When I was 17, I had the opportunity to go on a cattle drive in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Although I hadn’t really been on a horse before (does the one outside K-Mart count?), I loved every minute of it.
I was led by a rancher named Russ – a certifiable cowboy whose eyes seemed set in a permanent, John Wayne, “you-better-believe-I’m-the-real-deal” western squint. I sat atop my noble steed (not quite), looking down at a herd of cattle. With a tone of guarded optimism, Russ informed me of our task: move 100+ cattle from one pasture to another about 5 miles away – a trip that should take few hours. Half out of naiveté and half out of misplaced self-confidence, I thought, “Sounds simple. After all, they’re barely moving.”
As you might have expected, I was a total joke.
As it turns out, talking about moving 100+ animals is easier that actually doing it.
KidMin is like that: Everything is clear. Until you start.
As fall approaches and you think about your children’s ministry program, here are a few things that every child needs to hear from you.
1. “You’re welcome here.”
First impressions mean a lot for adults. They are everything for kids. Every child wants to feel like someone’s expecting them. Something as simple as table preparation for groups, crafts, or coloring communicates safety and welcome to kids. Put your best leaders out front: greeting parents and saying “hi.”
2. “Be you.”
There’s always the loud one. The shy one. The one with all the answers. The one who can’t sit still. The one would brought his blanket. The one who wants to go home. Even though it’s just opening night, they are clearly unique individuals. Opening night is a great opportunity to build trust with each child by being sensitive to their hesitations.
3. “We love you.”
It’s worth noting that some kids in your ministry don’t have a positive model of love in their lives. You might be the first one you has ever rooted for them – has ever cheered them on. Your role is to show them the love of God through your presence, intentionality and thoughtfulness.
4. “We’re so glad you’re here!”
Some kids come to church for the games. Others are there because their friends come. Some kids show up because their parents dropped them off before heading out on a date. Whatever the reason they come to church, kids want to feel important. Learn their names. Learn their favorite toy or game. Give high fives. As often as possible.
5. “We love your family.”
Every church is trying to build the same bridge: connecting the home to the church. Help build that bridge by letting kids know that you champion their Moms or Dads. Greeting parents on arrival, introducing yourself to them, or sending home notes of encouragement are easy ways to do your part in the bridge-building effort.
6. “It’s okay to be loud.”
Some kids won’t need your permission. Volume comes naturally for some kids. My sons are pros. The trick is to let them know when. Game time. Song time. Even a few minutes early on just to “get the wiggles out.” It’s easy to ask kids to sit quietly when they know there’s a place for loud. Just make sure you deliver.
7. “We’re here for YOU.”
This sentiment will be felt more than heard. Kids will feel that they are a priority to you when you spend time with them, giving them individual attention, giving them affirmation, or working with them on specific craft, scripture memorization, or other skill. Individual attention is (sadly) a rare gift. Give it freely.
What have you found to work especially well on opening night?
Any tips you’d like to share?
P.S. Get on the horse. Bring extra quarters 😉