A few days ago, I was working on my home office a little bit. I was finally able to finish up my favorite part of any office…the encouragement wall. Everyone that works with kids has one. It’s the wall full of notes, pictures, cards, and drawings from kids that we’ve affected. So that got me thinking about what every kid that is represented on that wall had in common. We made sure that for every kid on that wall, three things were present in that ministry. Every kids’ ministry has different strengths and weaknesses, but these three are non-negotiables.
Every person that has worked in kids’ ministry with me has heard the same thing from me. Learn the kids’ names first. I tried to set the example, but eventually some twins came into the program and to this day I can’t tell them apart. Either way, a solid greeting with the name of a kid in your ministry goes a long way. Finding a connection with these kids is so crucial to being able to work with them. Right now, I am on my second cup of coffee and checking the clock to make sure I won’t be late to a 2nd grade class that I am working with today. As soon as I am done there, I am on to 3rd grade. This is just one way that you can begin making a connection with the kids. I’ve read the same books as kids I know so I can talk about it with them, watched the same movies (because they’re awesome), gone to their plays and sporting events, and even played some video games with them. Show them you care about things going on in their lives. Show them you love them. Kids don’t just automatically listen to you because you’re an adult. Begin earning the right to speak into their lives. Every kid on my wall has a story. If I didn’t take the time to learn it, I wouldn’t get the opportunity to put them up there.
Every kid on that wall has grown in some way. (I should mention, there is an adult up there too. His name is also Chris, and he has an amazing growth story as well). I can tell you how each kid on that wall has grown in their spiritual life. The reason I can tell you that is because in that kids’ ministry, we intentionally worked on those kids’ discipleship. We strategically moved them from one level to the next. Sometimes it was slow. Sometimes it was painful. Sometimes it got interrupted by well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) parents or church members. But at the end of the day, every kid on that wall moved forward. Most of them are still moving forward. I’m looking at the wall right now, and I’m still working with most of these kids, which is incredibly exciting! Granted, some of them will probably take offense to the fact that I just called them kids, but it happens. If your kids’ ministry is not intentionally and strategically fostering spiritual growth, you’re missing the target.
Every kid on that wall is on there because they felt cared about. They felt loved, and they felt cared about. Kids are not stupid. They can tell when people don’t want to be in the room. They can work with 5 adults every week and tell you which ones don’t want to help with kids’ ministry. If you have one person that is leading a kids’ group and they don’t care to work with kids, you’ve got a giant step backwards waiting to happen. I can guarantee you that person has a passion, and they have a gift. Help them find it. More specifically, help them get out of kids’ ministry and into a place where they can be happy as well. You’re burning them out, and you’re not doing the kids any favors. Warm bodies filling up a room are, at best, a very temporary solution. I’ve done it. I’ve put people that don’t care about kids in kids’ ministry. Sometimes, you have to grab someone just to meet policy requirements. I get that. But, you can never let that become a common practice in your kids’ ministry.