How to Talk to Kids and Teens About Death - Pastor Mary Suomala Folkerds

Many people are uncomfortable talking about death, especially with children. As hard as it is to face, death is a natural part of life. Everyone encounters death at some time. If we want to help children through the death of a loved one, we (adults) must be okay with talking about it, and we have to let them know it is okay for them to talk about it. 


How to Talk to Kids and Teens about Death

Helpful tips for talking to children:

  • Use clear and concise words when talking about death. Small kids do not understand abstract language. Check to see if the child understands what you have said. Consider the age of the children. Older children can have a few more details, and may ask more questions. Younger kids need simple, but true answers.
  • Let your child know that expressing emotions and asking questions is natural and okay. 
  • Do not avoid your child’s questions. Avoidance may heighten their anxiety. Each question deserves a simple and relevant answer. 
  • Don’t be concerned if you are not able to answer every question. It is better to say, “I don’t know” than to give a misleading response. 
  • Remember that children often realize much more than we give them credit for, and that their ability to cope often exceeds our expectations.
  • Children have a short attention span, and that applies to grief as well. They may bounce between emotions, and that is okay. 
  • Reassure them that there are caring adults who love them and will always try their best to keep them safe. 

Things not to say: 

  • “The person who died is sleeping.” This makes them fear sleep. 
  • “God needed another angel.” This may make them think that God randomly takes children.

The Teens Five Tasks of Mourning

1. To accept the reality of the loss 

When someone dies, even if it is expected, there is an initial feeling that it hasn‟t really happened. One of the first things we need to get is that the person is really dead and we will never see them again, hear their voice again, talk to them again…at least not in this lifetime. Helping create, or at least attending the funeral, wake or memorial service can help. So does talking about how the death happened and sharing memories of the person who died. 

2. To experience the pain of grief 

When we lose someone we love, it hurts really badly. As we tell stories about the death and about the person who died, we have strong feelings like sadness, longing, anger, guilt, fear, confusion, and loneliness. These are normal. The more we love someone, the more it hurts to lose them. We can think of painful feelings as expressions of love for the person who died. Some people might be uncomfortable with our strong feelings, so it is important to find understanding people to hang around with. Journaling, doing art, and playing or listening to music can help to. 

3. To adjust to a world in which the deceased is gone 

The realization of what it is like to live without the deceased person usually begins to emerge after about three months. Sometimes we find ourselves thinking we hear their voice or see them driving down the street. We might even pick up the phone to call them. Each time this kind of thing happens is another opportunity to remember the truth: they are gone forever. When an immediate family member dies, there are big changes in family roles and duties. When a best friend, pet or close relative dies, that special someone who occupied our time is no longer there, so our time is spent very differently. Life has dramatically changed. It takes time to get used to this different life. 

4. To reinvest in other activities and relationships 

Sometimes we fear that we will forget our deceased loved one. But really, we never do. Being touched by someone is a forever thing. Some of us worry about replacing the person with someone new, but we can never really replace people since they are one-of-a-kind. If we try to replace someone, things are sure to fail. And if we resist loving again, for fear of replacing them, that, too, is tragic. In healthy grieving, we eventually stop investing so much of ourselves in grieving our loved one. We begin to form other relationships and invest in other activities. This is the way we go on living, even though someone we loved died. 

5. To accurately remember the deceased 

It is normal during the grief process to have all kinds of memories of the deceased and of our past times with them. Some memories are good, and some are not so good. If the relationship was mostly positive, we tend to remember good things at first. If the relationship was hard, we will tend to mostly remember the bad things at first. Eventually, it is important to have a well-rounded memory of the one who died, and of our relationship with them. Our memory is, after all, what we have left of them. 

Adapted by WinterSpring, from William Worden‟s Four Tasks of Mourning.

One Church. Two Locations. - Pastor Dan Dornfeld

A brand new poll has been conducted by leading church consultant Thom Rainer, which shows that 35% of churches in the U.S. are actually growing right now! That is amazing news given that it has been well established that only 20% were growing just a couple years ago. But here’s the startling and shocking reality: according to our ELCA national office only TWO PERCENT of the 9,000+ ELCA churches are growing at all. That is a stark contrast to the national trend, and highlights the utterly unique position we are in at Good Shepherd, as a church that is actually exploding in every conceivable metric. That’s something I don’t take lightly and is something I ask you to join me in giving thanks to God for this very real blessing.

I am amazed at what God continues to do through us together. I am overjoyed that we have raised the full scope of our capital appeal in order to better connect people of all ages with our Good Shepherd. And we cannot “rest on our laurels” knowing the kind of impact that I truly believe God wants to make through us outside of our walls. Because of how very rare our congregation really is in the ELCA, it's a tremendous responsibility we have to push further into our mission together. There are so many others that need to know the promise and grace of Jesus.

That is one of the reasons that the birth of our downtown Fargo campus is such an exciting and pivotal time in the history of Good Shepherd. The last time a Moorhead church birthed another one in our denomination? Over SIXTY years ago, when Trinity Lutheran birthed Our Savior’s! I just heard some very compelling reasons on a recent podcast for what multi-sites and new campuses do for a “parent” congregation. More growth, evangelism, discipleship, engagement and financial blessings all occur in the vast majority of multi-site congregations. That is exciting on every level because these are all signs of the real gift: that we are able to serve and love God in helping ALL to know the Good Shepherd in our mission together.

And just how can we serve and love God and others?


CHEERLEAD this with others.

WE set the tone for our mission, so grab those pompoms!

JOIN us on Sunday and welcome our guests. Be friendly. Sing out and praise God!

INVITE others. MOST people will come when invited!

SHARE your time, talent, and resources. YOU can make the difference.


Pastor Dan Dornfeld

Lead Pastor 

ReFORmation! - Pastor Mary Suomala Folkerds

October is the month where our teaching series moves from the theme of “FOR Fargo Moorhead” to “ReFORmation!”

On October 31, it will 500 years since Martin Luther started what became known as the Protestant Reformation by nailing 95 theses, or grievances, to the doors of the Wittenberg Church. But church historian, Dr. Christopher Gehrz, says, “If we Protestants are ‘reformed and always reforming,’ then commemorating the Reformation should cause us not so much to celebrate the past as to renew our mission and ministry in the present.”

Martin Luther’s central conviction was that in Christ, God has freed us from sin

and death, and thus has freed us FOR service to our neighbors! This has been the focus of our “FOR Fargo Moorhead” teaching series.

As we move into the “ReFORmation” teaching series, we will look at how the early Reformers shifted the way that the church of their day witnessed to Jesus, and how we can faithfully witness to Jesus in these changing times!

Here are some fun facts about the Reformation that I found in the July 2017 issue of Living Lutheran. As you read about these changes, think about the ways that social media, worship styles, and church planting impact how we do ministry today:

  • There were reformers well before Luther and what became known as the Reformation, but Luther and other reformers of his time harnessed the power of the printing press to give their ideas a wide audience.

  • Prior to the Reformation, congregational singing—and even talking—during church services wasn’t standard practice in Germany.

  • Reformation is still needed as recent research and surveys reveal that about one-third of mainstream Protestants believe eternal life depends on our actions and living a good life, despite the biblical understanding and teachings of the reformers that salvation is a gift from God received through faith in Christ, through no effort of our own.

  • The Reformation emphasis that God sees ALL believers as spiritually equal had profound repercussions in the church—especially when applied to women.

  • Today, more than 200 denominations and churches in North America have histories connected to the Reformation.

    Happy October! I am excited to see how we are still ReFORming! - Pastor Mary 

New Family Directory!

Be included in our new church family directory! We need you to make our new directory complete! 

Our directory will:

1. Put names with faces!

2. Help us connect with each other!

3. Help us reach out to new families!

Each participating family receives a free directory and complimentary 8x10 photograph. 

Precious Memories

- Professional photography

- Dedicated customer service

- Upfront pricing

- Fast delivery

Bring meaningful items to your photography session. Invite your extended family for a special photograph. Wonderful gift ideas & greeting cards.

Schedule your photography online here!

Tuesday-Saturday: Aug. 22-26

Tuesday-Saturday: Sept. 19-23

Tuesday-Saturday: Sept. 26-30

Weekdays: 2-9 p.m.

Saturdays: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you!


What does The Church need to work?

What does a cell phone need to work?” asks Coach Mitch.
CHARGE!” yell 25 excited kids at the morning session of Cross Training Basketball Camp here in the Gym at Good Shepherd (22 more kids were in the afternoon session).

How do we get charged up?” asks Coach Mitch.
By staying connected to Jesus!” answers a bold 2nd grade boy!

These same answers apply when we talk about the Church! We, THE CHURCH, stay charged by staying connected to Jesus. We stay charged by living out our mission at Good Shepherd:

We GATHER, GROW, and GO so that ALL may know the Good Shepherd and have abundant life in His Name!

One way we want to live out our mission is to add an Education Wing to CHARGE UP more followers of Jesus of all ages!

We are down to the wire for collecting pledges for this Capital Appeal! We need a full-court press to fully fund this new addition! It is time for ALL of us to be ALL IN! Every gift of ANY amount is needed to turn this dream into reality!

We want EVERY household to be part of this appeal at ANY LEVEL OF GIVING so we are throwing down a FUN challenge to raise the rest of the FUNds! When we get 100 more gifts or pledges of ANY size, Pastor Taylor will get a pie in the face (yes, a literal pie)! When we get 50 more gifts, Pastor Mary will get a pie in the face (Eeek)! When we get 50 more gifts, Pastor Dan will get a pie in the face!

If we harness this 4th quarter momentum, we will get to our goal of providing educational space for all ages WITHOUT incurring more debt! So who else would you like to see with a pie in the face? Oh, the possibilities!

What does THE CHURCH need to work? CHARGE!

How do we get charged up? BY STAYING CONNECTED TO JESUS!

Go Team!

Pastor Mary