace and faith.
 TALK ABOUT: Peace, Faith & Sharing Jesus
ASK: Why is God’s Armor important? Protects us from the enemy.
What is peace? Don’t worry, share Jesus. What is faith? Trust Jesus no matter what.
MEMORIZE: “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Eph. 6:10
AND DO…..  I can have faith and trust Jesus.

* If you or your child feels anxious or worried this week, stop and pray together. Think of someone you can share Jesus with – then share a prayer or invite to church – even if it’s online, Just share some love with them.

* Welcome someone – even if it’s not face to face. You can phone, face time, e-mail, text, instagram or __. Invite a child over to play, if you feel comfortable with doing so. Ask your child. “How can we welcome our friends like Barnabas welcomed Paul?”

STORY: Today we are learning about the Shoes of Peace which means no worries because Jesus is with us and the Shield of Faith which means Trust Jesus no matter what.

The Shoes of Peace help us to stand strong without slipping or falling. The Shoes of Peace also helps us take the good news about Jesus to others.

When we put on the Shield of Faith, we are protected from our enemy, the devil’s, evil arrows. He want to send things our way to get us off track, making poor choices and worried or afraid. Let’s see how Barnabas and Paul put on the Shoes of Peace and the Shield of Faith today.

Paul didn’t trust Jesus at first. In fact, he tried to hurt people who trusted Jesus. Then one day Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul became a friend of Jesus. He loved Jesus and wanted to share Jesus and the peace that He gives with others, but many of the Jesus other friends were afraid of Paul. They were worried that Paul still wanted to hurt them.

Barnabas welcomed Paul. He took him to the other believers and told how Paul had met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul now trusted God with all His heart. He wasn’t afraid to share Jesus with others.

Later God asked Barnabas and Paul to go everywhere telling the good news about Him. Barnabas and Paul took the good news of peace with Jesus to other cities. Many people learned to trust Jesus because Barnabas and Paul shared the good news.

Barnabas put on the Shoes of Peace by welcoming and showing peace to Paul. Paul put on the Shield of Faith when he trusted Jesus and welcomed Jesus in his life and both Barnabas and Paul shared the good news with others just like Jesus wanted them to do.

You can walk with the Shoes of Peace sharing peace and good news with others just like Barnabas and Paul did. Don’t worry! Jesus will help you. You can also carry the Shield of Faith by trusting and having faith in Jesus no matter where you go just like Barnabas and Paul did.

PRAYER: Dear God, Help me to have peace and faith by loving and trusting you. Help me to be kind and show others how much Jesus loves and cares for them just like Barnabas and Paul did. Amen