Here’s a little secret we (at SCYM) might not have told you before: When we tell other people that we work with kids, sometimes they respond like we’re Mother Teresa, or maybe an alien. Or just kind of a freak.
“Oh wow … what is that like?”
“I could never do what you do.”
And another one we get a lot: “I would never have the patience for that.”
Friends, just humor me for a moment, and allow me to push back gently on this statement for the next few hundred words or so.
I’m the first one to acknowledge that most of us have a special, God-given compassion for a particular group of people, whether it’s babies or teenagers or the unemployed, addicts or immigrants or young moms. Kids are not going to be first on everyone’s list. If you have a delight and passion for serving another group of people, that’s fantastic! Go do it!
May I push back on WHY we don’t have the patience to work with kids?
Is it because kids are loud? Hyper? Kind of a mess sometimes?
Is it because they interrupt us, because they are easily distracted, because they have no appreciation for coffee or our favorite movies or music, because they aren’t great at two-way conversation? Is it because they don’t always operate according to our plan?
For older kids, is it because they brush us off, don’t think we’re cool, or are doing things we don’t know how to handle?
When you work with kids in poverty, you can add more things to the “requires patience” list: They may say inappropriate things, might not listen the first time, might not want to do their homework or group activities, might not be respectful to us or to other kids. Is that why we don’t have enough patience?
Deep down, do we lack patience because kids aren’t doing the things we want? Not doing it the way we would? And at the heart of it, do we lack patience with kids because we can’t control them, and they don’t always control themselves?
Listen, I’m not gonna sugar-coat it: Working with kids can be really hard. Even people who are very gifted with kids will walk away from some of our programs saying, “Whew! That was a hard day.”
But … doesn’t God call us to do things that are hard?
And is it that God wants us to muster up patience and smile through our gritted teeth (been there!), or does he want us to grow to love kids deeply, with His agape love, and as we do – we discover that love is patient? Because God is love. And God is patient.
The people we know who are great with our kids probably wouldn’t say they have the most God-given patience. They just really love our kids.
When you sign up to work with kids, they will push your buttons. You will feel frustrated sometimes. But I promise you that if you get to know the beloved souls inside the messes, you will love them through the mess, and you will find a patience that only comes with love.
And you may even start to realize how much like that beloved little soul inside a mess we all are – and so very loved by our patient God.
“Love is patient, love is kind.” 1 Corinthians 13:4
“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4