It was just one of those Sunday
mornings where what happened in "big church"
seemed to shed light on something that had happened in the
children's ministry earlier. The pastor said that so many adults
deal with shame in their relationship with God and it takes years
to peel back those layers to help them see God as the gracious,
loving God that he is. "What causes this?" he wondered.
And in my heart, I knew. At least, I knew where part of the shame
comes from. Sadly, well-meaning folks in children's ministry say
things that negatively shape a child's view of God. Shaming
statements that are meant to direct kids' behavior may lay a
foundation of shame in the child's theology that takes years to
A case in point: In our 2-year-olds class that morning, one of the
volunteers had said to the children who were fussing over a toy:
"Jesus loves it when you share."
The message to these sweet little ones who are learning about
Jesus for the first time? Then he must not love it-or me-when I
If we truly believe that we're on the front end of developing
children's faith and that the first three years of their lives are
the most formative, we must recognize and avoid words that move
them away from-rather than toward-our loving God.
There's no children's minister out there who intentionally
attempts to evoke shame in kids. But when our words or
communication is misguided or careless, shame is often the precise
result. And sadly, many kids who experience something like
this-especially when it's a repeated or typical experience-walk
away from faith because they want no part of a belief system that
makes them feel so bad.