By Lydia Kaiser and Esther Beasley
Relationships are everything. If we want to lead children to Christ and disciple them, there needs to be relationship. For there to be relationship, there must be two-way communication. In family life and in kids’ ministry, we have to invite kids to talk. Some kids talk nonstop at home but not at all away from home. Others don’t talk much at home because there isn’t opportunity because of older siblings or busy parents.
I know that as a parent and a teacher, I tend to do way too much of the talking because I’m focused on teaching, so I have a hard time giving kids the freedom, the space, and the invitation to talk. But when they don’t get to talk, they’re not as engaged either mentally or relationally, so less learning will take place.
In any church, most of the kids will come from broken homes or have an absent father. It’s especially important to work hard to restore their trust in adults and show them love! Esther, a CEF worker from Nebraska contributed her eight favorite ways to get kids talking and build relationships:
- Sit with the Kids
Instead of grabbing a chair and sitting in the back of the classroom during the lesson, sit next to some kids so they can see you’re interested in learning about God too—and that you desire to be with them.
- Greet the Kids You Teach Even When You’re Not Serving
Sunday mornings can be crazy, but while you’re walking into church, getting your coffee or greeting friends, keep a look out for the kids you know from class. If you see them, greet them with an elbow bump and tell them you’re glad to see them—this shows you know and care about them!
- Make the Kids your Priority
Arrive at church early to get set up before kids come to class. As soon as kids walk into your class, drop everything! Greet the kids, let them know you’re excited they came and instantly engage them with questions.
- Ask Questions
Pick out simple fun questions that help you know more about your kids. Come prepared with three questions that you will ask in your small group that day. Why three? Because, if your questions are the right type, it only takes a few to get that group of kids talking. Once the kids get talking—listen! Most likely you’ll discover what they love.
- Talk Less, Listen More
As you ask questions, it is important to listen fully to the kid’s responses. When the group gets talking don’t walk away—listen carefully to the little things they say. Even small things are important for building relationship. When I drove my kids around with their friends in my car, it was a great opportunity to listen and learn.
- Use What they Love while Teaching
As you listen to what your kids love, try to incorporate those things into your lessons. For example, if they love social media, then find ways to challenge them to use it properly, like, if you’re teaching a lesson about making the right choices, or about obedience. It’s important to engage kids in a way that’s relevant in their lives. Using these examples doesn’t always have to be from a negative angle. If teaching on creation, show a picture of one of the dinosaur Fortnite skins. You could also add a popular dance move into your song or memory verse motions, like the dab or the floss. Kids will love having these everyday fun activities incorporated into Sunday School.
- Do your research
Do a Google search on Fortnite or the other topics about which you hear your kids talking. You might have to look up how to do the Dab or Floss. It takes time, but the return on investment will be invaluable as it helps you better connect and build relationships with the kids you teach. Research also helps you know what is appropriate to be using in your lessons and what would distract from the Gospel.
- Follow Up
Although you might only serve on your church’s kid’s team once a month, be sure to follow-up on the questions you ask. If you’re like me, you can’t remember from week to week let alone longer, so taking notes and building on those notes is really helpful. How has Sophia been doing since her dog died? Did Alex ever beat that level on Fortnite? Has Chloe had her first soccer game? What position is she playing?
In conclusion, you might not feel very knowledgeable about current childhood trends. To build relationships you just need to know enough to ask questions, listen to responses, do a little research, and follow up with the next time you see them. The time and energy you invest will be worth it!
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