You may think this is obvious, especially if you have no religious affiliation at your program but tons of nonprofits have a faith based agenda and a mission founded on spreading the love of God. God calls people to do his work, so naturally there would be a lot of religious people creating programs based in faith. With that said, regardless if our Stable Moments programs are at a faith based facility or not, we still don't incorporate prayer into sessions.
A great place to find volunteers and community mentors is the church. These are people with huge hearts, looking to serve. I have had several child mentors ask over the years, can I pray for them? Can I pray for the child I mentor? My answer is yes, but not here at the farm, unless they bring it up and directly ask you to pray with them.
Here's 3 reasons why we don't pray for children at the barn.
1. We don't impose our agenda.
A principle of the Stable Moments model is to drop the agenda. That children come to us whole and that we are not here to fix them, but to simply meet them where they are at. They are good enough and worthy of our time. We are interested in getting to know them, support them, show them they matter. Asking a child if we can pray for them makes it about us, our agenda, and can imply they aren't good enough because they need to be prayed for. Let's be real here, we rarely are compelled to ask a kid that is making straight A's, and head of the football team if we can pray for them. There is some inherent pity that goes along with praying for someone while they are receiving services. Even when it comes from the deepest places of love.
2. Praying might have never worked for these kids.
It isn't unrealistic for many of these kids to have prayed and prayed hard, while they were suffering abuse or neglect. They may have prayed to God that their mom please score some drugs so she would stop freaking out, or desperately pleaded with God while sitting alone in their closet that their dad stops beating their mom. I have met plenty of kids that gave up on God a long time ago, possibly around the time their 4th foster parent "gave them back". It is unfair for us to tell a child to pray, or turn to God in times of instability when it has NEVER worked for them before.
3. You run the risk of triggering them.
It's no wonder that kids feel triggered when someone says, you just need to surrender to God. He loves you anyway. This can trigger shame in a child. He must not love me because I still haven't been adopted. If God truly loves them anyway, must they pray to be included in his grace?
These reasons for not praying often leave mentors and volunteers who have strong faith disheartened, which I can understand. So here's what they can do.
1. Accept them as they are
These children are all different with complex histories and carrying trauma that has impacted their human development. Trauma often causes core feelings of worthlessness. Our first job is to show them their value. Find out what they're good at, what they enjoy and build their sense of identity and self-confidence.
2. Lead by example
Show them the world has good people by being a good person to them. Show up for them, talk about how you thought about them away from the barn. Tell them something you remembered they liked or mentioned from last time. Be present and encouraging. Label your feelings when you are upset, emotional, confused. When you don't know what else to do, get curious with them. Admit, you're not sure what to do, but that you would like to figure it out with them.
3. Love anyway
Hurt people hurt people. For these children it is threatening when we make them feel valued and loved, as they know this isn't true in the core fabric of their being, so they resist it. They push until we have had enough, and become punitive, frustrated or mad. That is when they are validated....I knew he didn't really like me. I knew I was a bad kid. LOVE ANYWAY! And if you do lose your cool, that's ok too as long as you process that with them. Tell them you lost your cool and that you were frustrated, but that you really like spending time with them and you hope they would forgive you. This is excellent role modeling of skills they can use when they lose their cool.
Ok, so we may not be able to pray for them, but boy can we bring the grace of God into their lives, through compassion, understanding, mentorship and love.
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