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“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus’ Golden Rule is the perfect principle for child and family ministry. This is true whether that ministry is a children’s home or a local congregation’s afterschool program.
The Golden Rule is foundational because it describes how we must care for others – for all others. It is especially applicable for us because of our mission.
The mission of our organization – to guide children and families home to experience God’s love by following the teachings of Christ – requires that our ministry is informed by the Golden Rule. The reason is simple. The Golden Rule is one of the primary “teachings of Christ”.
Before “viral” was a word, The Golden Rule was viral: being cared for by someone who wants good for you makes it easier for you to want good for others.
My first supervisory role at the Home was as Director of the Reception Center and Admissions. In 1990, the Reception Center was our emergency shelter and evaluation center for 24 children. I learned quickly the truth that leaders only lead well when they actively care for those they lead. As a young supervisor I learned from my own wise leaders. I also learned the very best thing I could do to ensure children in the Reception Center received excellent care was to abide by the Golden Rule in my care for our staff members.
In 1993 my wife, Robbie, and I had our first child, Valerie. In 1996, our youngest, Victoria, was born. Children change everything at home but having my two girls changed more than my home life. My girls made me a better leader than I would have been without them.
Here is the reason. Having my own daughters made the ministry of the Home personal in a way I could not have imagined before becoming a father. My two daughters established a firm, personal baseline for applying the Golden Rule to all our ministries to children and families.
Am I doing for other children what I would want done for my own child?
Like all of Christ’s teachings, the Golden Rule is a difficult standard. It translates the goodness one wants for oneself and those he cherishes into the pursuit of goodness for others. It requires one to believe, “every child is mine”.
When “every child is mine” we are willing to take risks to ensure they receive all they need to be healthy, sound and successful. When “every child is mine” we are willing to set aside judgmental notions and consider instead the real needs of “our” children. When “every child is mine” we are willing to do extremely difficult things, willing to make costly sacrifices, and willing to give all of ourselves for their good.
The troubling conviction of the Golden Rule for me is that every child is mine. The truth it speaks to all our staff and our ministries is that all children are ours. The responsibility it implies is overwhelming. Pray for us as we seek to live the Golden Rule in our interactions with children and families.
Rick Wheat, President and Chief Executive Officer
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services