Greg Baird: How to Connect With Kids

One of the most important skills for children’s ministry is knowing how to CONNECT with kids. After all, isn’t that the key to making an impact in their lives? If we don’t CONNECT, we’re not going to make a difference.  So how do we CONNECT? There are seven ways that we can do so…here’s the first:

C is for Clarify the Goal

Too often we or our volunteers enter a ministry opportunity with no defined goal. If I asked your Kidmin leaders “what is the goal of what you are doing right now (teaching a class, leading a game, participating in worship with kids, etc.), would they be able to tell me?

Our goal in CONNECTing with kids must be very clear clear.

There may be several goals, but ultimately there is only one ministry goal that should be present in every attempt to CONNECT with kids: leading them to be more like Jesus.

What does Romans 8:28-29 say?

You probably know the first part: “…all things work together for good…”

Unfortunately, that’s where we usually stop, but we need to understand what that “good” is, and that’s found in verse 29. The “good” that all things work together for (including CONNECTing with kids) is to make us more like Christ.

So what’s the clear goal (the ”C”) as we CONNECT with kids? To help them be more like Jesus.

The second way we CONNECT with kids is:

O…Offer Relationships.

Ministry happens best through relationships…period.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to offer relationships with kids in order to CONNECT with them.

This takes time. This takes effort. This takes commitment.

But without relationships, there is little impact.

A few practical suggestions on offering relationships to kids:

  • Learn their name. The sweetest sound to any of us is the sound of our own name. When they know that you know their name, they will begin to know that you care about them.
  • Learn who they are. What is their personality like? What are their interests? Who are their brothers and sisters? Parents? What school do they go to? Get to know them just like you would another adult that you are befriending.
  • Have fun with them. There is no better time to CONNECT with a child than when they are laughing and having fun!
  • Be real with them. Kids know fake. You don’t have to tell them your life story (please don’t…they are not interested and some of it may not be appropriate!), but be real with them. You’re not perfect and they know it…so don’t pretend to be.
  • Let them see your faith. Learning to share your testimony and talk about faith in a kid-friendly way helps you begin to CONNECT with them in spiritual ways, so learn to speak their language spiritually.

Ministry happens best through relationships. So offer relationships to the kids you are trying to CONNECT with.

N…Never let the situation mean more than the relationship.

OK, that’s kind of a long point. But here’s what I mean: in Children’s Ministry you will inevitably find yourself in “challenging” situations. There’s that one kid…or group of kids…that just seems to get under your skin. Or perhaps it’s just a one-time incident with a child.

In these situations, sometimes we react harshly, or we have to be right, or we angrily respond in a manner that eliminates the possibility of a future relationship with that child. We can’t do that because it eliminates the opportunity to CONNECT.

I’m not saying not to handle discipline issues appropriately, but I am saying that in EVERY situation you have to remember that relationship matters. Don’t allow a situation that you must deal with to eliminate the possibility of future relationship with the child. Our goal is to help every child become more like Christ. If we cannot have a relationship with them because of the way we responded to a situation, then we cannot help them be more like Christ.

Never let the situation mean more than the relationship.

N…Never let the relationship mean more than God’s truth.

OK, another long point. The first “N” was about not allowing a situation to hinder our relationship because relationship is what we are striving for in order to help a child become more like Christ.  However, we can never allow pursuit of that relationship to mean more than God’s truth.

Here’s what I mean.  In our effort to win over a child and build a relationship, we cannot excuse sinful behavior.  If a child lies, we must deal with it.  If a child is disrespectful, we must deal with it.  If a child hurts another child, we must deal with it.  We cannot wink at sin in order to build a relationship. The key is to deal with it appropriately.

The ironic thing is that when we deal with discipline issues correctly, we actually increase the chances to deepen the relationship. Children are looking for and needing boundaries.  Though they test us, they will typically respect us in the end, leading to a great opportunity to CONNECT.

E…Examine yourself in the light of God’s Word.

Relationships are built as much by who we are and how we act as by what we say.  Kids are great at seeing through a fraud. Our lives need to match our words. We connect with kids in reality when they are able to see us and know us authentically. This doesn’t mean we have to share everything about our lives, but we need to be real with them. And the real, authentic person we share with them needs to be real and authentic on both the inside and the outside.

I Corinthians 11:1 says “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.”  We can only say this to a child if we are living and revealing authentic lives of faith. This needs to be our approach as leading with integrity and godliness is be the first stepping stone to CONNECT with any child.

C…Consider the example of Jesus when CONNECTing with kids.

Mark 10:13-16 gives us the classic model for ministering to kids.  Jesus was asked to bless the children and, of course, we know the disciples go in trouble for their part (if you’re not familiar with the story, take a moment to read it now).  But when He focused on the kids He took them seriously.  He gave them His attention, and He embraced them (literally!).  He actually gave more than He was asked and poured Himself into them with a fervent blessing.  How do you think the parents felt about Jesus after the incident?

Jesus gives us a great model to follow to CONNECT with kids:

  • Take them seriously
  • Give undivided attention when trying to CONNECT with them
  • Embrace them (appropriately!)
  • Pray for them (fervently)
  • Give more than the minimum

How do you think kids and parents will feel about you if you CONNECT with them the way Jesus did?

T…Ten!

Yes…ten!

When I served as Children’s Pastor for John Maxwell, he would constantly tell us that he mentally put a “10? on everyone’s forehead when he connected with them.  He did this so that, in his mind, his expectations would be high. He also did this so that his attitude and treatment of them would be worthy of a “10?.  What he found is that most people would rise to the occasion and respond accordingly.

I have found that kids, too, rise to the level of expectations.  No, they won’t be perfect – they are not small adults!  Kids will still be kids. But when I put a mental “10? on them, expecting them to act appropriately and giving them the respect I would anyone else, they usually respond.  When this happens, it opens the doors to CONNECT.

As leaders, one of our greatest responsibilities is to CONNECT. These are some ways that I have found important in my efforts to CONNECT.  By the way…most of these ideas work very will with adults, too!

How about you – how do you CONNECT with kids?  

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Greg Baird
Greg Baird is a Children’s Ministry veteran with over 20 years ministry experience. Greg has had the privilege of serving in four San Diego area churches, including under the leadership of both John Maxwell and David Jeremiah. He continues to fulfill his life calling through the ministry of ChildrensMinistryLeader.com, offering an experienced voice in equipping and connecting Children’s Ministry leaders around the country and around the world.

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