A parent told me recently that their child didn’t want to come to church because they got bullied by the other children at church. This wasn’t at school or online; this was happening at church! These are statements that as a children’s pastor I don’t want to hear but I need to be aware of them! I thought to myself, no not here in church; not in this place where we all should feel safe and loved! It blew my mind and made me ask, am I doing enough to make sure this stops? Sadly, I realized that I am not. But why not? I’ve known that bullying behavior has been around for a while but I have put the matter on the back burner.
The US Department of Health and Human Services identifies “bullying” as: 1) An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. 2) Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. 3) Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
There is a growing trend in America and in our churches amongst our children and teens that is scary and dangerous, which most of us know about but rarely take seriously and many times do nothing about it. Pew research states that “Nearly one-in-five teens report that they have been bullied in a recent 12-month period. Generally, this bullying has occurred in one of four scenarios — in-person, by phone, via text messaging, or online. Half of the teens surveyed say they were just bullied through one medium while 50% said they were bullied in more than one way.”
So what can we do about bullying? The Christian Post states, “We are calling upon Christians kids throughout the nation to stand up and assertively, but non-violently, oppose intentional acts of cruelty and abuse because it is abuse. Right now our Christian kids are just silently sitting by and doing nothing when they see another person being torn apart.” There is also much that parents can do. An article titled, Coaching Parents on www.nobullying.com states that parents having a strong relationship with their children is key. It is our responsibility to teach our children to be kind, sympathetic, caring, courteous, have integrity, non-boastful, and be thankful. We need to teach our children that bullying in any setting is not right and if they get bullied to let us know. Bullying can affect a child negatively, so much so that many children end up thinking about taking their lives or harming themselves. Let us not tolerate bullying in our church; let’s help those that need help and stop those that are willing to bully others.
We need to be aware and ensure that our children are aware that we are not better than another person. When we see our own sinfulness in front of us, we realize that we cannot treat another person as being beneath us. Paul reminds us: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written; “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).