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Coming alongside struggling children can feel like an uphill battle. Yet children struggle with the same desires adults struggle with, are lured by the same lies adults fall prey to, and can find hope in the same source adults can find hope—in Jesus. This manual helps counselors share Christ—the way, the truth, and the life—while tailoring interactions and teachings to the understanding of children. Caring for the Souls of Children equips counselors, parents, pastors, and other helpers who love children, to boldly trust in the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling. Edited by counselor and author Amy Baker, this in-depth resource begins with an overview of foundational principles for counseling children and addresses a different counseling topic in each subsequent chapter. Topics addressed include a wide variety of general and specific issues that children face including anxiety, anger, abuse, suicidal thoughts and actions, self-harm, shame, grief, disability, disease, sexual identity, and many others. Articles are written by a wide range of biblical counselors, authors, and pastors who have worked with children for many years including Amy Baker, Julie Lowe, Marty Machowski, Jessica Thompson, Jonathan Holmes, Michael R. Emlet, Garrett Higbee, Edward T. Welch, Kevin Carson, Harvest USA, Charles Hodges, Joni and Friends, Bob Kellemen, and Pam Bauer.
Several things about Caring for the Souls of Children encouraged me. First, I loved how practical it is. Throughout the book, each contributor provides activities and questions that will help a counselor to hear and understand a child’s struggles and also to communicate biblical truth. I particularly liked Julie Lowe’s “boat and refuge” activity (pp. 98–100) that can be used to help an anxious child name their fears and find refuge in God. Second, I was thoroughly encouraged by the intentional ways each contributor included the child’s parents into the discussion. Contributors were careful to say that many children don’t need counseling, they simply need godly parenting. So the best approach is often to give counsel to moms and dads on how to parent their kids. Every chapter in part 2 ended with a section titled “A Word to Parents.” These closing paragraphs give mom and dads wise instruction on how to further engage their kids outside of a counseling session. Third, I was deeply impressed with the contributors’ awareness of how both sin and suffering impact children. Biblical counselors can sometimes put uneven emphasis on personal agency, but the contributors to this volume—without denying a child’s responsibility—demonstrated a conviction that brokenness is bigger than sin. In Charles Hodges chapter on self–harm, for example, he describes how the endorphin rush that comes when cutting is part of what draws those who self–harm back to it (p. 197). In Pam Bauer’s chapter on children who are not living with their biological parents, she unpacks at length the trauma of loss, confusion, grief, and fear children experience when removed from their homes or given up for adoption (pp. 280–87) These are just two examples, but nuanced discussions of various struggles abound. Other favorites of mine are Jessica Thompson’s treatment of the parent–child relationship (chapter 5), Tim Geiger’s approach to talking with kids about sexual identity (chapter 12), and the Joni and Friends team’s chapter on counseling children with disability (chapter 15).
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