It’s the little things that matter to kids. Karl
Bastian, the Kidologist, shares his secrets to making life-changing
connections with kids…
No child has ever thanked me for that great vacation Bible
school we did three years ago or for the awesome Water War event.
Instead, children remember our trips to restaurants, the times I
came to watch them play soccer in the rain, the birthday parties I
attended, or the miniature golf outings we had.
It’s the little things that matter to kids. And if we’re really
going to make a lasting impact on children, we need to do more than
just teach them or program for them. There are too many young
people with heads full of Bible facts who aren’t living for the
Lord. Somehow, we need to make a connection with them that
transcends, is deeper than, and makes relevant the things that we
What does it mean to connect with kids? What does that
connection look like? What does it sound like? What must you do to
become a genuine kid connector? Follow these four steps.
Develop A Child’s Perspective
The first step toward a highly relational ministry style that’ll
make real connections with kids takes place without any children.
It starts in your head and heart. If you’re to make connections
with kids, you must learn to see and understand the world as they
do. You must carry with you an invisible pair of “kid glasses” that
you can put on at any time to help you see the world as kids see
it. You may even find you like the view and decide to keep it
permanently! No one will notice except the children around you.
Rediscover the wonder of everything around you. Unleash your
imagination. Play. Be curious. Reach out and touch stuff. Be silly
sometimes. Kids will recognize that you’re one of them and fail to
notice that you’re 3 feet taller. My favorite compliment from kids
is that I’m a kid in a grown-up’s body. I know, and they know, that
we understand a world that most adults have forgotten.
Find Things In Common
Think about who your friends are. Why are they your friends?
What is it that connects you? Most likely you have something in
common such as work, hobbies, sports, or your family situations. If
having things in common is how and why you connect with adults, why
wouldn’t the same be true for connecting with children? It’s not
enough to use kid stuff as props in your teaching; you must own
things that you enjoy and kids can relate to. Show kids your Happy
Meal toy collection. Or play soccer with kids before church. Find
ways to get on their level by being part of their world.
Engage In Their World
Listen to what children talk about. Notice the subject matter
and type of conversation. They’ll usually discuss things from their
world, engage in imaginative storytelling, or create wild “what if”
scenarios. To enter into the conversation and connect, you need a
key — something that proves you belong there. It may simply be
your attitude. It may be a toy. Or it may be a demonstrated
knowledge of the world of kids — things you can respond to when
most adults wouldn’t have a clue.
People often ask what to do or say to connect with kids. It’s
more about what you need to be. We’re each different, and therefore
our connections look different. Some of my portals to the world of
kids, and indirectly to their hearts, are yo-yos, LEGO blocks,
paper airplanes, and magic tricks. What will yours be? What’ll you
have in common with children? Perhaps you need to visit a toy store
to buy yourself something or devote a Saturday morning to watching
kids TV shows.
Touch Kids’ Lives Outside Of Class
No matter how good a teacher you are, your mere presence in a
room has limited connecting power. Children live in a world where
there’s always an adult in front guiding their activities. To make
real connections with kids, you must impact them outside the
Even as you connect, though, never forget that it’s unwise and
unsafe to spend one-on-one time with children outside of church.
Remember that your two-adult rule for classrooms needs to apply in
outreach settings as well. Children’s ministry consultant for New
Re-sors-es Sharyn Spradlin agrees. She says, “I will forever be an
advocate of connecting with our kids, for it’s through relationship
that the message will be made authentic. Our efforts, however, must
be filled with wisdom beyond reproach.” If you don’t have two
adults, then spend time with a group of children who have their
Do things that are unexpected. Break out of your grown-up mold.
Drop by for a visit. Attend school and sporting events as an
all-out fan. Take children to a McDonald’s restaurant and order a
Happy Meal dinner for yourself too — and play with the toy! Visit
schools, eat the cafeteria food with kids, and climb the playground
equipment with them. Drop them birthday cards and notes in the
Be in touch with families so you know when kids are going
through tough times. These are the best times to be there for them.
When kids are sick, visit them with a lab coat with your name on it
and a doctor bag filled with toy doctor equipment and candy. Leave
a balloon animal or small toy. Prescribe for children to pray twice
before bed and call you in the morning.
Be creative! Find out what you can do to surprise and delight
your kids with the ways you reach out to them. You’ll make
connections that’ll make your teaching take on new relevance and
effectiveness. You’ll not only be their teacher; you’ll also be
If you do these things, you’ll cease to be just another adult
figure; you’ll connect with kids. And aside from the results and
the benefits to your ministry, it’s simply a fun way to live. After
all, who ever said you had to grow up? cm
Close Encounters Of The Presidential Kind
I was heading to chapel, when suddenly walking right at my side
was Dr. Joseph M. Stowell III, the president of Moody Bible
Institute. I was a new student, and I’d never been that close to
him. After my meager hello, he greeted me. We had a simple and
short conversation walking down the hall toward chapel until I
turned to go to my seat and he walked up to the platform.
Weeks later when I stepped into an elevator, there was Dr.
Stowell again. I greeted him, and he answered, “How’s it going,
Karl?” He had remembered my name!
While I was valet parking at a popular Chicago restaurant months
later, Dr. Stowell drove in. I left a note inside his car inviting
him out to a meal sometime. A few days later, my phone rang in my
dorm room, and my surprised roommate said it was the president’s
office. I had an appointment with the president!
I took Dr. Stowell out for breakfast. My memories of that meal
are very special. Our conversation was full of fun and laughter,
and at the end, I received a personal challenge from my new friend.
I now cherish the Bible where he wrote a personal note and signed
Because of the way my president responded to me, I never felt
like just one of the 1,400 students at Moody Bible Institute. I had
a personal connection with the president. Years later, when I had
the privilege of introducing him to preach at my church, I said to
the congregation, “To you he is Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, president of
Moody. To me, he is Joe.”
As the years went by, I discovered that many of my fellow
students had their “Joe stories” — stories of meals and
conversations and other meaningful impressions he had made on their
lives. I discovered I wasn’t alone.
Did this diminish my special feeling? No, it made me admire him
more. When I reflected on the impact that my special relationship
with Joe had on my studies, my relationship with God, and my future
aspirations to ministry, I made up my mind that I’d strive to be a
Joe Stowell to every child in my ministry. I determined that I
never wanted any child in my ministry to feel like just another kid
in the audience. I want each one to have a special connection with
I may not be the president of a college, but I’m their
children’s pastor. Sure, as they get older, they may start to
discover that many kids had a special relationship with me, but
each will be unique and different, and none will take away from
another. In fact, the special relationships will build on and
reinforce each other.
Karl Bastian is known as the Kidologist. Check out his Web
site at www.kidology.org. The table above was compiled
by Carmen Kamrath. Please keep in mind that phone numbers,
addresses, and prices are subject to change.