Like the adult church, you have to lead kids through the good times and the bad. Tragedies like the death of a church member or the divorce of a prominent couple weigh heavily on everyone, even the smallest members of the church. Leaving all the consoling to the senior pastor or families equates to denying your kids pastoral care specific to their maturity and spiritual level. During tough times, you must put your personal feelings aside and retain your role as shepherd. It’s easier said than done, I know but you can do it! Touch on each of these key points when leading your kids’ church through grief.
Provide normalcy. Shutting down the kids’ church and cancelling all the events may feel like the right thing to do but for many groups, it may not be. Children need normalcy when tragedy strikes. Repetition gives comfort. Keep to the schedule, if possible. Don’t make radical changes during this time.
Encourage prayer. Show kids how to deal with tragedy by praying about it, together. As a children’s pastor, I never air “dirty laundry” in front of kids but I lift up names, pray for wisdom, healing and peace. After I have prayed for the family directly affected by the tragedy, I pray for the children. Often time children ask for private prayer and I lead them in prayer whenever asked.
Involve parents. Tragedy affects the whole family. Do not spread gossip but do offer a shoulder if appropriate. In the past, some of my children were so affected by a tragedy that parents have come to me for help. It is good to stay in touch with parents and grandparents.
Be Spirit-sensitive. At times, the Holy Spirit offers healing moments during a service. He may drop a scripture into my spirit or inspire a child to sing a song. Welcome those moments and allow them to happen. God always knows best.
Offer scripture. The Word of God brings comfort when it is applied to any bad situation. Spend some time digging in the Word for scripture that your kids need. Provide that to them. Keep the short, if possible and pick ones easily remembered.
Be real. Pretending “the bad event” did not occur is not a good strategy for leading children through a tragedy. Respect how kids feel and share how you feel. I might say something like, “Yes, I will miss him too. It makes me sad to think I won’t see him at church. But I will always remember his smile and I know what the Bible says about dying. Do you remember that scripture we talked about?”