“I don’t know Mom,” my daughter said as I was working on a project in our elementary room. “I think it would be better if you moved that over here. Kids are shorter than you and they can’t see it there.”
She has said stuff like that to me before; things like, “Those words are too big, no one’s gonna understand that” or “You should let us color that instead of you doing it.” There’s a Type-A, perfectionist part of me that cringes at the thought of applying her advice because, frankly, it won’t appear as good to me, but the space isn’t for me, it’s for them, so as often as I can, I seek her input.
Here are 6 things I’ve learned about kids, from kids:
- They’re shorter than you – I know this goes without saying but for fun one day, get down on your knees and “walk” around your kid space. What can you see? More importantly, what can’t you see? Take mental notes about what needs to be moved up (tacks, markers, hand sanitizer, spray bottles) and what needs moved down (posters, interactive toys, white boards).
- They’re younger than you – Just because it takes too much energy for you to play an active game or too much flexibility to sit on the floor (or get back up!) doesn’t mean that kids feel the same. Remember, many children come to you having already sat through a service or a car ride. They may need some movement in order to refocus.
- They don’t know as many words as you – We use a lot of “Christian” words when we talk about our faith; words like redemption, justification, sanctification, salvation, restoration, etc. Take some time to write our “big” and important words down on a 3×5 card and on the back, write some other ways to explain the same concept. This might be very helpful to share with volunteers, especially ones that don’t interact with children often.
- They like to see the Big Picture – Kids love stories and there is no greater story than the one written by our Creator. Find the “big story” or the metanarrative of Scripture and share it each and every time you meet. In one classroom I served, we put 4 symbols on the wall: A heart, a black lightning bolt, a cross, and another heart. Every day we told this story: “We had a perfect love relationship with God, sin came between us and God, God in His perfect love sent Jesus to earth where he died on a cross, and because of that we can be in that perfect love with God forever.” Every story we told, every lesson we went over, we fit into our big story somehow. The kids “got it” and the parents loved it! A great resource for this is The Jesus Storybook Bible which shows where Jesus is in every story of Scripture.
- They like to learn in different ways – If you teach your lessons the same way, every day, you are only teaching to a minority of the kids in your room. Kids learn through a variety of different means; some need action and movement while others need crayons and music. Consider ways you can involve all the kids in your classroom. One great way to do this is through different stations where the kids can use a variety of mediums to re-tell the lesson they learned that day; stations like a coloring station, a sculpting station, a dress-up station, puppets show, dolls or Little people, felt board, white boards, reading, etc.
- They LOVE Jesus – To kids, Jesus is nothing but love personified. One of the best things I was ever told was by Dr. Scottie May of Wheaton College who said, “We don’t need to teach our kids about Jesus, we need to introduce them to the one they are already talking to.” Studies show and the Bible tells us (Romans 1:19-20) that kids intrinsically know there is a God. We don’t have to convince them. We just need to arrange for them to get to know Him better. Keep the theology high in language they can understand. Teach to their heart not their head. Or as Dr. May says, “Don’t give them what they want (candy, TV, snacks, etc) give them what they need (Jesus).”
If you are wondering about your ministry environment and whether or not it’s a place kids can truly learn about Jesus, I encourage you to find a kid, take a walk, have a talk, and listen and learn.
What about you? What lessons have kids taught you about ministry?