Church, Please Love My Kid

A Call for Churches to Minister to Children with Mental Illness

I was the guest speaker at a Mom’s Group teaching on “Raising Kids who Glorify God” the first time a nursery worker refused to watch my kid. As I checked my child in, the wide eyed moms stood around awkwardly as the Children’s Director switched a few workers around. I walked towards the classroom with my tears sucked into the sockets of my eyes and a lump the size of a gumball in my throat. I knew that the lessons I’d spent hours preparing would never be remembered, but hearing the nursery worker’s animated complaint about not having to babysit my “little monster” would be super-glued to their memories.

The crazy thing is, I understood where the nursery worker was coming from. While the other kids sat on carpet squares mesmerized by Bob the Tomato, my kid would be climbing the stack of chairs in the corner of the room to grab the piece of tape stuck on the ceiling from last year’s Bible School. A few kids would be hugged a little too tightly and start to cry. My daughter would become an attachment style mommy to the naked 1970’s doll with the round plastic head and stuffed body, refusing to share it or even put it down until I pried it out of her arms when I returned to pick her up. And if a caretaker dared to say “No” she’d throw herself on the floor kicking and screaming, not for the two or three minutes of typical kids, but until I was dragged from my podium to come rescue the workers. My daughter has behavioral issues due to mental health disorders, I completely understand the worker’s refusal, because dealing with a kid like mine deserves a whole lot more than minimum wage. But what I understand and what I hope for are two different things.

I hope for someone who has compassion for my daughter. I hope for someone who sees her as God’s image despite her behaviors. I hope for someone who extends God’s grace and mercy to her. I hope for someone to love my daughter as Christ does.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.¨ Jesus didn’t say, “Let all the kids who sit quietly and listen come to me.” He didn’t say, “The kingdom of God belongs to the children who don’t act up.” Do we as a church “hinder¨ children with mental health needs from coming to Jesus? If we are uninformed, untrained, unprepared — then the unfortunate answer is “Yes.” We have a mission field in our backyard that is larger than 150 countries, but we are unwilling to reach it with the gospel for fear it may disrupt our comfortable church culture.

In his book, “Finding Grace for the Children: Finding Hope in the Midst of Child and Adolescent Mental Illness,” Matthew Standford writes, “As a community of believers, we must not withdraw from or ignore childhood mental disorders but instead choose to face them with God’s grace and wisdom. Christ said we would know we are His disciples because of our love for one another. Where better for children, whether they have a mental disorder or not, to look for love and acceptance than the church? Where better for parents to go for support and comfort than the body of Christ?”

As a mom, my heart breaks for the emotional turmoil that my daughter faces on a daily basis. My greatest desire is that she love the Lord with all her heart, and find comfort and peace in Him and in His people.

I beg you, Church, please love my kid.

Matthew 19:14, ESV

Matthew Standford, “Finding Grace for the Children: Finding Hope in the Midst of Child and Adolescent Mental Illness,” InterVarsity Press, 2019

“Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith,” LifeWay Research, 2014

Whitehead, Andrew L., “Religion and Disability: Variation in Religious Service Attendance Rates for Children with Chronic Health Conditions,” Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, Clemson University, July 2018

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Lorene Piñero

Writer, Speaker, Mental Health Advocate — Sharing hope and peace through the knowledge of God in the midst of parenting a child with mental health disorders.