I am of the opinion that kids are not inferior or “less” than adults. In fact, I believe that kids can and should play a significant role in creating culture within a community and they do not have to wait until they have the maturity of an adult to do so. Kids play a huge role in ministry, and when we give them the space to do so as kids, they grow up to be adults who know they have a role in ministry. How can you cultivate this value with the kids in your class or ministry? Here are 7 ways:
1) Treat Them As Contributors: Taking time to listen to their ideas and communicating their value is very important. Allow yourself to learn from the kids by letting them know that this was an idea you hadn’t thought of or one that you wish to take an implement into your own life. This posture of collaboration is excellent modelling of honour, humility, and teamwork. When students feel that what they have to offer is valued, they will in turn give you respect and listen to what you have to say. This mutual display of honour is the bedrock of effective influence. If you wish to influence students towards positive behaviour changes, do so my taking a coaching role vs an instructor or even disciplinarian role with your students.
2) Expect Them To Behave As Capable Kids: The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, states that the greater the expectation that is placed on someone, the better they perform. The reverse is also true (known as the Golem Effect) low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. Simply having these heightened expectations placed on them can give them space to stretch and grow in areas they may have settled otherwise. Don’t allow excuses, and affirm good choices whenever you have the opportunity to. Kids will rise to the opportunities you give them, don’t minimize what you think they are capable of doing, let them try!
3) Correct Behaviour Not Children: In any class dynamic there will be moments were correction needs to take place. Be sure to address the behaviour and choices that are being made versus making statements about the value of the child. For example, “Andy, would you re-consider your choice to throw garbage at your neighbour?” versus “Andy, stop throwing garbage, I need you to be a good boy.” The latter phrase suggests that making a bad choices makes the child a bad person. We all have the power to change when we make a different decision. Empowering kids in this way, lets them know that they are valuable.
4) Use Their Ideas: Nothing is more affirming then when someone uses your idea over simply acknowledging it. Put an idea to work, use an idea and give credit to the child who came up with the idea. The more involved kids are in the process, and the more their contributions are put to work, the more valued they feel. Contribution breeds confidence and confidence builds self-esteem.
5) Affirm Positive Behaviour: Take moments to affirm, acknowledge and share moments when you see a child choosing well. A high five, or a public acknowledgement can be very affirming, however the most valuable affirmation happens privately. If you notice a child making good choices, take note and take a moment to approach them personally, or write them a note that acknowledges what you saw.
6) Control Classroom Dynamics: Everyone in their enthusiasm may interrupt or cut someone off, however to allow this to happen on a regular basis contributes to class chaos and hurt feelings. When you model honour for what the students have to say, and help the other students to do the same, while still feeling honoured themselves, you maintain a positive classroom dynamic and communicate value and respect. A simple way to communicate value is to help classmates conduct themselves in an honouring way using phrases like:
- “Andy, I do want to hear what you have to say, but let’s finish listening to what Alyssa is saying, so that we can benefit from what you both have to share.”
- “There are so many ideas here that I want to hear as many as possible. Let’s put our hands up and share one at a time, so we can all benefit.”
- “Juliette, I would really like to hear what you think about ___________.”
7) Make Room For Interaction Not Just Information: Students are used to being talked at all day. You will get their attention and communicate value simply by making room for them to share their thoughts and opinions on something. The goal of any Sunday school or kids ministry class is not just to pass on information, though that is important. Instead we need to facilitate critical thinking skills and nurture self and peer awareness. Inviting kids to offer their ideas in discussion and discovery encourages peer to peer education and allows others to learn from the experiences and insights of others. Creating opportunities for kids to act on what they have learned, share their experiences and enjoy shared emotional experiences bonds learning to their very core.
How do you communicate honour and value to the kids in your family or ministry? Be sure to post in the comments!