If God wants a community of believers in his service, it is time to intervene. The novel coronavirus, also known as Covid-19 pandemic-imposed lockdowns, has bought about a sense of fear and anxiety worldwide. Our mission, Grow for Glory, shares an equal vision as those within the network of the 4/14 window of world missions and UNICEF. The research by Bush (2010, 3) found that children aged four to fourteen are the least likely in the World to be exposed to evangelists and missionaries unless they were born into a Christian family or church. Grow for Glory is a ministry for the church (Rom 8:17), sharing in their suffering and reaching out to children and adolescence through discipleship programs. We believe that relationships play a key role or aspect in why kids connect with the Word of God and that the love of Jesus will be imprinted in their little hearts for a lifetime.
During the outbreak of the nCoV, schools were closed, and lockdowns were implemented by governments worldwide. Although Schools were closed, working parents still worked in industries in full operations, such as the mining industry and their stakeholders. We have found that most kids had to be enrolled in tutoring or aftercare centres in Mokopane as the schools are closed and have rolled out an online learning or homeschool program of some sort. The school was no more the community centre where all the children would gather daily. The aftercare centres have explicitly been would host most children during this troubled time. In its reflection on its “existence as a missionary community, ” the church becomes the base community” for practical theology (Anderson 2001:32). For this project, Grow for Glory will take on the practical theology task to look at the impact of the nCoV and social restrictions that had impacted the key emotional, social, and spiritual milestones.
Enabling aftercare Centres in Mokopane to be agents of healing for children
How might aftercare Centers in Mokopane become healing agents for emotionally wounded children?
- What are the challenges and the emotional well-being of children living through the covid-19 pandemic?
- Why does Covid-19 constitute a special challenge to children’s well-being?
- How does Biblical and theological literature describe a healthy framework where children can find healing?
- How might aftercare centres in Mokopane be agents of healing for emotionally wounded children?
Coetsee and Grobelaar (2014, 1) explain that since missionaries had to reach Africa, many churches have used the idea of a Sunday school as an integrated part of the church planting endeavours to reach out to children. The school is the metaphor of the church involvement with children, and faith suddenly tended to be passed on as an academic subject. Intellectual knowledge such as understanding and retention of biblical data, including church dogma, became the means for imparting faith in the child. This emphasis on the cognitive dimension of transferring biblical knowledge had some serious shortcomings. For example, they were not effective within the Children’s daily challenges as they experienced life. Therefore, they were ill-prepared to deal with the change and disruption in their lives caused by the nCoV in a Biblical and God honouring way.
As an organisation, we have discovered that some churches in Mokopane had a similar approach to the idea that faith is passed on as an intellectual exercise rather than faith passed on as experience within the context of daily living. To our understanding and observations, most children’s ministry and spiritual workers such as Sunday school leaders and volunteers have all underestimated children’s social and spiritual capacities (Bunge, 2012). Churches in Potgietersrus are mostly traditional Afrikaans, with a theology that’s mostly liberal reformed and rooted in Calvinism. Some of these Churches, especially those who are more liberal or reformed, still believe in some of the ideologies used during the apartheid era under the banner of the National Party. What was observed was that these churches complained about the willingness of younger generations, including children, to attend Church services and activities.
Folmsbee (2012) explains:
However, today’s church struggles to reach and engage Millennials and Generation Z. As a result of this constant struggle, the believability gap between the spiritual voyager and the Christian pilgrim continues to widen. In part, this gap widens for several reasons: unwillingness or inability to change; a small or lifeless vision; the church’s view of culture; the spoken value versus the derived value of community; and the apparent disunity among churches church leaders, and denominations. These and other factors widen the believability gap and leave churches and church leaders exasperated and the emerging generations disinterested and distant.
There was already a growing concern before the nCoV outbreak on the development stages of children as social human beings. Coetzee and Grobbelaar had published available articles aiming to equip lay ministers to build a lasting relationship and minister to children in Africa who are emotionally wounded because of their circumstances and experience. Coetzee and Grobbelaar (2014, 1) explain that few supportive programs aim specifically at children’s overall well-being and healthy development. This was quoted from one of the most useful articles they wrote called “Equipping lay facilitators to support emotionally wounded children in Africa using healing communities”. Five years have passed since this publication, and the content and research are now more needed than ever before as children, the most vulnerable in society, are overpowered by the global nCoV that worsened their circumstances and the way they experience daily living.
Data analysis from the Barna research group to notice the impact of the nCoV on children worldwide has been captured and documented throughout this research project. Because of the short time of the pandemic and data collected worldwide could have been minimal as the research was affected by the nCoV outbreak itself. However, trends and the statistical analysis are usually drafted by the Barna research group and others that might or might not be included within the space of this assignment, can be considered as fairly accurate among Christian Leaders, Congregations, or any other social societies outside the USA, especially countries like South Africa, Europe, Britain, and Australia. Globalisation, social media, and online gaming platforms are not new phenomena. Nevertheless, the influences of these social platforms can change the perception of how children observe and interact with the World. Children of all cultures have never been more “analogous,” as Reynolds (2008) describes.
The Barna Research group points out that one of the largest-ever studies they done documented in 2017 mentions that:
Half of the United States 18–35-year-olds (49%) expressed anxiety over important decisions and were afraid to fail. Over 3/10 said they often felt sad or depressed (39%) or lonely and isolated from others (34%). Generation Z, ‘Gen Z', are more likely than generations that came before to report battling mental health issues. Barna Group explains that, born between 1997 and 2012, and forms the group aged between six and twenty-four.
In the community of Mokopane, I pondered on the idea and could not stop thinking about the children we used to reach every week before the pandemic. The questions tumbled in my head of how the lockdowns and social distancing might or might not affect them psychologically and emotionally. Goff (2017) believes that children already face the blunder that some key emotional, social, and spiritual milestones were not reached during the state-imposed lockdown regulations to contain the nCoV. Social media allowed the opportunity to follow people’s home projects as mothers keep children busy through baked goods or re-arranged the house. Nonetheless, it is well known that social media never gives a clear framework to evaluate the heart of people within the scope of the social identity theory itself.
The Social Identity theory plays a key role in the lives of children. Children are known to be emotionally wounded more quickly than adults because their lack of live experience circumstances such as the nCoV could have a lasting impact if not adequately addressed. This is the reality today. However, Fitzpatrick and Thompson (2014) assure us that this is not all that different from the World of the children born in Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome during the ministry of the Apostle Paul.
The paper published by Coetzee and Grobbelaar (2014, 1) addressed the need to heal emotionally wounded children within the narrative of a children’s camp and camp facilitators. However, their research outcome was not limited to the camp narrative alone. Therefore, the researcher believes that he could benefit significantly from their thesis and support the research project at hand.
Myers (1987:23) explains that a form of communal life was practised in the early church, whereby material goods and spiritual qualities were shared. At the end of Peter’s stirring address at Pentecost, Luke adds that the recent converts at Jerusalem “had all things in common” (Gk. eíchon hápanta koiná). He explained that they had sold all their property to provide for the poor (Acts 2:44–45).
1.5.1 Elenctics in practical theology:
As Scott, Netland, and Engen (2000, 307) articulate, Elenctics within the context of Genesis 3 is a process that requires us to admit our “original sin” which calls for “repentance” as we put our “faith in Christ and to serve the only true God”. Elenctics should be understood wisely as it affects not only our interaction with the World, but it distresses every part of our human existence.
1.5.2 Healing Community:
Volf and Croasmun (2019) used the term ‘healing communities’ for people with an active interest in the well-being of all its members and then purposefully and intentionally shared this well-being with all members of society. Aftercare centres can serve as launching platforms, seeing parents and later the community.
Basset (1999, 1136) explains that the restriction attributed to social policy or barriers (structural or attitudinal) that limit individuals, particularly those with disabilities, from performing specific tasks or denying them access to the services and opportunities associated with full participation in society.
In social psychology, Basset (1999, 1136) identified the interplay between personal and social identities. Social identity theory specifies and predicts the circumstances under which individuals think of themselves as individuals or as group members. The theory also considers the consequences of personal and social identities for individual perceptions and group behaviour.
1.5.5 Aftercare Centres
Child aftercare programs often refer to programs that occur after school. In this sense, child aftercare is a type of daycare meant to give children a place to stay, while parents are still working, that uses a well-organized program and curriculum that encourage learning and support the child’s spiritual growth during the after-school hours. After-school programs are essential for many different reasons. With a well-structured curriculum and activities, while caregivers are often still at work, children can continue to thrive in a safe and nurturing environment, as the Brooklyn Montessori open letter explains (29 June 2021).
1.7.1. The aim of the study:
We aim to be expert archers as we point the children in the right direction and hit the bull’s eye for the Kingdom of God, kids who know, love, and serve God. Goff (2017) beliefs that it is not enough to look at the physical and cognitive development alone that is the norm of a traditional academic setting. Goff beliefs that we must look and include at the following three normally overlooked milestones known as the emotional, social, and spiritual development stages of every child. Goff explains that “it is from this place our kids operate as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends, and companions”. Aftercare centres can fill these gaps that mainline educational systems cannot, and that is to teach children that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Pr 1:7). Calvert (2018) stated that this is the beginning of our thinking, that God is the foundation of how we view and consider everything in the universe (Jn 1:3, Col 1:16).
1.7.2. The purpose of this study:
To enable aftercare centres to be agents of healing for emotionally wounded children we must aim to change the heart of a child. Turansky and Miller (2015, 9) define a child’s heart as the place where the decisions are made, and actual learning occurs. The heart is where the child holds all his believes. Goff (2017) defines the child’s heart as the very place where key emotional, social, and spiritual milestones are formed. We want caregivers to move away from fear and toward hope, as they can become agents of healing for children within a ‘healing community’ (Lk 6:40, 10:27, Cor 10:31). Both explanations of the importance of focusing on the child’s heart are equally important, and both authors’ concepts serve the research project’s outcome.
Emerging generations are desperately seeking innovative ways to take them outside of ordinary life and reveal to them the otherworldly life (a countercultural Kingdom way of life) that can generate a rich experience of the supernatural (Folmsbee 2017). Children need opportunities to discover and experience the otherworldly and transcendent nature of a good God. Christ is not only the foundation of all our knowledge, but as Calvert (2018) states that Christ is the very means for how we acquire knowledge. I believe that with the removal of Christian education from mainline school systems to make ways to accommodate all faiths, aftercare centres, and other tutoring institutions and organisations can step up as the spiritual institution that can be well equipped to fulfil this very purpose, restoring the God as the centre of all knowledge (Col 1:16-17, 2:5).
As we will look at the current state of children, as seen above, there were systems and programs in place before the pandemic spread into civilization. Therefore, we will use those programs and evaluate them to see if they are still valuable and effective for the current situation during the coronavirus. We will add suggestions if needed to adjust and serve the needs of children. However, the project at hand will not be limited to the solutions for pandemics alone, but the principles could be applied in the broader spectrum and still usable after the pandemic. We will add suggestions if needed to adjust and serve the needs of children that focus on the heart of the child where the key emotional, social, and spiritual milestones are formed.
The researcher understands that the relationship between “evangelism and social action” must be respected in the task, as highlighted by Chester (2020, 50). Because we are all fallen human beings, we must understand that our emotions can influence how we relate and observe the World around us (2020, 51). Elenctic is another notion that the researcher takes account of.
The researcher defines his spirituality through his relationship with God cultivated through his understanding of what it means that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge (Pr 1:7, 9:10). Even though the researcher admits that he is a strong Charismatic Christian, God’s Word will always be the final authority (Isa 55:11, Heb 4:12). Hermeneutics and Christopraxis will always be prioritised above any experience of human nature.
The researcher will be aware that the mindset and worldviews of the children and their caregivers should not be from his presupposition. These might include his understanding of the integrated culture and an encoded sceptical worldview of feminism and fundamentalism that is currently dominating society in general. It is also important not to understand global consumerism, technology, or social media as remembered from his own childhood. It is vital that the researcher composing this proposal focus on the children’s hearts and not just the shortcomings of the caregivers working in these institutions.
1.9.2. Issues of confidentiality and informed consent?
Since the following task involves matters that will impact the lives of both individuals and families within my community, therefore, discernment is crucial that the descriptive-empirical task is carried out with the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Osmer (2008, 34) explained that this task is listening attentively and prayerfully to the “particularity and individuality” of those involved in the process. There were also no interviews done but only participation observation. The first was through Overt participation observation, where the teacher all agreed that they could be observed. Then as we observed and worked with the children themselves, we used the disguised observation method, but only the teachers knew our true identity and the purpose of our presence.
As Smith (2011, 99) explains, Osmer’s primary purpose was to equip congregational leaders to engage in practical theological interpretation of episodes, situations, and contexts that confront them in their ministry as theological educators to train students in the skills of practical theological reflection. Therefore, Osmer’s module suits the task of the research project at hand. According to Osmer (2008, 4), he developed his module around the following four elements:
- The descriptive-empirical task asks, ‘What is going on?’
- The interpretive task asks, ‘Why is it going on?’
- The normative task asks, ‘What ought to be going on?’
- The pragmatic task asks, ‘How might we respond?’
Because Hermeneutics and Christopraxis are placed above human experience, double listening is crucial in the task throughout any methodologies used within the field of practical theology. Stotts (quoted in Chester 2020, 53-55) defines the idea of “double listening as the faculty of listening to two voices at the same time, the voice of God through Scripture and the voices of men and women around us”.
The Descriptive-Empirical- What are the challenges and the emotional well-being of children living through the covid-19 pandemic?
My research involves matters that will impact the lives of both individuals and families (Osmer 2008, 34). Therefore, the descriptive-empirical task conducted by the researcher must be done in the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit.
To achieve the information needed to complete empirical research, the methodology will start first at the level of document analysis. Followed by gathering data through the participant. Sensing (2011, 79), the scope of the research and the researcher’s experience will add or make use of both qualitative and quantitative means when the data is collected. According to Sensing (2011, 79), “a qualitative approach adds breadth to your base” and “quantitative approach adds depth to your substance”.
The Interpretive Task- Why does Covid-19 constitute a special challenge to children’s well-being?
Osmer refers to this process as applying ‘sagely wisdom’. Smith (2020:100) indicate that sagely wisdom requires the interplay of three key characteristics, but I will only be using the following two to achieve my desired outcome, namely: (a) thoughtfulness and (b) wise judgement.
The Normative Task- How does Biblical and theological literature describe a healthy framework where children can find healing and comfort?
Osmer (134–135) calls this the methodology of prophetic discernment. It seeks to discern God’s will for present realities by asking, what ought to be going on? Prophetic discernment involves divine disclosure and the human shaping of God’s word. Prophetic discernment uses three methods to discover God’s word for the present: (a) theological interpretation, (b) ethical reflection, and (c) good practice.
Engaging inappropriately in cross-disciplinary dialogue will ensure that it will add much value as it will broaden my reading beyond the scope of theology, where needed. Osmer (162) suggest the researcher must ask the question, “How is the worldly wisdom of the arts and sciences appropriately related to the Wisdom of God?”. It calls for a proper selection of a biblical text that fits the research problem’s situation. This will be achieved by doing proper Hermeneutics.
The pragmatic Task- How might aftercare Centers in Mokopane be agents of healing for emotionally wounded children?
As an NPO, our leadership module always focuses on transformation leadership. Woodbridge (2014, 111) explains and describes various aspects of leadership within the context of servant leadership. Osmer’s model will be an appropriate module to achieve the desired outcome of the research question, as explained in this proposal. Therefore, the concluding methodology will use available social sciences and present practices that can be implemented to transform the aftercare Centers in Mokopane to be agents of healing for emotionally wounded children.
Chapter 2: What are the challenges and the emotional well-being of children living through the covid-19 pandemic?
- Document analysis and interpretation
- Data collected by Observation participation
Chapter 3: Why does Covid-19 constitute a special challenge to children’s well-being?
- Theological Interpretation
- Wise Judgement
Chapter 3: How does Biblical and theological literature describe a healthy framework where children can find healing and comfort?
- Theological Interpretation- Zachariah 8, the faith of a community de-emphasis
- Theological Interpretation- Matthew 18:1-34 the role and place of the child
Chapter 4: How might aftercare Centers in Mokopane be agents of healing for emotionally wounded children?
- Available information, suggestions and ideas from other arts and sciences
- Implementation suggestion for transformation
Chapter 2: Emotional well-being of children
During the lockdowns that the South African governments implemented, NPO’s like us were prohibited from working, and we found ourselves in isolation. Social restrictions limited us to fulfilling the commission given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 28:). Later, as restrictions were lifted, we had to rethink how to structure our operations to be consistent, relational, and effective in our ministry. The idea of care Centres as the community centre to meet children immediately caught our attention.
Therefore, if one can involve the aftercare Centres as a first step to becoming agents of healing, one can then start to think in the means of Mokopane as a ‘healing community’ for children. Although this was a new paradigm shift under Level 2, social restrictions. We welcomed the new challenge as it allowed us to put our boots on the ground, ready to go and proclaim the Gospel of Peace to a spiritually starved ethnic group, the child in our midst (Eph 6:15).
Roy (2020) published an article where he warned health practitioners that although children are classified as low risk, they still face short term and long term psychosocial and mental health implications. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have brought about a sense of fear and anxiety around the globe. Research done by Cooper (2020) records both short-term and long-term psychosocial and mental health implications for both children and teenagers.
Data collected by cooper recorded (2020), during the quarantine periods: (a) 85.7% of parents reported changes in their children’s emotions and behaviours (b) (76.6%) struggling with concentrating, (c) increased by boredom (52%), (d) irritability (39%), (e) restlessness (38.8%), (d) nervousness (38%), and (e) loneliness (31.3%).
Coetzee and Grobelaar (2014:2) explicitly pointed out that if one looks at emotionally wounded children:
Their experience of emotional discomfort or suffering, stemming from unresolved negative personal, interpersonal, or social issues, which are generally the result of trauma caused by hurtful human deeds, natural or social disasters, and self-inflicted suffering. The need of the emotional woundedness to a state of well-being through the dynamic interaction between psychological and social factors in the life of the emotionally wounded child.
Bush (2010, 1) has already called for a collaborative effort in helping to raise a new generation that “can experience personal transformation and can be mobilised as agents for transformation through the world. He called for a “holistic approach that will address the transformation of the spiritual, cognitive health, economic, relational and social issues the children face”. The World, including the South African government, has imposed Strict lockdown measures to curb the spread of the nCoV. As some of the lockdowns were slowly lifted and the economy opened, NPO’s could continue their operations under strict and detailed conditions, limited to certain institutions and situations. The real-life experiences of children, as Veronica and Breanna (2019) documented, indicate that it has an enormous impact on the Children’s mental and physical health was an affected, regardless of the child’s socioeconomic status.
World Relief, an Evangelical Christian Missions (Quoted in Ahlgrim and Cressman 2016), gives us a glimpse of what they believe is the greatest mistake of churches today that only focus on evangelism and discipleship (Matt 28:19-20). Simply stated, churches forget the greatest command, to love your neighbour (Matt 22:37-38). Odendaal (2016) explains that the most excellent command and commission demand that churches should be “seamlessly integrated with the spiritual, physical, emotional, and social well-being of those Christ commands them to minister to”. Ahlgrim and Cressman (2016) believe that a community can accomplish something individuals often cannot: “make the world a better place”. The restoration occurs only if the deep personal and social wounds have been aided by faith lived out, as Ahlgrim and Cressman (2016) explain.
2.2. Data collected by Observation participation
As stated above, aftercare centres were one of the most stable environments on which we can focus our mission. With schools closed and parents working in industries that were in full operations, these centres became the community’s centre, as churches were also closed under the lockdown restrictions. A changed reality welcomed our return, a new generation of children was masked up, and social distancing was the norm. The one’s socially little human beings suddenly lock in an invisible bubble with a radius of 1.5 meters. Instead, we were welcomed with blinkered eyes behind the half-covered faces, expecting happy faces and smiles. The quality and magnitude of the impact of this nCoV, according to Roy (2020), can be determined through a vulnerability of factors like development age, education status, pre-existing mental health conditions, economic privilege, or underprivilege.
Opening ourselves to the forming and transforming Spirit of God, we observed that the situation and circumstances of the children in our community had changed dramatically. Depression and fear ravaged their little hearts, and poverty became more noticeable. In the structured play, we discovered that emotional intelligence was absent. Physical and emotional bullying among the children increased. The children struggled to participate in organised or structured play and battled to listen to instructions. They were constantly overstepping the boundaries and the need to compete and winning was the aim of the game for most of them. They struggled to work in teams and complete simple tasks where co-operation was needed.
There has been an increase in the number of children raised by single parents. There was a sudden increase in either the separation or actual divorces within our community. After one of our outreach programs, the students involved made skits to make it fun for the children. After class, we observed how a nine-year-old practised her faith as she sat down with a crying friend. We asked the little girl what was wrong, and the shocking reply was that the play resembled her home. The father was a drunk, and her mother was an immature parent. After speaking to her, we noticed that aftercare centres were overwhelmed with work due to school lockdowns and coping with online learning. The children were left to care for each other’s burdens and wipe the tears from their peer’s faces. We further noticed that children had lost the ability to connect with adults during some organized playing techniques.
The churches are fundamentally adult-centred and hardly think of nurturing and recognising the needs of the children within the community. Children face the risk of never getting the opportunity to accept the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who attend churches never get the chance to live out their faith or have a voice in their traditional churches. Therefore, the children seldom see the full power of a Christian community standing together.
In the document analysis and interpretation above, we as a church need to move beyond the educational-based ministry paradigm to a more relational approach. Emotionally wounded children are now a concern in every community. Our observation as an NPO has challenged our missionary task to love and support each child as God created him/her as an emotional, social, and spiritual human being. We must provide support to the emotionally wounded child to create a space where they can experience the loving care and support of a God who loves them. There is also enough data that calls for a plan of action to cater to the emotionally wounded child’s psychosocial and mental health needs.
Chapter 3: Covid-19 constitute special challenged
Because it involved children, we observed Stott (2008, 28) explains that if we love our neighbour as God made him/her, we must “inevitably be concerned for his/her “total welfare, the good of his/her soul, his/her body as well as his/her community”. The concept of a ‘Healing Community’ done with the heart of neighbourly love, aimed at children as the entity within the research task. Connecting places to the community, such as the aftercare centres, might be the first step towards a strategy to transform Mokopane itself into a ‘healing community’ where children feel welcome. Allot was covered in the data collection process in Chapter 2. The following chapter will take a deeper and draw on research already done of the lasting impact of the nCoV in the everyday lives of children if not addressed appropriately.
The UNICEF- ‘The state of the world’s children 2017’, explains that as children grow older, “the capacity of digitalisation to shape their life experiences, offers seemingly limitless opportunities to learn and to socialise, to be counted and to be heard” (SOWC 2017:9).
In the SOWC publication, I found the following research of the state of the children in the South African school system beneficial:
Table 5, Education: The literacy rate of age 15-24 stands at 99%, and there are 142 cell phones available per 100 people. However, only 54 per hundred of them access the internet. Children attending primary school stand at 97% of the population in that age range.
Table 9, Adolescents: 18% of the South African population falls in this category. 2% of the boys and 4% of girls are married from this group. Of the girls, 15% have had a child before the age of 18 years.
Table 12, Early Childhood Development: 48% of children in Southern Africa have access to an early childhood education program.
These three tables have shown that 48% of children are enrolled in early childhood educational systems, 78% pre-primary education, and 97% enrolment for primary school. Because of the high dropout rate in the school system and the lack of church attendance, these three education systems are where I will find the most children that we can go and help grow spiritually.
The history of missions done in Africa and around the World was very successful, and in the school context, it should be no different as Malherbe (2014:2) points out. Parents who have lost faith in the church and the church that has lost the community’s commitment are the two dominating factors that currently prevent the children of Mokopane from pursuing and fulfilling their God-given potential. We want to use our organisation, Grow for Glory, NPO, as the primary influence within the community. We believe as an institution that children should be encouraged to grow in these four core areas:
- Grow in wisdom (Prov. 2:1-5).
- Grow in stature (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
- Grow in favour with God (Jer. 29:11).
- Grow in favour of others (Josh. 1-9).
Our discipleship programs are widely accepted in the community, but we have always battled to find effective ways to encourage children to go out and live out their faith in the community. We now have come to the realisation that we need the church and the parents to work together so that we can get the kids actively involved in a community of faith through practical engagement (Malherbe 2019:5). Odendaal (2016) explains that the greatest command and commission, demands that churches should be “seamlessly integrated with the spiritual, physical, emotional, and social well-being of those Christ commands them to minister to”.
Children need to understand Christian identity, and leaders should implement the social identity theory model as they lead by example. The outcome is a change in the behaviour and mindsets of emerging generations. Instead, NPO’s are struggling under the pressures of the economy, support is limited, and poverty and arms giving have decreased. Most importantly, the church needs to be an institution again, where all members of society, including children, can feel welcome. The outcome is the changed behaviour and mindsets of emerging generations. Churches need to create space and opportunities so that children can discover and experience the otherworldly and transcendent nature of a good God. Osmer explores various aspects of leadership (e.g., task competence, transactional leadership, and transformational leadership) but frames the overall task as servant leadership Smith explains (2010:109).
Carle and Pieterse (2021, 3) explain that today’s children are facing many challenges. It is appropriate in the proposal to use their narrative of how they have identified their need to develop a program to train aftercare personnel. The main problem of Jonker and Pieterse was the issue that both parents need to work for an income:
Children of today are facing many challenges. One of those challenges they point out is that both parents often need to work for an income. As a result, despite the efforts from the parents, children experience a lack of mental and emotional support from the parents’ home, which they need daily. The challenge also exists in coordinated support networks to address the problem.
Therefore, the Congregation of Sesmylspruit has decided to do something drastic about this situation. During a community analysis done by the Dutch Reformed Congregation Sesmylspruit at the schools in the Hennopspark area, it was found that there are many children for whom the parents’ home is no longer the haven. The idea has emerged to make the aftercare centres aware that they can, to a large extent, meet this need and that aftercare centre staff can make a difference in children’s lives. The reason was that many primary school children attend aftercare Centres ‘daily’.
As a direct result, the Petra Institute for Children’s Ministry developed an aftercare centre course in 2014 based on the course “Entering the World of Children”. Petra Institute for Children’s Ministry presents the aftercare centre course and forms the core of the NG Congregation Sesmylspruit’s Aftercare Centre Programme.
We must note that both studies Coetsee and Grobbelaar, camp narrative, and Jonker and Pieterse aftercare narrative are both aimed at problems before nCoV has caused havoc in our communities. However, as stated before, that the outcome could serve as guidelines to support the pragmatic task asks, ‘How might we respond?’ in the project at hand. However, compared to the observations done from our descriptive-empirical research in section 1, there is no difference in problems, and we can only add that the nCoV has intensified anxiety and fear in the heart of children and might have increased the numbers of emotionally wounded children.
The transcended nature of a good God, according to Folmsbee (2012), is God longing to re-establish the Eden peace that showed the World to be whole. Emerging generations will connect with a garden-like way of life and story, as well as the mission to restore the World toward its intended wholeness. Simply said, the garden’s gospel story and the mission of God from which it comes resonate deeply with emerging generations. The need for experienced mentors. Create emotionally and relationally safe environments. Resilience comes through experience and practice.
Children and adolescents are more likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety during the enforced lockdowns. It is still unknown what the effects will be after the nCoV has passed and how long it will impact those who dramatically experience loneliness, depression, or anxiety during the social restrictions. However, we as communities can join and become agents of healing for children and the rest of society. There is a great need for children to be supported by good mental health services. As we grasp a future of unmasked children, we can help them understand their identity in Christ and the high-value Christ has placed on them. Christian Identity should involve a lifestyle that reflects the social identity theory model and lead by example. Children find their identity within his/her community, as they are welcomed as participants that are part of the community of goods, whereby material goods and spiritual qualities are shared equally.
Chapter 4: Biblical and theological literature
How does Biblical and theological literature describe a healthy framework for children to find healing and comfort?
The following chapter looks at two key passages Zechariah 8 and Matthew 18. Zachariah 8 is key to seeing a faith community’s de-emphasis and what they did to restore the worship within their community. Matthews 8 is aimed to understand the role and place of a child within a community of faith.
Key Text: “And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing—a good city to grow up in” Zechariah 8:5 (The Message).
The situation of Zachariah: To understand the vision of such a healthy community where kids can grow up, we must first listen to the prophet Zechariah’s word. Mangum (2016) recognises that Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai, and they were the ones that encouraged the “postexilic Jewish community” to carry on with God’s assignment to continue with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:1–2). The spirit of the nation was broken, and there was little evidence of the promised spiritual renewal that the earlier prophets had anticipated as Jewish sovereignty had not been restored (2 Chron 36:2, Hag 2, Zech 1:16–17, Mal 3:11). There was no moral reformation, and Israel had no significance among the surrounding nations. They believed God was absent and felt as if faithful obedience was useless.
Zachariah and God’s Word: Packer, Grudem, and Fernando (2012, 1283) explained that Zechariah’s motivation and encouragement reminded them of the promises of God:
- The Lord’s wrath towards the nations that plundered Judah and Jerusalem
(Zec 1:18–21; 14:3–5).
- The coming of the future Davidic ruler who will save his people and establish peace (Zec 3:8; 6:9–15; 9:9–10).
- The pouring out of God’s Spirit results in repentance and the opening of a fountain for the cleansing of sin (Zec 12:10–13:1).
- The return of the good shepherd (Zec 11:1–17, 13:7–9).
- The Lord’s final triumph over the nations (Zec 14).
Ethical Reflection: Zechariah’s ministry of bringing a word of encouragement and hope to the situation provided the self-confidence the people needed, and they started to rebuild the temple in the hope of the outpouring of God’s blessing on them. Rademacher, Allen, and house (1997: Zec) summarise the theological significance of the book as follows:
True religion, according to Zechariah, is not found merely in external acts of religious piety but is based upon a personal relationship with God (Zec 7:5–7). Such a relationship with God should change one’s attitude toward one’s neighbours. Like the prophets before him, Zechariah condemned the oppression of the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor (7:10). As a preacher of righteousness, he called God’s people back to the virtues of justice, kindness, compassion, and truth (7:9; 8:16).
In the New Testament, we are reminded by Wall (1992, 1107) that the church is known as the continuing representative of Christ’s body on earth. As he explains, the church is not a building but must be understood in Pauline theology as koinonia. The term koinonia is a community of believers who share in equal partnership within the spiritual, physical, and material benefits of God’s generosity (Phil 1:5–7; 3:10; 4:14–15; cf. Acts 2:42–47).
Packer, Grudem, and Fernando (2012, 1283) explain that Zechariah 7 and 8 form part of the eschatological perspectives within the book, between the night visions and sermons. Christians can only imagine a life with Christ in a new Jerusalem (Rev 20:4–6), where boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing, an excellent city to grow up in (Zec 8:5).
Key theme of Zachariah 8: Packer, Grudem, and Fernando (2012, 1292) states that Zechariah 8 has one key theme: “God is renewing his presence with his people. He is reaffirming his purpose to bless the nations through them”.
The second is the passage of Matthew, where Jesus places a child in the middle of the community as the object of how a person should look within the kingdom of God. Our focus will not be in this passage on the obvious immediate teaching of Jesus, but we are interpreting the passage in the light of understanding the spirituality of the children. Child Theology has already provoked interest among scholars, and therefore, it will serve this chapter in the context of the child’s heart through an understanding of their emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions in mind.
Key Text: “Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them” (Matt 18:20).
Children in the ministry of Jesus in the scope of Matthew 18: The book of Matthew is structured around five main teaching blocks, each followed by a narrative block (Malherbe, 2018: §3). Matthew 18:1-35 has two main sections: children (Matt 1-14) and the reconciliation of church members (Matt 15-35). As Grobbelaar and Breed (2016, 151) point out, the passage is strategically placed within the cannon because it precedes the teaching where Jesus starts to prepare His disciple for His suffering death. Matthew 14:1-14 can be structured as follows (Wilkins 2004, 42):
- The greatness of Humility (Matt 18:1-4)
- Shelter for the humble (Matt 18:5-9)
- Angelic Protection of the Little ones (Matt 18:10)
- The divine search for the lost sheep (Matt 18:11-14)
The phrase “became like a little Child” (Matt 18:4, NKJV) was widely interpreted as the mark of a reborn Christian that has the humility of a child dependent on the father. Hagner (1989, 518) clarifies that it is, therefore, the key to understanding that the child is our vision as we grapple with our understanding of salvation.
Ethical Reflection within Matthew 18:1-5: The disciples would also have realised that children should be respected, excepted, and embraced, as highlighted by Grobbelaar and Breed (2016, 164). More importantly, they would have reconsidered how they lived and associated with the World around them (2016, 159). They now knew that they should lead and serve the people with childlike humility, which was unheard of in those days. Childlike humility suddenly became a mark of true greatness.
This will also show the people their relationship with God (Matt 14:5). The child in their midst suddenly became the object of action and service for the disciples (Grobbelaar, Breed 2016, 166). Those disciples would have realised that children are God’s language, able to serve, able to honour Him, and more capable of speaking out when others fall silent (White 2004, 373).
Key theme of Matthew: Children have a place to serve and to be served in our churches. They can receive a revelation from God, and therefore they should be given a voice and a chance to live out their faith among us (Grobbelaar, Breed 2016,184).
On one occasion, an expert in the Law stood up to test Jesus.
“And then a certain lawyer arose to try (test, tempt) Him, saying, teacher, what am I to do to inherit everlasting life [that is, to partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]? Jesus said to him, what is written in the Law? How do you read it? And he replied, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus said to him, you have answered correctly; do this, and you will live [enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God].” (Lk 10:25–28, AMP).
Together, we are called to love God with our hearts and love our neighbours as ourselves. The stronger we believe in these truths, the better we will be in our practical theologies. We will be able to serve God; the poor and vulnerable God so dearly love and has shown so much compaction for compassion (Ps 103:13).
This was not primarily a study about strategies to serve the poor or how-to do-good development work but rather understanding these matters in the light of God’s Word and how that enables us to serve him better by looking after the broken and wounded children in our community (Jam 1:27). It is truly amazing to find out that children had such a fabulous place and role in the ministry of Jesus. We must agree that Children are a sign of humility. However, how close did this study bring us to an understanding of God’s heart for Children? We should use children and give them the same respect in our ministries as the examples set out by Jesus. If we welcome children in the name of Jesus, we welcome Him.
Chapter 5: Agents of Healing
The history of missions done in Africa and around the World was very successful in the school context, according to Malherbe (2018). We have found that parents have lost faith in the church, and the church has lost its influence in the community as they are less committed to serving the community. These are the two dominating factors that currently prevent the children of Mokopane from pursuing and fulfilling their God-given potential. Folmsbee (2012) does not shy away from it as he states that researchers should not be surprised to discover that one of the last things emerging generations are looking for is to be restricted under dogma first, above relationships.
In part, this gap widens for several reasons: the church’s unwillingness or inability to change, a small or lifeless vision, the church’s view of culture, the spoken value versus the derived value of community, and the apparent disunity among churches, church leaders, and denominations. However, if we can enable aftercare centres to be places of healing, it will flow out, and the next institution will be the churches. This chapter will use strategies and motivations drawn from the normative task in chapter 3 to make aftercare centres places of healing with a vision to make Mokopane a ‘Healing Community’ where children can feel welcome.
Reducing the impact of enforced physical distancing through family interactions and social networks could be a means of staying connected. However, as Loades (2020, 1236) has pointed out, the best option to reduce the prolonged mental effects children might have developed will be group interactions, where they can be and feel part of a group. As she has pointed out, it might not immediately reduce the risk of subjected experiences of loneliness, but it will slowly help the child realise that they add value to society. These small groups could be helpful and should use “value altered activities that are structured and address topics such as self-blame and self-devaluation. Hanson (1986, 28) concludes that a community must be formed or restored before the “Worship of God, as the one who acted in a specific event of history to deliver the oppressed from their oppressor, thereby revealing self as the incomparable God, majestic in holiness”.
Folmsbee (2017) suggest the following four areas where Christians can experience God in their hearts and circumstances, namely:
- The result of God’s power is awe: Power is the ability to impact or influence something based on authority and supremacy.
- The result of God’s peace is wholeness: Peace (Shalom) is not simply the absence of conflict; it is completeness, well-being, and harmony.
- The result of God’s provision is life: God’s provision for all of humanity is God’s breath or spirit within each of us.
- The result of God’s presence is intimacy: God’s presence with humanity and within all of creation reveals God’s desire for a close and personal relationship.
The churches must realise the value of children for God and his kingdom. The document ‘children at risk’ (LOP 66) states that:
- All children should be holistically nurtured throughout childhood.
- God’s story shows us that God uses whom he wants to use, including children.
- Children can be called by God and hear God’s voice.
- Children can be active participants in worship and service to God.
- The people of God are to respect, listen to, envision, and empower children as valuable agents of God’s mission.
Suppose we take a step back from the traditional interpretations of Matthew 18:1-5 and see children in the light of this study. We as a church are now challenged to go and restore the image of the unwanted, unloved, and abused children of our time to the full image of their Creator in our communities, as stated by Grobbelaar and Breed (2016:183-184). Grobbelaar and Breed suggest that we can do this by a focus on these three crucial areas:
- The church and theology should focus more on the action of advocacy on behalf of children.
- Churches need to be hospitable places where vulnerable children are welcome and served with love.
- Our mission strategy should also include children, becoming a missional children’s ministry.
In simple terms, children have a place to serve and to be served in our churches. They can receive a revelation from God, and therefore they should be given a voice and a chance to live out their faith among us, according to Grobbelaar and Breed (2016, 184). What must change as we prepare to welcome our children back as part of the community and our churches. As an NPO, now we can assist aftercare Centers in the following ways:
- Implement a good practical training program starting at the caregiver.
- Motivate caregivers to be less academic and think socially.
- Encourage them to be mentors and not teachers.
- Have a mindset that moves past discipline to coach.
- Spiritually, they should practice love above doctrine.
Other areas Bolsinger (2020) suggest they can be helpful as we coach caregivers to help them become adaptive and quick thinking. The nCoV that keeps changing could be exactly what is needed but not at the cost of relationships. Caregivers should be trained in the skills of connecting within the literary review section in chapter 1 of this project. It explained that the camp narrative of Coetsee and Grobbelaar is like the project. At this point, this project can include the suggestions of Coetsee, who was responsible for the section of ‘Towards the Healing communities- A camp Narrative with a deference’ (2014, 11).
According to Coetzee (2014, 4-8), the elements contributing to the camp’s success were designed according to specific principles and concepts. As he explained, each contributed to the “formation of an environment in which trust could develop, communication stimulated, (self) discovery promoted and emotional healing could take place” (2014, 4). He listed the following elements but insisted that they be understood as a unit, carefully integrated to allow simultaneous development. Coetsee lists these elements, but the descriptions of each were abridged out of from the Logos Bible software’s Factbook, LLC 2021. The five integrated elements that allow simultaneous development is defined as follows:
- Hospitality (Garwood 2014):
Hospitality entails receiving and caring for guests, especially travellers or strangers in the family or community. In biblical usage, hospitality has several functions, including helping the poor or dispossessed, strengthening affections, welcoming outsiders, and, especially in NT, spreading the Christian message.
- Healing relationships (Byrley 2014):
Healing is the restoration of body, mind, or spirit to a state of wholeness and well-being. This restoration can be physical, as in recovery from an illness or injury, or spiritual, as in forgiveness of sins and justification before God. Ultimately, healing is embodied in Jesus, who healed the sicknesses of many in his earthly ministry and secured ultimate healing for all through his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.
- Attachment (Clinton, 2015):
We discuss developing a model, theory, and perspective to understand how we are created for relationships. In doing so, we give ourselves a language to describe how we do or do not exercise intimacy with God and significant others in our lives. We have talked about attachment theory, which I have described as relationship theory and emotion theory – that our emotions are directly connected to our core relational beliefs.
- STOP (Coetsee, 2012):
This STOP model is only a sketch. Coetsee explicitly states that it does not make the layperson a psychotherapist. However, if childcare workers understand the principles of the model and join with others to sincerely work on a relationship with the traumatised child, they can distinguish between a destroyed child who traumatises others and a healthy child who contributes to the healing of others. For this emotional healing to occur, they must be helped to understand and deal with their feelings of fear, sadness, and protest.
Four letters “STOP” represent the four principles involved in this process.
- S- Structure
- Reliable adults who take the lead and carry the basic responsibilities
- Belong in a family or home, even if it is a broken or substitute family
- Have a fixed daily routine: mealtimes, devotions, bedtime, duties, recreation, time for school.
- Time and Talk
- The most valuable part of therapy with a child is allowing the child to tell his or her story to somebody prepared to listen without pre-conditions.
- The effective counsellor is the one who is prepared to be this “somebody”.
- O- Organised Play
- The purpose of organised play is to build a therapeutic relationship and allow the child to communicate
- To gain insight and, eventually, control over his or her emotions leads to healing.
- The therapist mirrors the child’s emotions in an understanding way throughout the course of the play and ensures that the child is correctly understood.
- P- Parental Support
- Providing the basic needs: food and clothes.
- Providing a home – a place where the child can feel that he belongs, where he may be ‘himself’ and be unconditionally accepted.
- Listening with undivided attention.
- Encouraging and supporting.
- Playing with the children and telling stories.
- Creating structure and routine.
- Providing discipline.
- Including the child in the community
- Preparing the child for the future.
- Guiding and training the child in a loving relationship with God.
- Becoming God’s story:
The aim of counselling for Coetzee (2012, 88) is to provide opportunities for the child to grow personally and in relationships with himself, others, and God. This happens when the child learns to understand himself better (self-awareness), makes peace with who he is (self-acceptance), and becomes more open to others. The attitude of the counsellor can help or obstruct this growth.
- Self-awareness then becomes aware of who I am in the eyes of God (God understands me),
- openness becomes openness to others as well as the Holy Spirit (I can be honest with myself because the spirit knows me inside out), and
- self-acceptance means that I can make peace with myself because God has made peace with me (God loves me as I am).
Coetsee and Grobbelaar (2014, 8) concluded that to become a good camp facilitator, the facilitator first must master appropriate skills and exhibit relevant knowledge and foundational values”. Their research outcome and suggestions are appropriate for caregivers working in the local aftercare centres in Mokopane. However, as the course director of Grow for Glory NPO, it would be a timeless effort to develop a course that will address the immediate need. Especially one that can fit within the narrative of the problems caused by the nCoV outbreak.
Therefore, the course that Carle Jonker developed in collaboration with Lize Pieterse called: “Entering the world of a child. An 8-week Practical Training for Aftercare Staff” is not only complete but serves the need to restore the child in our midst. The course’s overall purpose is to enter the World of a child to restore positive values and provide opportunities for healing through healthy relationships. Key outcomes of the 8-week training, Carle and Pieterse states that caregivers will:
- Demonstrate understanding of the value of relationships to create a better working environment
- Express their own emotional needs better to grow their relationships
- Demonstrate understanding of the value of relationships to enter the World of children
- Apply play, listening, stories, love languages, and boundaries to build relationships with children
Coetzee (2014, 4-8) explained that securely attached is when they learn from young that their feelings can be expressed, that they can and should deal with them, not suppress them, and that their needs can and do get met. These people learn that it is okay to be vulnerable; it is safe to express their needs and desires. They feel worth and have an easier time bonding with others and showing up in a romantic relationship. We all hope to develop this ideal attachment style in our relationships. A Christian helper enters such a relationship with a child, and he does this as a representative of God.
It was never the child’s fault that they were trapped in poverty, victims of divorce, or facing fear and depression imposed on them through the nCoV. Through the above study, we have seen that there is known a great need for true spiritual transformation within the hearts of Children and a great need to attend to the emotionally wounded children within our community. We have seen that the contribution of the camp narrative had influenced the outcome of this project as outlined above. Therefore, it is not an impossible task to continue the influence of the camp narrative and make aftercare centres a place of healing with a vision that the camp experience also influences Mokopane to become a ‘Healing Community’ where children can feel welcome.
Throughout this study, we were guided and informed by God’s Word on how we can stand with the vulnerable, whether in our communities or worldwide. We have seen how what we believe, and value directly impacts how we act and respond, resulting in the corresponding outcomes. Odendaal (2016) adds that this includes our “beliefs about the poor, the vulnerable, the purpose of Jesus’ mission, and our roles as well as our corporate role as the church in serving God’s purposes”.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
The project identified that even before the nCoV that started in 2020, there was a major decline in church attendance, and more and more adolescents had left the church. Pastors blame it on the World and factors such as television and social media. However, is the World really to blame if pastors have lost their influence to connect to certain generations within their immediate care? Here is the gap; I believe that my research will make a difference and help rebuild the church as the centre of the community, especially a place children can be a part of.
Malherbe (2018:5) supports the idea that NPO’s will need the help of churches and parents to create opportunities for our children to be actively involved within the community of faith. As we have concluded in the normative task, the key theme of Zechariah 8 stated that God is renewing his presence with his people and that God is reaffirming his purpose to bless the nations through them. Churches need to create space and opportunities so that children can discover and experience the otherworldly and transcendent nature of a good God. A God wants to give them a place where the boys and girls can go to the public parks, laughing and playing.
To restore faith in a community that is sickened by religion itself. Ahlgrim and Cressman (2016) believe that the answer is not “destructive religion is not the rejection of religion but practicing healthy religion”. The church and theology should focus more on the action of advocacy on behalf of children. Churches need to be hospitable places where vulnerable children are welcome and served with love. Our mission strategy should also include children, becoming a missional children’s ministry. Grow for Glory is a ministry for the church (Rom 8:17), sharing in their suffering and reaching out to children, and has proven to be a reliable asset in the healing community of Mokopane. Therefore, as we carry the burden with the church. Our prayers are that the research done by us within this project could serve the church so they can recapture their place and restore their credibility as the center where Children discover and experience the otherworldly and transcendent nature of a good God.