As kids enter elementary school, they also enter a time when
friendships become a central element in their lives. Kids this age
are still learning how to make friends, and their lives can often
seem more like a soap opera because of the fluid -- and often
fleeting -- nature of these friendships.
And though these friendships may come and go, as a children's
minister you can help kids have positive experiences, learn to grow
in their friendships, and learn to value their friends. Here are
tips you can use.
• Bait and Switch -- Give plenty of
opportunities for kids to talk together with a partner or in a
trio. And have kids switch every so often so they're exposed to
more than the same group of kids each time.
• Force It -- Make "friendship appreciation" a
regular part of your class time. In each class, incorporate
activities such as having kids each say something nice about the
child sitting next to them. This will build rapport and self-esteem
• Honor the Rule -- Use Scriptures that depict
friendships and their importance in your lessons. Point out the
significance of friendship in these verses. And most of all, teach
kids the Golden Rule -- and enforce it.
• Hire Ambassadors -- Make your classroom a
"friends-first" classroom. This means that any visitors have an
automatic partner (a volunteer ambassador) and that kids who miss
class are prayed for and sent a "missed you" card.
• Talk About It -- Most kids love to talk, so
tap into this propensity by giving them a chance to talk about why
friendship is important and how we should treat our friends.
• Worth Fighting For -- Conflicts are
inevitable. How you guide kids to handle their conflicts will
determine whether they learn to treat one another with respect and
kindness or with contempt. Make your conflict-resolution policy
Although kids this age experience fluid relationships with one
another, there can still be a strong bonding that takes place. By
emphasizing that friendships are important and that everyone
belongs, you'll help kids build the foundations for strong
friendships in the years to come.
Jennifer Hooks is associate editor of Children's Ministry