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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

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR CHILD?
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.

PRAYER:
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)

FOSTERING OUR KID’S FRIENDSHIPS (Parents)
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..

    FRIENDSHIP IN CLASS (Teachers)
  • 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.

Simply Trusting God

Climbing trees takes determination and trust.

Simply trusting! It sounds so easy and yet can be so hard. Why is it that I second guess whether I’ve heard from God or not? Why is it that when things are hard or I have decisions to make, I labor over them and wonder if I am on the right track or if I’ve missed the mark somehow? Do I doubt God’s love and care for me or His ability to let me know the direction to take? No! Yet still I struggle.

When I read the story of Abraham in the Bible, I don’t read that he questioned God. God told him to move and he obeyed. He didn’t know where God was leading him, but he trusted. I imagine it wasn’t easy for him or for Sarah. They were leaving their roots behind, moving from the country where they had always lived. They were moving away from family and friends in obedience to God. They were leaving to pursue a God-given dream. God promised to make Abraham into a great nation and to bless all people through him. That’s a pretty big promise and a big change. Abraham chose to trust and obey. He could have questioned God. He could have argued with God, “Why now God? Are you sure God? But God I’m leaving family and friends behind.” He didn’t. He trusted and obeyed.

I wonder if I’ve missed out on a few adventures and dreams because I didn’t trust God enough to move when He said to move or do what He asked me to do? I do trust God and God has been very patient with me. When I am afraid, He gently leads me and shows me through His Word and in other ways clearly the way He wants me to go, but oh I have procrastinated on following sometimes. Lord, help me to trust you more, to simply trust. There is such beauty in trusting. Trusting means I don’t have to fret over problems or decisions any more. Trusting means I can give it all to God because I know He’s big enough to carry it.

Trusting God is a lifelong pursuit. I believe, at least in my life, that trust is something I need to revisit often, perhaps daily. What helps me to trust God? Reading and listening to His Word. There have been countless times that I have gained insight, wisdom and direction from God’s Word. Another thing that helps me trust God is to remember His faithfulness to me in the past. Prayer, asking God for wisdom and then paying attention to those inner nudgings of the Holy Spirit are all ways I hear from God and learn to trust. I think the inner nudging are the things that you somehow just know are the right thing to do, but may take you our of your comfort zone.Those things that require faith to act on. A nudging is something that you can’t explain away or ignore such as inviting a neighbor to church or stopping in the grocery store to pray for a friend you meet or calling a friend that keeps coming to mind who is going through a hard time. When we act on these things, we are taking steps of faith and trust. Of course it may be something bigger like moving to a new state or giving more generously to something that God is bringing to your heart and mind. As we continue to takes those steps of faith and see how God works in each one, as we experience His faithfulness, our trust grows.

I don’t know where you are at in your journey of trusting God. I know I still have a long way to go, but I’m learning and pursing God more everyday. I’m trusting Him to show me the way and when those doubts come … Well let’s just say, I’m learning to say, “Yes!” to God’s adventure and dreams even when they are a tad too big or scary. It’s so worth it!

Take your doubts and fears to Him in prayer, ask Him to give you wisdom and direction from His Word and simply trust!

PARENT OR TEACHER PRAYER:
Father God,
I do trust you and oh how I want to trust you more. I know that you are trustworthy. I know I can rely on you fully and completely and yet how often I find myself trying to figure out life on my own. I am so stubbornly independent and I try so hard to take care of my problems without asking for help. Forgive me Lord. Remind me to bring to you my cares, concerns and impossible situations daily. Okay, yes, I will bring the little irritations to you too! I know you will help me. You will help me to face life bravely. I trust you Lord with my family, with my job, with my goals, my home, all that I am or hope to be. Forgive me for not bringing everything before you. Help me to take those steps of faith in areas where you are leading me. Remind me to pray about everything. Thank you for your great love and faithfulness. I trust you. I ask that you would also help me to create a safe, secure atmosphere for the kids in my classroom too. May they know they are loved and feel free to contribute to the classroom and care for others. I know that when they do, they will learn that they can also trust you. Amen Oh and by the way God, when you tell me to move or do something, may I be quick to obey, just like Abraham.

BUILDING TRUST IN THE CLASSROOM

  • Make your classroom a safe and secure place. When children feel safe and their needs are met, then they learn to trust which is the first step in their journey of faith.
  • Be consistent and do take time to greet kids and parents. As much as possible, try to have consistent teachers/parents in the classrooms. When children see the same warm, friendly person greeting them each week, they will feel more comfortable.
  • Have clear rules and communicate them often. When children know what is expected of them, they feel safer.
  • Pray with your kids and dare to ask God for BIG answers.
  • Get to know your kids and their families. Interact with the kids, listen and have fun. When you do this, you are nurturing relationships and kids will feel safe and more comfortable with you. They know you care.
  • Encourage positive interactions with other kids in the classroom. When kids form friendships with others and feel safe with other kids, then they know that the classroom is a good place to be.
  • This may include enforcing the rules when another child is being unkind or modeling and reminding the kids of courteous, kind behavior.
  • Ultimately, we hope that kids who are nurtured and feel safe, will also know that it’s safe to trust God and enter into relationship with Him.

Kid’s Section

SHARE A STORY: Abraham Trusts – Genesis 12:1-8
One day God said to Abraham,
“I want you to move to a brand new land.I will show you the way to go, –
(Point out and say, “Go!”)
And bless you because I love you so.” – (Give self a hug.)
So Abraham did what God asked him to do. – (That means he obeyed.)
He took His wife Sarah and his nephew Lot too.
They packed up their things, got ready to go, – (Pretend to pack)
But where were they going? They didn’t know. – (Throw hands out to the sides.)
Abraham trusted God to show him the way, – (Walk in place)
And God did show him each and every day. – (Keep walking.)
God led him safely to a brand new land.
Abraham trusted and followed God’s plan.
Just like Abraham, you can trust God too.
To show you the way and what to do.
God loves you and He’s with you everyday. – (Give self a hug)
He’s always ready to help you when you pray. – (Fold hands to pray)

MEMORIZE: Psalm 31:14 ERV – (Hold hands like holding a book.)
Lord, – (Hold hands outwards)
I trust – (Make fists and pull inwards)
In you – (Point upwards.)
You are my God – (Clap hands.)

PRAYER:
Dear God, Thank you for loving me. I’m happy you are with me everyday. I know that you will help me listen and obey. Thank you for the Bible and for my mom and dad. I trust you to show me the way just like you showed Abraham. Amen

KNOW: Abraham trusted and believed God.
TALK ABOUT: Listening and trusting. Trust is knowing that I can love and obey God because He does what He says He will do and He cares for me.
ASK: Who made you? God made me. What can you do? I can trust, listen and obey God.

FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK

  • Talk about when your child was born and how special he is. He is God’s handiwork.
  • Play a game by saying, “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to take a __.”  God told Abraham to go on a long trip.
  • Tell your own “God story.” When did you first place your trust in God?