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Change the World - One Child at a Time

Change the World - One Child at a Time

Children are the smallest people on the planet, yet they pay the biggest price for the sins of our fallen world. It’s children who suffer most from wars, famines, disease, poverty, hunger, prostitution, pornography, divorce, and other ills. Yet because children have no political clout, our largest institutions often neglect them. It’s all too easy for children to be marginalized, with their small voices lost amid the noise of the world.

But Jesus calls all those who follow Him to raise their voices on behalf of the world’s children. If you answer His call to help children, you can help change the world in the process.

Here’s how you can help change the world by helping children:

View every child you encounter as a divine opportunity. Realize that you have the power to positively influence each child with whom you interact. Know that small deeds (such as a smile, some encouraging words, or a simple act of kindness) can make a big difference in children’s lives. Make a list of all the children in your life right now, and think and pray about specific ways you can bless them the next time you see them. As you encounter children you don’t know (in public places like a park or grocery store, for example), do all you can to encourage them during the brief moments you have together. Pray for children on a regular basis, and also pray for their parents and caretakers.

Invite children into the mainstream of your life. Show children that they’re valuable and useful people right now, not just waiting in the wings for when they become adults. Encourage them to fully participate in your life by including them in your regular activities as much as possible rather than leaving them with sitters. Talk with them on a regular basis, genuinely listening to their thoughts and feelings and asking for their opinions. Show them the same amount of respect you would show to adults.

Nurture children’s dreams. Ask children to boldly share their dreams with you, no matter how grandiose or far-fetched they may seem. Notice and affirm their God-given natural talents and spiritual gifts as they seek to discover them. Help them develop those talents and gifts well so they can use them to contribute to the world. Enter the realm of their imagination by joining them when they engage in make-believe play. Let them watch and learn from you as you pursue your dreams; seek to inspire them. Make it a priority to spend as much time with them as you can. Build a mutual friendship in which you and the children in your life genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Give them the confidence of knowing that you believe in them.

Help create a strong community for children. Volunteer your time to become a Scout leader or sports team coach. Have your children build meaningful friendships with elderly neighbors. Some weeks at church, allow your children to join you for the main worship service rather than being segregated in their Sunday School classes. Welcome relationships with family and friends who care about your children and understand that you need all their support to raise your children well. Make a concerted effort to give significant time and attention not just to your own children, but to other people’s children as well (such as your children’s friends).

Look at the big picture. Don’t focus just on a few issues when parenting, specializing in a few things and ignoring others. Instead, pay attention to the wide variety of issues that are involved in the complex task of raising human beings. Be aware of your children’s needs physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Let them know that they have your love and support for every aspect of their lives.

Manage time wisely. Don’t pack your children’s schedules too full of activities. Give them plenty of time to rest and reflect, since that’s essential for their health and creativity. Ask God to show you what specific steps you should take to slow down your pace of life. Live in the present and enjoy each day fully. Trust that God has the future under control. Don’t allow time to be your master; instead, make time your servant by using it as well as you can each day. Let your children see you practice being still and trusting God with your time.

Reject materialism. Understand that children value time you spend with them far more than anything you can buy them. Know when enough material items are enough. Focus on giving them what matters most, such as nutritious food, health care, education, and spiritual training. Emphasize relationships over things.

Give children a healthy perspective on competition. Teach children that they should never pursue competition just for its own sake. Let them know that the win-at-any cost mentality (which seeks to win at the expense of other people without worrying about hurting or embarrassing them) is wrong. Encourage children to do their best in all they undertake, but only for the goal of pursuing excellence – not to compete with others. Tell them that competition should merely be a tool to drive them toward excellence. Celebrate their victories with them, and reward their efforts when they fail, emphasizing that the process counts more than the results. Help them understand that mistakes can be valuable tools to keep learning and growing. Let them know that you believe in them, no matter whether they win or lose in any given situation.

Listen. Make time regularly to listen to children’s thoughts and feelings. Try to do twice as much listening as you do talking when you’re with them. Take what they say seriously. When they raise issues that are important to them, show them that those same issues are important to you because you care about them. Speak up for them as an advocate to get those issues addressed however you can.

Help children learn from the "pearls of poverty." Teach all the children with whom you have relationships the values that children growing up in poverty learn about what matters most in life: the pearl of love (even when you don’t have anything else to give, you can always give love, and you’ll never run out of it), the pearl of joy (joy isn’t dictated by circumstances; it’s a brave decision about how to respond to life), the pearl of hope (even in the midst of our fallen world’s harshness and injustice, you can trust God to sustain and bless you), the pearl of time perspective (time should be your servant rather than your master; you can always make time for what’s most important), the pearl of valuing people (people matter, but material things don’t), and the pearl of knowing how to give and receive (giving generously and receiving gratefully can bring you great joy).

Understand the essence of poverty. Realize that you can’t cure poverty just by treating its symptoms (such as a lack of food or money). Instead, you need to confront the underlying cause of poverty – hopelessness. Let children know that they matter greatly to God. Understand that that knowledge will give them the confidence to share their thoughts and feelings, and ultimately contribute their talents to make the world a better place. Watch them, help them, and applaud their efforts as they do so. Realize that, once children have hope, they can become productive and break the cycle of poverty by influencing their family and community.

Know that God delights in using children to build His kingdom. Remember how much love and respect Jesus showed children during His time on earth. Understand that children are right at the center of God’s heart, and that sometimes He decides to use children instead of adults to accomplish strategic goals in His kingdom. Know that God doesn’t need people to have talent or experience before using them for something important – all He requires is a willing spirit. Respect the children around you because they’re sometimes God’s agents in the world.

Imagine a better world. Advocate for a better world for children, such as by supporting organizations that are working to get every child immunizations and encouraging legislators to keep children’s rights in mind when making laws.

Imagine a better nation. Advocate for a better nation for children, such as by raising the requirements and the pay for people who provide professional childcare, doubling the penalty for any crime that involves harm to a child, and putting pressure on the entertainment industry to raise the moral standards of the content it produces.

Imagine better neighborhoods. Advocate for better neighborhoods for children, such as by volunteering to serve as a leader of a community program for children (such as Scouts, 4-H, or Little League), and having the compassion and courage to watch out for other people’s children as well as your own.

Image better churches. Advocate for better churches for children, such as by considering how any new initiatives will affect the future generations at your church and making long-range plans, designating at least 40 percent of the church’s budget to reach children and teens (since they represent the most fruitful mission field), and mentoring children at your church.

Imagine better families. Advocate for better families for children, such as by motivating men to keep their commitments as husbands and fathers, arranging your own leisure time around when your children are either sleeping or in school so you can spend most of your time with them, and enjoying traditions such as bedtime stories and prayers with your children regularly.

Adapted from Too Small to Ignore: Why Children are the Next Big Thing by Wess Stafford with Dean Merrill, copyright 2005 by Compassion International, Inc. Published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., www.waterbrookpress.com.

Dr. Wess Stafford is an internationally recognized advocate for children. Since 1977 he has worked with Compassion International (1-800-336-7676 or www.compassion.com) and has served as president since 1993. He hosts a national radio program, Speak Up with Compassion. Wess grew up as the son of missionaries and earned degrees from Moody Bible Institute, Biola University, Wheaton College and a doctorate from Michigan State University. Wess lives on a small ranch near Colorado Springs, Co., with his wife, Donna. They are the parents of two daughters, Jenny and Katie.

Dean Merrill is an award-winning author and former magazine editor. A graduate of Chicago Bible College and Syracuse University, he is also an ordained minister. He has collaborated on a number of best-selling books with authors such as Jim Cymbala and Gracia Burnham. Dean has written several popular books, including The God Who Won’t Let Go and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church. He and his wife live in Colorado Springs, Co.