Normally, childhood experiences do not include finding out that one of your parents has cancer and spending lots of time at this place: the Cancer Center… so how do you minister to the kids in your church when that is the case?
I’ve been there. Not only have I been the children’s minister searching for the right words to say, but I have been that kid. My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was eight. The next four years of my life I was in and out of cancer centers with my dad often. I can’t say I knew how to respond to cancer, but I’m pretty sure no one else around me knew how to either.
I am still searching for the right words to say during these times. I’m not sure there really are “right words,” but I can speak from what really made a difference in my life:
- Others that encouraged my parents. This blessed me because I love my parents.
- Hand-written cards, especially when I got one specifically addressed to me.
- My dad’s best friend, my pastor, spending lots of quality time with my dad/family.
- My parents being honest with me and allowing me to ask questions about cancer.
- Hugs. It sounds silly, but sometimes words just aren’t necessary.
- Events like father-daughter dinners to build sweet memories.
- Adults who let me ask the hard questions. These were big ones for me: Why does God let this happen to people who love Him? What did I do? Did I make God mad? Why MY dad? Why do I pray to God to heal my dad and nothing happens? They didn’t have to know the answer. I just wanted them to listen.
Sickness is hard, and there’s no formula for ministering to families dealing with it.
Just be available. Just encourage. And just love.