Having children and youth in your classroom from unbelieving homes provides both unique opportunities and challenges. For example, your words, demeanor, and actions can serve as a beautiful demonstration of the Gospel. At the same time, you may need to deal with issues that arise from children who are not being spiritually nurtured in the home, requiring a greater investment of your time and attention. Below are some suggestions for ways to maximize the potential for spiritual impact on these students:
- Understand that children from both Christian and non-Christian homes have the same basic spiritual need: They are sinners in need of a Savior. Do not assume that a child from a difficult home situation has a heart that is any more desperate than a pastor’s child. Both children need to hear and respond to the same biblical truths.
- Whenever possible, introduce yourself to the parents in person or via phone, letter, or e-mail. Try to connect with the parents on a regular basis, even if it is by simply writing a short note for the child to take home after each lesson. Additionally, asking the parents, “How can I pray for your child this week?” may provide a nonthreatening means of initiating a beneficial relationship with the parents.
- As a leadership team, commit yourselves to weekly prayer for this child and his parents.
- Provide the child with any resources that he may need, especially his own Bible.
- A child may be greatly helped by providing him with a good, doctrinally sound storybook Bible to make him familiar with the main biblical themes, people, and events. For example, The Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book by Starr Meade.
- If possible, seek out a mentor family from your church to provide the child with spiritual nurture beyond the classroom. Make sure this is done with sensitivity and with permission from the child’s own parents.
- Create a welcoming atmosphere in your classroom. Be careful not to make the child feel odd or excluded because his parents are not Christians. For example, try to avoid statements that assume parental belief such as, “Your parents read the Bible to you and pray with you. Your parents follow Jesus.” Rather, try to use language that takes into account that, although the above comments are God’s desire for all parents, this is not necessarily the experience of every child.
- If you encounter any problems in communicating with the parents or with interacting with the child, seek counsel from your children’s ministry leadership and/or a pastor or elder.