As stories of devastation emerge from Moore, Oklahoma, and the surrounding areas hit by the Tornadoes on May 20th, while first responders and support networks continue their recovery work, while families await knowledge of the fate of their homes or loved ones, while people who are not there read and watch in horror…there’s also a group of clergy who are looking towards Sunday and how to provide a solid word of hope and resurrection in a time of pain.
Attached is a repost of “Children’s Sermons RE: Haiti” back when the earthquake occurred and Children’s Sermons RE: Newtown after the school shooting. I write this for clergy/children’s ministers who choose to confront and talk about the disaster which involved several schools being destroyed and many children losing their lives (although some may choose not to talk about it as parents tend to shield their children from the news…and for those parents, look at #3 as it is more vague).
For those who want more professional takes on working with children and trauma, the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial website has really extensive resources. Check it out.
Note: they are written verbatim in my personal voice which may/may not be yours. Feel free to adapt accordingly.
#1 Focus on expressed coping behavior of crying:
“You know what, I’ve been crying a lot this week. Anyone else cry alot? What about? [responses] Now one of you said the school, what happened there? I can understand crying then. I cried too about Moore. I cried so much my tummy hurts, anyone else ever cried so hard their tummy hurt? Now what about God…does God cry? Do you think this made God sad? I bet it did. Can you think of any other time when God cries? [responses] I think God cries anytime people are suffering or hurting or have lost a loved one. Jesus cried when he lost his friend Lazarus. I think Jesus cried (a) because his heart hurt too (b) but also to remind us that God cries and is hurt whenever we are. So its OK to cry or have friends that cry this week, because we believe God cries with us. So maybe you can be good friends this week to your friends who are hurting, cry with them, because that’s what Jesus did with us. Let’s pray…”
#2 Focus on expressed questions of theodicy:
“I’ve been thinking alot about superheroes this week. Who are some superheroes from comics or movies? [responses] now, do they really exist? No, they do in our imagination, right? But what about us, is there anyone in our lives who is like a superhero? [responses] When I was your age, I thought my [dad, mom, grandma, teacher] was a superhero. S/he could do anything, if there was a cup on the top cupboard s/he could get it, if there was a car, s/he could drive it. Now, are those superhero superpowers? No, pretty silly huh? I think there’s a reason why we pray to Father God, Mother God, Parent God and not SuperGod or BatGod…because God is more like a loving parent than a superhero. Superheroes stop bad things from happening, right? What bad thing happened this week in Oklahoma? Yes, a lot of children were hurt. If we believed in SuperGod, SuperGod could have stopped it with x-ray vision or superspideystrength, right? But we believe God is more like a parent, and what do parents do? When I cut my knee riding a bike, what did my [parent/whoever] do? They held me and bandaged my booboo. I think God is like a parent right now holding every person in Oklahoma, every person here with family or friends in Moore, and all of us who are scared right now God is holding us and here with us. Does that feel good to you to know God is holding us right now? Maybe squeeze yourself really really tight? [squeeze!] God is even closer than that squeeze and God will never leave you alone. Let’s pray…”
#3 Focus on expressed emotion of fear:
“I have a secret to tell you. I’m afraid of the dark sometimes. Are you afraid of it sometimes too? And sometimes during the Winter, it gets dark at 4pm, doesn’t it? Has anyone noticed that every night it seems to stay lighter longer and longer? In Spring, the nights get shorter and shorter and still dark (but dark for not as long) until we reach summertime when we have really sunny days, right? It makes me feel better because there are more sunny days ahead than dark days. So even when there are really dark days when I am sad and afraid (and I was really sad and afraid when I read about Moore and the tornadoes), I know that I don’t need to be afraid because there are more good days ahead than bad days. So let’s make a deal. I will pray for you whenever you are afraid, and you pray for me whenever I am afraid. Can we do that? Great. Let’s pray…”
#4 Focus on people who help others and Mister Rogers (always a sure thing):
“I want to tell you about a friend of mine. He used to be on TV, and he really wasn’t my friend, but I thought of him like a friend. His name was Mister Rogers. Do any of you know Mister Rogers? Whenever I would see him, he would be coming in the door singing a song, and he would put on his sweater and his shoes. He was really nice. And whenever I was afraid when I was a kid, I would turn on the TV and watch Mister Rogers because he made me feel comfortable. In fact, he has a quote that I want to share with you, this is something he said one day. He was talking about being scared and he said this “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” This made me feel better as I was really sad and scared this past week. Have you ever been sad? Have you ever been scared? Well Mister Rogers wants you to know that when someone is having a bad day, there are always helpers close by. Whenever you are bullied at school or someone makes fun of you or maybe worse than that, there are always helpers around, people who you can talk to and get help. And we should pray that wherever there are really bad days, and there were several this past week, that those people who had really bad days know there are helpers there to help those people having bad days have better ones. Can we pray for the helpers today and for those who are scared? Let’s pray…”
Thoughts/reflections/other children’s sermons to share? I hope these are helpful to someone…(Photo source: Twitter)