To reach children, you must sometimes become like a child, but you can lose adults’ respect by doing so. The Kidologist Karl Bastian shares how you can do both!
Kids live in a different world than adults. To reach them most effectively, we have to approach children’s ministry much like an overseas missionary does: by living among them, learning their culture, and discovering common interests that build a bridge to sharing the good news about Jesus.
The Apostle Paul understood this well, revealing his strategy in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” Even Jesus implored adults to come to him as children.
We must model Jesus to children while making Jesus relevant in their lives. This requires us to become childlike in many ways to reach kids. However, there’s an inherent risk of taking childlikeness too far and becoming childish. Being perceived as “one of the kids” can be powerful for reaching kids—while undermining our effectiveness with parents, volunteers, and even our senior leadership. How do you find the balance between connecting with kids and remaining a respected leader among adults?
Remember Who Children Are
Leading a relational ministry to kids has been a lifelong passion of mine. Let me offer some key insights I’ve learned pursuing a relational ministry with children—while not alienating adults.
Kids live in the moment; adults are always going somewhere.
Adults seem to always be in a hurry, discussing and planning for the future. Kids watch the world around them while adults watch the clock. Kids don’t worry about the future. Now is what’s important. It’s why homework and practicing is so challenging for them. To connect with kids, we need to compromise by helping them prepare and joining them in the moment. Do you notice cool bugs? Can you spot a picture in the clouds? Can you stop and just enjoy something without concern about what’s next? When you live in the moment, you make powerful connections with kids because they see most adults as just leading, directing, and giving instructions. When you stop and enjoy something in the moment, as trivial as it may be, you stand out as an adult who can relate to a kid’s world.
Kids’ imaginations run on overdrive; adults are obsessed with the practical.
Children love to imagine. “What if” conversations are a common way they’ll join in imaginative dialogue with you. Listen as children converse. Often they talk about ridiculous scenarios that start with one “what if” and lead to even more nonsense. Too often adults squelch such conversations as unrealistic or silly. Kids aren’t trying to be realistic; they’re enjoying imagining preposterous things.
When you join an imaginative conversation with children, you’re speaking their language—a language that’s foreign to most grown-ups.
Kids notice wonder everywhere they look; adults tend to overlook the little things.
The world is an amazing place to children. They’re always learning more about this incredible world God created and asking countless questions. At some point, adults figure they know enough and they stop really noticing things. They stop wondering, and tragically, they often stop asking questions. They assume they have all the answers they need, or they’re afraid to appear baffled by anything. Adults who notice amazing things and ask questions when they don’t know the answers will connect with kids who share their awe of the world.
Kids love to laugh at life; adults laugh at jokes.
When’s the last time you heard a good joke? When was the last time you were the joke? It often seems adults need a joke to laugh, whereas kids laugh at everything around them. Actually, they’re pretty lousy at telling jokes, anyway. Laughter for kids is more an approach to life than the result of some witty wordplay. I often say, “Without laughter, there’s little learning.” Laughter opens up both the heart and the mind. The best teachers laugh with their kids instead of just talking at them.