By / May 7

Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for many. One in 10 couples struggle with infertility, and approximately 10 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages. For many women who long to have a child, Mother’s Day can serve as a difficult reminder of what they desire, but do not have. The potential pain of Mother’s Day extends further still — for women have chosen an adoption plan for their child, single women who desire to be married and have a family, or women who have had an abortion. And others might be grieving the loss of or navigating a difficult relationship with their mother.

Waiting

Personally, Mother’s Day can be filled with conflicting emotions. I was born with a somewhat rare medical condition that prevents me from bearing biological children. The loss of that dream feels especially poignant this time of year. But I also have a desire to honor my own mother and mother-in-law and celebrate the women in my life who are mothers. Romans 12:15 is often on my lips as I navigate these tensions and seek to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

My husband and I are in the process of an international adoption from India. This Mother’s Day, I feel the strange tension of pursuing motherhood but not yet stepping into the role of “mother.” I’m waiting for paperwork to be approved, for a social worker to deem us eligible to be parents, and to be matched with a child. But I know that waiting is not in vain. 

As an adoptee myself, I’m aware that my children’s stories will contain trauma. Even if our children are adopted young, there is trauma involved any time there’s a break in the natural family. The issue of adoption and child welfare is deeply important to me. I’ve spent time and energy navigating the complexities of these issues in order to advocate on behalf of vulnerable children. While we wait, we are reading books on trauma-informed parenting, listening to seminars, and gleaning wisdom from other adoptive parents so that we can love our children well. Our waiting is not in vain.

Watching 

We’re also watching the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in India with broken hearts. According to the BBC, “India has seen more than 300,000 new cases a day for nearly two weeks straight while deaths stand at 220,000. Experts say total Covid cases and deaths in India are likely to be much higher, citing lack of testing and patients dying at home without being seen by doctors.” The images and stories we’re witnessing have caused global alarm and attention. I can’t help but wonder how many children will be orphaned because of the thousands of COVID-19 deaths. 

Praying 

As we watch and wait, we do the best thing we know how to do: We pray. We lift up our future children in prayer almost daily. They might not be known to us, but they are known to our Father, and in that, we take great comfort. We pray for their safety and protection. We pray for their biological parents and the challenging circumstances that led them to making an adoption plan for their children. We pray for the leaders in India to make good and wise decisions for their citizens. We pray for the souls of our children, that they might come to know the Lord as their Savior at a young age.

In my waiting, I often echo the words of David, “O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.” Waiting can often feel helpless, but Psalm 27:14 reminds us to “be strong, and let your heart take courage” as we “wait for the Lord.” I fix my eyes upon the Lord and ask him to fill me with his strength when I feel weak. 

If you find yourself in a season of waiting right now, allow me to remind you that you are never alone in your struggle. Psalm 38:9 reminds us that “all our longing is before God; our sighing is not hidden from Him.” The Lord promises never to leave or forsake his children. He promises to be good and to set his steadfast love upon us. When you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, on Mother’s Day or any time, press into the promises of the Lord. 

By / Dec 17

Parents and caregivers have the wonderful privilege to explain to their children that God made their bodies. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity, or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special. 

The message children need to hear is: “God made all of you. Every part of your body is good, and some parts are private. He made the parts of your body that other people see every day, and he made your private parts. Every part is good because God made every part and called them all good.”

Heartbreaking sexual abuse facts 

Parents need and want help in protecting their child from sexual abuse, which is an important and prevalent issue. One in four women and one in six men have been or will be assaulted in their lifetime. Heartbreakingly, many of the victims of this epidemic are children: 15% of those assaulted are under age 12, and 29% are between ages 12 to 17. Girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault.

Most victims of child sexual assault know their attacker: 34.2% of assailants were family members, 58.7% were acquaintances, and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.1U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement (2000).

Although strangers are stereotyped as perpetrators of sexual assault, the evidence indicates that a high percentage of offenders are acquaintances of the victim.

Most child sexual abuse offenders describe themselves as religious, and studies suggest the most egregious offenders tend to be actively involved with their faith community.2Donna Eshuys & Stephen Smallbone, Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders, 18 SEX ABUSE 279 (2006); Philip Firestone, et al., Clerics Who Commit Sexual Offenses: Offender, Offense, and Victim Characteristics, 18 JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 442 (2009).

Parents and caregivers need to be smarter and better prepared than those who would want to harm the child they love and want to protect. While actions by adults can be more effective than expecting children to protect themselves from sexual abuse, children still need accurate, age-appropriate information about child sexual abuse and confidence their parents and caregivers will support them.

Practical ways to educate your children 

Education is important in prevention against inappropriate sexual behavior or contact. By teaching children about their body and discussing appropriate and inappropriate touch, you are helping them understand their ability to say “No” to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt or trick them.

Here are nine practical things parents and caregivers can do to protect their children from sexual abuse:

1. Explain to your child that God made their body. 

An explanation can look something like, “Every part of your body is good, and some parts of your body are private.”

2. Teach proper names of private body parts.

It might be uncomfortable at first, but use the proper names of body parts. Children need to know the proper names for their genitals. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked, and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.

Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. Explain to your child that “some places on your body should never be touched by other people—except when you need help in the bathroom, or are getting dressed, or when you go to the doctor.” You can do this with young children during bath time or have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.” The bathing suit analogy can be a bit misleading because it fails to mention that other parts of the body can be touched inappropriately (like mouth, legs, neck, arms), but it is a good start for little ones to understand the concept of private parts.

3. Invite your child’s communication. 

Let your child know they can tell you if anyone touches them in the private areas or in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable (even areas not covered by the bathing suit)—no matter who the person is, or what the person says to them. Assure your child they will not be in trouble if they tell you they’ve been touched inappropriately—rather, you will be proud of them for telling you and will help them through the situation.

4. Talk about touches. 

Be clear with adults and children about the difference between touch that is OK and touch that is inappropriate. To your child say something like: “Most of the time you like to be hugged, snuggled, tickled, and kissed, but sometimes you don’t, and that’s OK. Let me know if anyone—family member, friend, or anyone else—touches you or talks to you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Teach little ones how to say, “Stop,” “All done,” and, “No more.” You can reiterate this by stopping immediately when your child expresses that they are all done with the hugging or tickling. Your reaction is noteworthy for them as it demonstrates they have control over their bodies and desires.

If there are extended family members who may have a hard time understanding your family boundaries, you can explain that you are helping your children understand their ability to say no to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt them. For example, if your child does not want to kiss Grandpa, let them give a high five or handshake instead.

5. Don’t ask your child to maintain your emotions. 

Without thinking, we sometimes ask a child something along the lines of, “I’m sad, can I have a hug?” While this may be innocent in intent, it sets the child up to feel responsible for your emotions and state of being: “Mom is sad . . . I need to cheer her up.” If someone wanted to abuse a child they might use similar language to have the child “help” them feel better, and the child might rationalize it as acceptable if this is something they do innocently with you.

6. Throw out the word “secret.” 

Explain the difference between a secret and a surprise. Surprises are joyful and generate excitement, because in just a little while something will be unveiled that will bring great delight. Secrets, in contrast, cause isolation and exclusion. When it becomes customary to keep secrets with just one individual, children are more susceptible to abuse. Perpetrators frequently ask their victims to keep things secret just between them.

7. Clarify rules for playing “doctor.” 

Playing doctor can turn body parts into a game. If children want to play doctor, you can redirect this game by suggesting using dolls and stuffed animals as patients instead of their own body. This way they can still use their doctor tools, but to fix and take care of their toys. It may take some time for them to make the shift, but just remind them gently that we don’t play games, like doctors, with our bodies. If you find your child exploring his or her own body with another child, calmly address the situation and set clear boundaries by saying, “It looks like you and your friend are comparing your bodies. Put on your clothes. And remember, even though it feels good to take our clothes off, we keep our clothes on when playing.”3Dialogue from Stop It Now! tip sheet: http://www.stopitnow.org/talking_to_kids

8. Identify whom to trust.

 Talk with your kids about whom you and they trust. Then give them permission to talk with these trustworthy adults whenever they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused about someone’s behavior toward them.

9. Report suspected abuse immediately.

You’ve read these steps, now consider yourself an advocate against childhood sexual abuse. Report anything you know or suspect might be sexual abuse. If you don’t, it’s possible no one else will.

Educating your children and giving age-appropriate information about sexual abuse is an important way to help prevent abuse. These nine practical steps will help you to empower your children against sexual abuse and will give them confidence that they can come to you for help and you will support them.

  • 1
    U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement (2000).
  • 2
    Donna Eshuys & Stephen Smallbone, Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders, 18 SEX ABUSE 279 (2006); Philip Firestone, et al., Clerics Who Commit Sexual Offenses: Offender, Offense, and Victim Characteristics, 18 JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE 442 (2009).
  • 3
    Dialogue from Stop It Now! tip sheet: http://www.stopitnow.org/talking_to_kids
By / Dec 15

Matt Sliger, a pastor at Southwoods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, recounts how his own children have been ministered to during his church’s response to the coronavirus.

By / Oct 14

Last month, a favorite family park reopened in our West Seattle neighborhood. With much excitement, my wife and three kids arrived to play on the newly built playground. Getting into a new rhythm of playing while wearing masks was uncomfortable for my six-, five-, and three-year-old kids, but nevertheless, they were excited about the prospect of playing at the park again. 

After the kids played a bit, an unexpected topic of conversation emerged. My kids noticed all the protective wear other families had. Some families wore masks, others wore face shields, while still others removed their masks to take advantage of breathing in the open air. My first reaction was to tell my kids not to stare. But then I realized there was an opportunity in their curiosity. In fact, it was the perfect opportunity to teach them about the conscience. 

We’re all adjusting to new COVID-19 rhythms and protocols. Each of us has our own perception and interpretation of all the new policies and procedures. Kids do too. And if your kids are like mine, they aren’t afraid to ask why one family’s approach to mask-wearing, social distancing, etc., differs so much from the next. 

As these questions come, I believe it’s important now more than ever for parents to teach their children how to differentiate between biblical convictions and personal convictions. I believe it’s important for us to help our kids understand how God has designed the conscience. Here are three truths to get you started:  

First, our conscience is a gift from God. God has given humans the ability to identify and describe our internal thoughts—whether positive or negative—about ideas, actions, and situations. In Romans 2:15, Paul explains that the conscience is an intrinsic ability that is “written on every heart” of every human. 

So instead of defaulting to a preachy attitude about matters of conscience (“I know what other families should and shouldn’t do”), we should remember that the conscience is a precious gift—one that we should appreciate in ourselves and others, one that we should utilize with grace.

Second, our conscience is a guide. When a friend of mine began teaching her kids about the conscience, she described it as “a moral compass that guides people toward a heightened awareness of right and wrong.” It’s a guide given by God to help us navigate our daily choices. As we navigate each day’s circumstances and decisions, our conscience guides us through our decision-making process. 

We should teach our kids that if they feel guilt over a particular sin or a poor decision, they should listen to those feelings. Their conscience is guiding them toward repentance and reconciliation. If we learn to be aware of our conscience, we can sense whether thoughts and actions are swaying us away from the true north of God’s righteous standards.

Third, our conscience needs calibrating. One of the challenges of the conscience is that it has been affected by the fall. Our consciences are not perfect. They are good, but flawed and need constant calibration. On the one hand, the human conscience has positive moral tendencies; we gravitate toward justice, goodness, and truth. On the other hand, we can sear our consciences by giving into sin and deceit. And we can overly strengthen our conscience by sneering at and standing in judgment of others who make choices that differ from our own. 

Thankfully, we have God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to correct our consciences and keep us from these twin dangers of lawlessness and legalism. When we compare our lives to the Bible’s instructions, God will graciously awaken our conscience toward truth. You see, God is committed to our sanctification—to our transformation. He wants to make us more like Jesus, and correcting our conscience is one of the ways he does so.

Have you had a conversation with your kids about their conscience? As parents and church leaders, our motivation should be that of Paul’s instruction to Timothy. He wanted his son in the faith to live with “love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). By teaching these basic principles about the conscience, we can help our children grow up with godly discernment about the world around them. 

By / Jun 29

A 7-year-old girl sexually abused by her father squirms in her chair, stares at her toes, and hesitantly asks the investigator, “Am I still a virgin in God’s eyes?” A sexually abused boy walks into a crowded courtroom and sees both his ministers and half a dozen church elders present to support the father he accuses of violating him. The child tugs on the suit of the prosecutor and whispers in his ear, “Does this mean that God is against me too?” Another boy recounts in therapy years of physical and emotional abuse from his parents. “I prayed and prayed for the abuse to stop but it never did. Why didn’t God answer my prayers?” 

These cases, and thousands just like them, reflect what researchers call “spiritual injuries” that result when an abused child is violated in the name of religion or simply has profound spiritual questions as a result of the abuse. Left unresolved, spiritual injuries also impair the physical and mental health of abused children. If, however, qualified mental health and pastoral care providers work in tandem to address the spiritual impact of abuse, faith can be a significant source of resiliency that aids in coping with abuse

Unfortunately, many mental health providers and clergy have received little or no training on the spiritual impact of child abuse. As a result, many abused children suffer in silence with no qualified professional able to address their needs. It doesn’t have to be this way. Churches taking seriously the command of Jesus to protect children (Mark 9:42) and to minister to the least of these (Matt. 25:45) should take at least four practical steps. 

First, churches should witness their faith by implementing child protection policies to prevent abuse. Many churches don’t have any policies and those that do often have policies focused only on preventing sexual abuse within the church. This is because policies are often drafted by insurance companies and law firms that want to prevent the sort of abuse most likely to result in a lawsuit. A true Christian witness would result in policies addressing not only sexual abuse but also physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and witnessing domestic violence. Moreover, these policies should not only address abuse within the church but also abuse in the home. Dr. Shira Berkovits writes of 10 core policies each faith community should have. Churches should review this guidance and see how close they are in meeting best practices. In addition, The Introductory Guide to Caring Well will help you think through making your church a safe place. 

Second, churches should require quality training on recognizing and responding to child abuse. Without training, even the best child protection policies will fail. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that churches and other youth serving organizations require training of pastors and others working with youth. This training should include instruction on recognizing signs of abuse, responding to a report or suspicion of abuse, monitoring employees and volunteers working with children, and implementing personal safety training for youth and parents. The training should be provided by experts in child abuse and address all forms of abuse. 

There are many high quality child abuse training programs. The Child Safeguarding Training Program offered by GRACE, the Standing Up for Children training program of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Keeping Faith training program of Zero Abuse Project are three solid options. The Caring Well initiative of the Southern Baptist Convention also provides online training and other resources. In the Jewish Community, Sacred Spaces has launched a pioneering training program called “Aleinu” (which means “it’s on us”) that allows a congregation to develop multiple best practices online while receiving expert assistance at each step of the way. 

Third, churches should speak openly about child abuse. A survivor of abuse once told me he longed to return to church but was waiting until he could find a congregation where the pastor had spoken about child abuse from the pulpit. Every Sunday night he listened to area sermon podcasts certain he would eventually find such a church. Week after week, month after month, his search came up empty and, after several years, he simply gave up. “I love Jesus,” the man told me, “but I can’t find Christ in the church.” 

This man is not alone. A Lifeway study found that 1 in 10 Protestants below the age of 35 have left a church because of silence or insensitivity in responding to abuse. In my Lutheran community, 65% of our parishioners do not believe our churches are fully prepared to respond to sexual abuse. 

Jesus said how we treat children reflects how we receive God (Mark 9:36-37). When pastors preach about child abuse, discuss maltreatment in Bible class, and develop proactive ministries for those wounded by abuse, they speak volumes about their attitude toward Christ.

Fourth, churches should develop collaborations with child protection professionals. In some states, there are creative partnerships between faith leaders and child protection workers. In Minnesota, for instance, a program called Care in Action works with social services to provide resources for children in need. If, for instance, a child is in foster care and wants to go to prom but doesn’t have money for a prom dress, partnering churches will work to address the need. 

In the United States, many maltreated children receive services through accredited Children’s Advocacy Centers. Some of these centers have developed chaplaincy services to address the spiritual needs of abused children and to educate local faith leaders about trauma-informed pastoring of children and adults impacted by maltreatment. 

A survivor of abuse once asked me how Christians could worship a God who was a victim of abuse while failing to care for the child abuse victims in our pews. To this survivor, and so many others, the true Christian church will only be known by its fruit (Matt. 7:20). 

By / Mar 12

Conservative evangelicals stand in a particularly momentous position in the U.S. as various pressing domestic crises, conservative values, and sacred obligations converge over the issue of caring for our neighbors. This issue has taken on a greater significance as people have become more aware of wealth inequality and the lack of social mobility in our country. Our concern appears in the common refrain that the American Dream is no longer achievable for many Americans. One of the most popular “solutions” to this problem is universal preschool, which is designed to equip students to excel in school and then in the workforce.

Recently, New York Mayor de Blasio has announced plans to expand pre-kindergarten (beginning at age 4) in the city by selling bonds and taking money from charter schools. This isn’t a surprise, since universal pre-K has been one of de Blasio’s signature policies since before his election. He’s hardly the most notable politician advocating universal pre-K. Last year, President Obama announced an initiative to push for universal preschool, and when he did, conservatives roundly objected, pointing out the tremendous cost for an already over-budget federal government and the studies which have demonstrated the weaknesses in the Head Start Program.

There is a lot to criticize in Obama’s plan; it will increase our debt and will not likely improve the problem of social mobility, at least according to the research. But on the other hand, the status quo is unacceptable. As it stands, the “accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality,” according to Nobel prize-winning economist, James Heckman. And while we may object to efforts to create an “equality of outcomes,” such a dramatic disparity in opportunities for flourishing as we find between the poor and middle and upper class children is destructive.

While the rest of the country debates the effectiveness of Head Start and the tragedy of a calcified underclass, in Waco, Texas, a small Christian ministry has been sacrificially and willfully working to address generational poverty in their area by providing intensive, high quality, early childhood intervention (ECI) to the “least of these.” Their work is a model of how local churches can take up the needs of their specific communities in profoundly personal, humane, cost-effective, and gospel-driven ways which are fundamentally inaccessible for the State.

If the church in North America was to direct their benevolence resources into programs like Talitha Koum, they would effectively address (though not “solve”—nothing is that easy) nearly every major social ill which plagues our country while preventing the expansion of the federal budget. Of course, I understand the tremendous cost to the kind of project I’m describing, but when the crisis is properly understood, when we grasp what is at stake, the opportunity is astounding.

Researchers have identified a web of conditions which strongly predict whether or not a child born in poverty will succeed in moving out of poverty. Most of these conditions are related: family structure, racial and economic segregation, school quality, and social capital.

Rather than summarize the data which demonstrates how dramatically these conditions affect children, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario for a child born into a poor community.

You are born to a single mother who was herself born and raised by a single mother. Like most poor communities, there is high crime, low performing schools, and little engagement with private institutions (e.g., churches, nonprofits). Since your mother did not have a good parenting role model in her own mother, she lacks important parenting skills and knowledge. In part because of her own high levels of stress brought on by poverty, she struggles to provide you with the nurture and comfort a baby needs to bond and be sheltered from the negative influence of living in poverty. As a result, your home environment is unstructured, violent, loud, and uncertain.

From your earliest years, your brain is wired for a world of chaos. You are never taught self-control or delayed gratification, habits which your mother was never taught as a child either. She is less likely to read to you, and the number of words you hear will be drastically lower than your middle-class peers. If you are lucky, your mother has enough resources and skills to get you signed up for government assistance so that you have basic health care and food and perhaps you can begin attending a Head Start program when you are three. But by then you are already far behind your peers. You cannot self-regulate well enough in class to learn basic skills, which means when you enter kindergarten you are even further behind.

When you reach adulthood, you are less likely to have completed high school, more likely to be a single mother or have spent time in jail (for males), less likely to have a good job, and more likely to have health problems than your peers. Thankfully, at this point, a number of churches in your surrounding areas have good GED and job training programs which they devote considerable resources to, but since you are an adult, it takes a lot more effort for you to develop these skills. Odds are, your children’s childhoods will look a lot like your own.

Many pundits have correctly identified family structure as one of the main predictors of social mobility: If you are born to a set of parents who stay together, you are much more likely to be able to achieve your social goals. And so there has been a push by conservatives to stress the importance of marriage, and rightfully so. However, for people born into generational poverty, being told that marriage is important isn’t enough. They need deep, cultural, communal, and cognitive support that will equip them with the skills, habits and social capital necessary to get married for life and raise children in a healthy environment. And to be effective, these interventions need to begin at the earliest stages — 8 weeks old at the latest — when the brain begins to learn about the world, setting the neural pathways which will shape that child for life.

That is why President Obama and many others have been urging a dramatic expansion of preschool. Based on the research conducted by Dr. Heckman, advocates of universal preschool claim that for every one dollar spent on early childhood intervention, society saves eight dollars down the road in services like incarceration, increased healthcare costs, education, and entitlement spending. Even more appealing for conservatives, ECI was shown in Heckman’s work to be positively correlated with a variety of core social issues:

  • Reduction in criminal participation later in life
  • Increases in educational achievement in minorities and children in adverse home environments (poverty, single parents, etc.)
  • Reduction in disparity between black-white incarceration rates by increasing the likelihood that black students complete more years of schooling (which lowers the probability of incarceration)
  • Raises in future wages
  • Increases in college attendance
  • Increases in economic returns from their education
  • Lowered rates of teenage pregnancy (since teen pregnancies among the poor account for a significant portion of abortions, this also should reduce abortion rates)
  • Mothers who give more cognitive and emotional stimulation for their children—which prepares them to be successful
  • Reductions in race and income gaps

But there are problems with this miracle solution proposed by Obama. As I mentioned in the beginning, Head Start programs have shown only very modest benefits, hardly the kind of dramatically life-altering benefits promised in Heckman’s research. Proponents of the programs respond that Head Start has had such modest results because it is underfunded; the programs Heckman studied were much higher quality and cost a lot more. Where Head Start will cost around $8,000 per year per student, the Perry study which produced Heckman’s much touted results cost closer to $20,000.

Ideally, voluntary, early childhood interventions would be run by local organizations, ones that can keep costs down, better meet the needs of particular communities, and build more meaningful relationships with disadvantaged youths and their families. This is the model of ECI at Talitha Koum.

Begun by a very small church with several women dedicated to ministering to the poor in Waco, Talitha Koum is a “mental health therapeutic nursery.” They focus their efforts on the most needy families in the area—those who typically do not qualify for government assistance because they lack the resources or skills to apply. Beginning at eight weeks old, the children are cared for eight hours a day in small classrooms (six kids and two teachers per class) until they are ready for kindergarten. After they graduate from the program, they are paired with a local mentor who promises to help the child navigate life until they go to college or find good, full-time work. They would like to add a third leg to their work: in-home visits by licensed nurses, but it will require more funding. Currently, the foundation spends about $17,000 per child, per year—less than the Perry school but still a lot more than the proposed universal preschools.

When I visited with Susan Crowley and Donna Losak, two of the founders of Talitha Koum, I was struck by all the ways they were able to provide personal care for the children that would simply be foreign or impossible for most government programs. For example, when I asked about what qualifications teachers needed to work there, Crowley informed me that the most important characteristic they look for in teachers is a deep love for the children. They also require a bachelors degree of some kind and provide them with thorough training, but love is the necessary quality. As a private, local ministry, they also can adjust their practices based on the latest research. They can meet the spiritual needs of the kids because they are not a state agency. The children never have to lose care because their mother or father failed to fill out the appropriate paperwork or failed to look for work. At the same time, parents are encouraged to come to weekly parenting classes, where they are fed, and cared for, and encouraged. The result of this is that the workers at Talitha Koum have fostered deep, trusting relationships with these mothers, allowing them to minister to them and their children more personally and effectively.

One of Crowley’s mantras during my visit was that if the church would simply commit to caring for the needs of the most needy and vulnerable in our country for the first five years of their lives, we would have a profound impact on generational poverty. If local churches worked together to offer early childhood intervention programs, like what Talitha Koum has been doing in Waco, they would be more cost effective than the proposed state programs, but they also would be caring for the needy in more meaningful, intimate, spiritual and personal ways. And through this, they will be able to better proclaim the Gospel.

It seems inevitable that our country will try to combat generational poverty and all its great harms by investing heavily in early childhood intervention. We already see signs of the State moving towards such programs with President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address and Mayor de Blasio’s expanded pre-K. Tragically and despite enormous costs, de Blasio’s pre-K initiative in New York will most likely have very modest results, particularly since it begins intervention at age four, so late in the child’s mental development. The question for the church is, will we allow the state to take the initiative, or will we take up this task and engender the kind of deep, redemptive healing that the state can only dream of?