Have you ever been in a classroom where you can see or hear another group of kids interacting and having fun — and you’re not? The other teacher and group are lively, but your teacher or group is boring. I have, and I remember secretly thinking, I wish I could be a kid in that group because I’d never be bored. I’d have fun and probably get the perfect attendance award, if I was in that teacher’s room!
The difference between these two kinds of groups is the leader. And you can be the kind of leader kids flock to, because you continually create a fun, safe environment. In fact, if you’re a leader who loves what you do, then you’ve heard kids say, “I want to be in your group next year!”
Kids can be discerning, even when you least expect it. They intuitively know if you love to connect with them, if you love what you’re doing, and if you’re in charge.
There are many ways to intentionally shepherd and connect more deeply with kids. For optimal learning and life-change in the minds and hearts of children, they need to feel as though you want to hear them. Good communication happens when there’s a strong safety net socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Here are six methods proven to be effective with kids.
1. Communicate caring! Kids need to know they matter to you! Always remember this motto: “Kids don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.” The investment of time on the front end, getting to know your kids versus getting through the curriculum, pays off royally. You’ll be able to go twice as deep because relationships are in place and your kids will want to come back for more. Remember, for some kids church might be the only safe place they have.
For children to grow and understand God’s love, they need to know they’re loved, accepted, and cared for. Make a list of how you’re intentionally getting to know your kids, then create a few new ways.
Notice a pattern in what kids want to talk about. Concentrate on keeping track of what they’re asking about or telling you. Honestly check the percentage of time you spend on active listening. When I first started practicing active listening, my percentage was lower than what I wanted to admit.
If a child tells you his favorite candy bar is a Baby Ruth, take note. Surprise him on his eighth birthday with one or even eight Baby Ruth candy bars. This was a home run with one kid who said, “How did you know that was my favorite candy bar?”
Like this boy, many kids are amazed and pleasantly surprised when they hear, “Because you told me a couple months ago.” Kids aren’t always accustomed to being heard. It can be a big deal to kids when you remember small things.