As kidmin leaders, one thing we can count on every Sunday is those unexpected behaviors from the children we serve. When kids seemingly “disrupt” ministry on Sunday mornings, there is more to consider than just the behaviors we see, especially in this post-pandemic setting.
We could do a quick google search for the best crowd control strategies that would, at best, temporarily engage and reroute the kids that stumbled off our best-laid plans.
But, building lasting engagement takes more than being a master at crowd control. It requires us as leaders to first take a step back. Reevaluate what we are doing before kids arrive in our spaces. This will ensure that our teams are prepared.
We often get asked, “What do I do with those kids?”
But what if we flipped that question around and asked, “How can I create a ministry where every kid is engaged?”
We may never understand all the reasons the kids in our ministry misbehave. However, we can do four things to build a team of leaders prepared to lovingly and effectively engage every kid each week:
1. Build relationships.
It’s impossible for us as kidmin leaders to know every child in our ministry and what makes them tick. The greatest thing we can do for the kids in our ministry is to connect them to a small group leader committed to being present.
When leaders show up consistently, they build trust and create safe places for every kid to be known, seen, and heard. When those unexpected behaviors surface, small group leaders have a greater chance of understanding. They could be the one leader most equipped to help that child re-engage in a more appropriate way.
2. Prepare leaders.
Small group leaders need to be prepared to understand both the lesson for the day and the phase of the kids they lead.
That’s why it’s important to make sure your small group leaders are trained to prepare before they arrive. If our leaders are flipping through their lessons trying to get a game plan as kids arrive, that’s probably when we will see behaviors we don’t prefer.
A leader who walks in prepared to help kids understand the bottom line for the day will be more equipped to turn all their focus to the kids. As a result, they can be more relational and engaging throughout the day.
In addition to understanding the lesson, make sure leaders are also prepared to understand the unique phase of the kids they lead. When leaders have expectations that are not realistic for the age group they are leading, they are inadvertently setting kids up to fail. Naturally, when kids fail to meet our expectations, we often view that as misbehavior.
For example, make sure leaders know that preschoolers need to move and rarely sit in chairs. Elementary kids are concrete and need us to direct them throughout the morning. By knowing a few characteristics about the phases they lead, leaders will be able to set appropriate expectations and minimize those unwanted behaviors.
3. Partner with parents.
It’s always a good idea to remember that partnering with parents is critical in kidmin. Especially when you are navigating challenging behaviors! Families often know their kids better than we ever will. So engaging them weekly presents an opportunity to build an authentic relationship between the church and the home.
Each week when parents step in your ministry environment or engage through your digital platforms, be intentional about celebrating their children. It’s quite possible that some of these parents are navigating tough conversations about their children throughout the week. That’s why you should challenge your leaders to extend grace. You can help them find tangible wins to celebrate every kid. Finally, inspire leaders to ensure that those harder conversations are filled with love, encouragement, and a genuine desire to partner with parents to engage their children.
We must remember that in order to keep engaging every kid in our ministries, we must engage every parent, too.
4. Make it FUN.
This might be the most important thing to remember when building your team.
Kids are naturally drawn to places that are fun.
Oftentimes we have to help our leaders understand that learning about God can and should be fun! In fact, for kids, learning about God should always be fun! When children are bored, they will find other ways to entertain themselves and others.
To prevent boredom, you should equip your leaders with the most engaging lessons. You can remind them to get kids out of their chairs, and make it a priority to weave fun into ministry! The more engaged the kids are, the fewer unexpected behaviors you will encounter.
In reality, given this post-pandemic world we are all still navigating, we should anticipate unexpected behaviors from every child on any given Sunday. We should begin equipping our leaders to navigate these each week by prioritizing relationships, preparation, partnering with parents and fun.
Together, you and your team can build a ministry where every kid is engaged and loved, even during those challenging moments. And ultimately, that means those kids are experiencing the grace that brings us together each week.