If you have been following Sojourn blogs or have payed attention during announcements at services over the past few weeks, you may know about the recent shooting in Shelby Park, one of the neighborhoods surrounding our Germantown campus. A member of our sister church, Immanuel Baptist, was shot late Sunday evening, December 13th. He was rushed to the hospital where he has undergone several major surgeries. He is badly injured and is currently in a coma. You may have already had the opportunity to speak with your children about this tragedy. If they have heard about this tragedy, they certainly are asking questions and wanting updates. If you live in the immediate neighborhood, your kids may have begun to express fears and concerns about their safety (or sense your fears and concerns). Our hope is that this post would help you point your children to Christ through this situation and will help you answer their questions in a way that is adequate and age appropriate.
Here are some things to keep in mind as your family processes together:
Tell Your Kids. Don't Insulate Them From This Tragedy – This incident reminds us that ministry and mission are not always easy, comfortable or safe. We faithfully affirm, however, that God remains good, gracious, and in control – promising that He uses all things, the good and the bad, to display his glory and advance his kingdom purposes on earth. We must not insulate our families from pain and hardship but lead them to a biblical understanding of tragedy so that they might grow to love and care for our neighbors no matter the cost.
Be Honest, Yet Emotionally Aware – Once your kids know, they may have hard questions about things that are uncomfortable to talk about. When this happens, the best course of action is to be honest with your child. Answer their questions. However, don’t feel that you need to give more information than they have asked for, and be discerning as to how they will receive the information. In most cases it isn’t wise to bring up questions that they haven’t yet thought of and which they may not yet be ready to deal with. Just answer their questions as honestly as possible without giving more information than is necessary.
Always Lead your Child to Christ as Quickly as Possible – Christ came to save what is lost, and heal what is broken. In times of uncertainty, it is always the best course of action to lead your child to put confidence in the character of God and in the work of Christ. God is good and is in control. It is easy to think that God is good and in control when everything goes right, but when things unravel, we begin to blame God and doubt His character. But the truth is that God does not change. He is good all the time. God is a wise Father. He knows what is best for Immanuel Baptist, for Sojourn, and for this individual.
It Is Okay to Say, “I Don’t Know.” – Children are amazingly deep. They ask questions as three year olds that the brightest men in the world have been trying to answer for centuries. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will happen that they ask you a question you just don’t know the answer to. Don’t make up an answer or avoid the question. Acknowledge the question and let them know that you don’t know the answer to the question. It is always fine to go ask for help in answering a question that is beyond your ability to explain.
Lead Your Family To Pray–Leverage your conversations with your children to additionally teach them about prayer. God is still in charge of everything, and He has given His children access to talk to Him through Jesus. And it is ok for us to ask God for healing, justice, and safety. The pastors of Immanuel and Sojourn ask you and your family to be in prayer for this individual, his family, his church, and the neighborhood. God hears and responds to his children's prayers. Immanuel and Sojourn also invite you to attend a joint Prayer Walk & Prayer Service on January 6th. Our churches will unite in prayer, fellowship and a short message will be given from a pastor of each church. Please join us for a prayer walk in Shelby Park from 6:30 pm – 7:00pm followed by an indoor prayer service at Immanuel Baptist (7:00-8:30pm) and a joint church fellowship (8:30-9:00pm) . The prayer walk is an opportunity for us to faithfully seek the peace of our city, love our neighbors, and show Shelby Park how God’s people trust and respond in faith to even the most difficult circumstances. In all of these things, pray that God would be glorified. He is worthy to be shown, honored and enjoyed as most valuable. This is true when things are easy and when things are hard. For updates and more information about the prayer service, check out the Seed website
Adapted with permission from Josh Patterson.