USA (MNN) — It’s been just over a week since March For Our Lives demonstrations swept the United States to protest gun violence in schools. But the conversations are still going as lawmakers, school officials, and parents debate the best way to reduce school violence. How can Christians lead the conversation?
Greg Yoder, Executive Director of Keys for Kids Ministries, says it starts with empathy and the heart.
“I think the first thing is a heart issue, and we have to address that…. Even focusing on this weekend, because there were a lot of people that were protesting or actually going out demonstrating because they wanted more gun control laws. My heart goes out to those kids because they’re frightened, they’re afraid, they’re concerned, they don’t want to be the next victims. Who does? They’re just frustrated because not much is being done, at least in their eyes.”
The Cure for the Disease
When you want to cure a disease, it is important to start with the symptoms. The rise in mass shootings in the United States is a deeply disturbing, heartbreaking symptom. And, as any patient would ask, what is the diagnosis behind the symptom?
“The reality is, there are evil hearts; and unfortunately, we have evil hearts. Until we address the heart issue in all these things, school violence isn’t going to change — whether it’s school violence with guns or with bombs or with fists or with sticks or with knives or just bullying, that’s not going to change.”
So, what is the cure to the sin in our hearts? This is where culture misses the mark. Laws, background checks, mental health awareness, counseling — all of these things are good, even necessary tools. However, like gauze and bandages, they can only do so much when the problem is an internal cancer.
Everyone hurts. Everyone suffers. But we need to be grounded in something that is more constant than the shifting tides of community, more true than the failed systems of government, and more worthy than the imperfect love of self.
We all need Jesus.
Is It That Simple?
The answer of “Jesus” can seem trite. But is it really that simple?
Yoder chuckles. “Well, following Christ has never been easy. Look at the disciples. They walked with Jesus while he was here and it wasn’t easy for them. It certainly wasn’t easy for them when he left. So the answer to your short question is, no, it isn’t that simple. It isn’t that easy. It is hard to live here on this earth…. It is a battle, to battle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities in this dark world in which we live.”
For our neighbors to know Jesus, Christians need to be serving as Jesus, loving as Jesus, and speaking the truths of Jesus.
In Acts 13:47, the Apostle Paul writes, “For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’”
As long as there is sin in the world, there will always be violence. But as long as the Church lives out the Gospel, there will always be hope.
The Role of Parents
Sharing Jesus and the Gospel starts in our homes. Yoder says, “Jesus told us to love the unlovely and to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to do. But we as parents need to be teaching our kids these biblical truths.”
To get your kids grounded in the Bible, Yoder says there are three practical things parents can do:
- Lead family devotions — “My encouragement is, get in the Word! It’s important! And if you don’t know how to do it, that was always my problem. I never really knew how to lead my family in devotions. So get one of our devotionals. It’s really easy to do, they’re free, you can get them online, you can get our app and start sharing the Word with your family and talk about it. Don’t just read it and then everybody is good to go. Talk about it and have your kids pray over things.”
- Pray for your kids — “Be intentional about praying for your kids. I wrote a parent a few weeks ago about being intentional about how we pray for our kids. It’s not just enough to say, ‘Help Susie to be good at school.’ Let’s be focused on really what we want God to do in their hearts and lives.”
- Strengthen your own walk with God — “Thirdly, make sure our hearts are right with the Lord and make sure we are staying in the Word so we have the answers to be ready to answer those issues that are coming up in our communities and hopefully make a difference in our communities by being a loving support system and sharing the hope that’s in Christ alone.”
Ministry to Kids
At Keys for Kids, their mission is “igniting a passion for Christ in kids and their families.” They do this through ministry programs for children including devotionals, radio programming, biblical materials, Creature Feature Storytellers, and the Keys for Kids app.
Yoder shares how God is using their ministry to change kids’ hearts.
“We just got a letter from Kaitlyn. She was at school and her friends were encouraging her to start bullying another student. She wrote, ‘I hate to say it, but I gave in for about a week.’ Then — she’s a Keys for Kids devotional reader — she said, ‘That week, I read a story about speaking up when something isn’t right. After reading it, I knew in my heart that I was doing something wrong, so I went back to school that day and told my friend that I wasn’t going to do it anymore to my classmate and asked for her forgiveness.’”
By next summer, Keys for Kids is also planning to launch a teen devotional and app.
“This is something that we’ve never done before, but we’re raising a lot of money to begin trying to research and develop a devotional that’s going to help kids in real-life scenarios, help them develop a community online, [and] be able to be iron-sharpening-iron in an app that’s hopefully going to really encourage the Body of Christ not just here in the United States, but abroad.”
Keys for Kids’ goal is to raise nearly $600,000. In addition to a new teen devotional, this financial initiative will also spearhead other outreaches such as their Keys for Camps program and a new video production studio.
Yoder shares, “We’re obviously looking for people to support this program. If you want to reach kids where they are today, Keys for Kids Ministries is breaking some pretty unique ground not just here domestically, but internationally. We’re just excited about where God is leading us.”