“They just weren’t listening today.” “Those 5th grade boys just won’t participate.” “Their behavior was awful!” “What am I going to do with those kids?” Chances are you’ve said these same things after serving a tough day in children’s ministry. We often quickly identify the children as the problem instead of looking in the mirror at an honest reflection of what we presented to them that day. As leaders, we need to stop seeing kids as the problem and begin to look in the mirror and evaluate ourselves, the programs we’re offering and the environments where we expect children to learn and grow. Being honest with yourself will give you a better picture of what you’re presenting to kids each week and will enable you to better present relevant content in a way that captures kids’ hearts. Take a moment and evaluate yourself and your ministry so you can be sure you’re doing everything you can to help the kids in your ministry fall deeply in love with our Savior.
___ I’m on fire!
___ Sometimes, depends on the day and the lesson.
___ <Yawn!> The lessons and the program are too boring.
Are you encouraging kids to pay attention with your level of energy? As Christians, we have been given a book full of exciting, engaging historical stories that teach life-changing truth. Get excited about it!
Give them attention.
___ I listen to the kids and take time during the lesson to talk to them.
___ I don’t always take the time to listen to their needs and concerns.
___ I don’t have time to talk to the kids. I have too much to teach them!
Stop talking and start listening! So many times we’re so busy trying to get across our message we fail to listen to the needs of kids. Get down on their level and make eye contact with them. If you give them attention for something positive, they’ll be less likely to act out to get your attention later.
Appreciate positive behavior.
___ I’m always on the lookout for positive behavior.
___ I sometimes notice positive behavior but only when the bad behavior doesn’t have
___ It’s hard for me to focus on the positive when there is so much negative!
Often we give our attention and energy to kids when they demonstrate poor behavior. Encourage good behavior! Point out kids and groups that are behaving well, and send lots of enthusiasm and energy their way.
Use your voice.
___ I use the pace, volume, and inflection of my voice as a tool for teaching and
___ I use inflection and control the pace of my voice, but sometimes forget to speak
softly when correcting kids’ behavior.
___ I don’t think much about how I use my voice for teaching.
Control the pace and volume of your voice while presenting truths to kids. Speak loudly and clearly, but change the inflection and volume of your voice to emphasize certain points or to gain the kids’ attention. When correcting kids, speak softly and take them to the side. Correcting kids in a loud and public way creates a power struggle.
___ I move around when I teach.
___ I stand in the front of the class and move around a little.
___ I sit in a chair or on a stool when I teach.
Don’t always teach from the same place. Move around and vary your location. When you’ve asked a question, be on the move! Keep kids guessing and on their best behavior!
___ I allow enough silence for kids to process questions.
___ I want to keep things moving, so I don’t offer much time for reflection.
___ Silence is too awkward!
After you ask a question, give kids some silent time to think while they process it. Often, teachers expect an immediate response to a question that requires processing and application. Allow kids to think. Give them the space to come up with a response before moving on.
___ I know who Patrick Star, Selena Gomez, and Phineas are.
___ Ferb who?
If you speak their language when it comes to video games, TV, music, and movies, you’ll earn a lot of respect and credibility. When teaching, give current application examples that relate to things they’re experiencing and media they enjoy. Harness the power of social media to communicate with preteens.
___ Everything I need during a lesson is at my fingertips.
___ I sometimes fail to get necessary supplies before my lesson.
___ I tend to lose kids’ attention during transition times.
We often lose kids’ attention during transitions. Before the kids arrive, make sure that everything is ready to be used and is within arm’s reach. Don’t spend time searching for materials or supplies! Make sure all tech needs are working prior to beginning your program.
___ My tone of voice and body language conveys respect to kids.
___ My tone of voice and body language might be interpreted as harsh.
If we expect to be respected, then we need to treat kids with respect. Respect is a virtue that is caught, not taught.
EVALUATE YOUR PROGRAMS
Know your families.
___ I am very involved in the lives of the kids and their parents.
___ I know the kids, but don’t have time to invest in their parents.
___ I have very little knowledge of kids’ lives outside of church.
In order to really minister to families, you need to know them. What is the structure of the families you minister to? Where do they go to school? Where do they live? What activities are they involved in? Are your programs meeting a need in their lives or just adding stress to their already busy schedules?
___ Kids are engaged in activities that are exciting and stimulating without much down
___ Kids spend a lot of time waiting between activities.
___ Kids seem bored and uninterested.
Kids today are used to being busy, entertained, and engaged. Simply entertaining kids in children’s ministry doesn’t result in changed lives, but enriching your programs with media elements and hands-on activities brings Bible truths to life and reaches kids in a way they’re familiar with.
___ I am teaching timeless Bible truths in ways that show kids how it can affect and
change their lives.
___ I am teaching kids using the same types of lessons and examples that I learned as a kid.
Are you showing kids how Bible truths from thousands of years ago apply to their lives and circumstances today? Do you use lots of good examples they can relate to? When technology is outdated from one month to the next, it’s hard for kids to see how events that happened thousands of years ago can relate to their lives. Help kids see the historical significance of biblical events and how those situations are similar to their lives today.
Choice and structure
___ I empower kids to choose from appropriate activities while providing consistent
rules and boundaries for them to follow.
___ I provide consistent rules and boundaries, but have a difficult time giving kids
freedom of choice within the program.
___ I prefer a teacher-directed lesson and assume kids know the rules and expectations.
Kids today are used to an incredible amount of choice. As often as possible, allow kids to choose activities, small groups, or leadership roles. In addition, make sure kids know the boundaries during your program. Make it a habit to state the rules and guidelines at the beginning of each gathering. Come up with a few memorable rules so kids can repeat them for memory.
___ Go Team! The kids in my program are encouraged to work together frequently and
accomplish tasks through cooperation.
___ Our kids work in small groups from time to time.
___ My lessons are whole class, teacher-directed. It’s too hard to give up control!
Our society values teamwork and cooperation. Prepare kids for real-life situations by teaching them to work together as a team and the body of Christ. Put kids in small groups called “teams” and have team members encourage and hold each other accountable.
___ The pace of my lesson is appropriate for the age of the children I’m teaching and
they understand the concepts I’m presenting.
___ I seem to frequently lose the attention of the kids I’m teaching and they don’t seem to get it.
Children have about one minute of attention span for each year of their age. Are your programs moving at a pace appropriate for the attention span of the kids you are teaching? Are truths presented in a way that is developmentally appropriate?
___In a multi-age environment, the oldest kids are actively engaged and motivated.
___In a multi-age environment, the older kids seem disengaged and bored.
Always aim at an instructional level appropriate for the oldest kids in the room. Target your activities, music, and style toward the older kids. If you gain the attention and participation of the older kids, the younger kids will follow suit. Give older kids extra responsibility and leadership roles within your programs. They can run tech, give rewards, be assistant leaders, and lead music.
Thanks for taking the time to honestly evaluate yourself and your programs with fresh eyes. Although it’s not always easy to step outside the box and see things with a new perspective, that’s often the best way to change and grow. May God bless your ministry richly as you seek to move kids toward a real relationship with our Savior and inspire passion and wonder in the next generation.