Have you ever been at a loss when it comes to connecting with the kids in your ministry? Do you ever feel like there is so much diversity in your group that there’s no way you can build a relationship with them and help lead them to Jesus? How in the world can you be a leader of kids when everyone is so different?
You have kids who are shy and others who are outgoing. You have kids who know their Bible and others who have never opened it. You have kids who are confident and others who are unsure. You have kids who like to lead and others who like to follow. You have kids who want to be there and others who would rather be anywhere else but at church. How can you better connect with each of them since they are all different?
To answer these questions, I think we need to follow the One who is our Leader and Savior: Jesus. He is the perfect example for us in all things, especially in relationship building. There are five things I believe we can learn from Jesus about how to build relationships with the children in our ministries. And these five things apply to all kids no matter their personality.
Don’t Play Favorites
The first thing we must do in building relationships with many different types of kids is NOT to play favorites. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, there are some kids in your ministry who are difficult and it’s hard to talk with them, much less try to build a relationship and keep them coming back to church. But, Jesus did not play favorites. Look at the twelve disciples. There were misfits, doubters, teacher’s pets, judgers, shy ones, greedy ones, confident ones, and scared ones. They are all different yet each one of them is special and important to Jesus. In Acts 10:34-35, Peter says: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”
When we minister to the children in our churches, we have to wipe away any preconceived thoughts we have about them because of their personality or the way they act. We must follow Jesus and not play favorites. Every child needs to hear His message and deserves our full attention. No one is to be left out or not included.
The second thing we can learn from Jesus’ example is to be present. He was committed to loving everyone, teaching them, and leading them. He was with the people. He wasn’t hiding away in a house by himself. He was out there. He was present with others.
The kids in our ministries need our presence. They need to see adults who are consistent and there for them. When an adult shows up each week, talks with them, shows them compassion, and teaches them about Jesus, they begin to trust that person. When you search for volunteers for your ministry, you need to find ones who can be consistent. I know it’s very hard to do. Believe me, I’ve struggled with this, but being present is one thing I stress when I search for volunteers to lead our kids. Adult leaders must be consistent and committed.
The third key to building relationships with kids is to be bold. To teach kids about Jesus we must not be afraid. We need to share our faith openly. We must tell them about our relationship with Jesus. I know that being open about our faith is hard; it’s a personal thing between you and Jesus that you don’t want to share at times. But, what if the disciples decided to keep to themselves and didn’t share what Jesus had taught them? Where would we be now?
When you’re building a relationship with a child who is shy, loud, happy, sad, or even one whom you think is not listening, you need to share your faith with boldness. Tell them stories of how Jesus has helped you, how Jesus has been with you, how Jesus has loved you, and how you have shown your love to Jesus. Children love to hear stories of your faith. Not only will it help them grow in their faith, but it will help you develop a bond with the children in your ministry.
Live Out Your Faith
The fourth key to connecting with kids like Jesus did is to live out your faith. Jesus was who He said He was. He didn’t act one way with the disciples and another way with someone else. He didn’t speak fluffy words about God just to get attention and have people listen. He lived out the words He spoke. He was the real deal.
It’s one thing to share openly about your faith with words, but it’s another to actually live it out. Kids need to see you act the way you talk. They need to know that you are who you say you are—a loving, caring, Christian person who lives their life the way Jesus wants you to. You are a role model and if you act totally opposite from the way you do on Sundays with them, then they aren’t going to want to know you, and they aren’t going to want to come back to church. Show real faith in both words and actions.
Offer an Invitation
The fifth and final key in building relationships like Jesus did is to offer invitations. If we look at Scripture, we see that Jesus offered invitations to many people: an invitation to follow Him (Matthew 4:19), an invitation to come and see (John 1:39), an invitation to lay down our burdens and rest (Matthew 11:28), an invitation for peace (John 14:27), as well as many others. Jesus was all about inviting others and we need to follow His example.
I believe if we work hard at the first four keys to building relationships with the kids in our ministries, then this fifth key will come automatically. If we don’t play favorites, if we are present and committed, if we are bold and speak openly about Jesus, and if we live out our faith, then the invitation for kids to accept Jesus, to come back to church every Sunday, and to grow in their faith will come naturally. The example we set will speak loudly to our kids and they will want to “come and see” who Jesus is and will want to follow Him and accept everything about Him.
Building relationships can be difficult with such a wide variety of personalities of kids in our ministries. But, I believe that by following Jesus’ example, we can connect with these kids and lead them as they explore Jesus and their faith in Him, no matter who they are or how they act. Don’t miss out on connecting with your church kids. You hold the keys to helping them unlock their faith and live a life sold out for Jesus.