KEEP IN TOUCH
As leaders in Kids Ministry, often times it can be a challenge getting kids to go deeper into worship. Some of us deal with this by ‘pushing on’ with only a small percentage of kids really ‘getting it’, others deal with the lack of response by just keeping things surface and fun (think “King of the Jungle”) but can end up missing out on leading the kids into a deeper worship experience with their Creator.
Today I want to look at one of the key factors in converting sing-along times into life transforming worship.
Connections and why people are like onions
Put simply, people… like onions, have layers.
We all tend to relate to others according to how safe we feel in certain situations. There is our outer layer of relating - the way we are in a large gathering, at the mall, or with “acquaintances” or even strangers in a store - think surface “chit chat”. Go in a few more layers and we share more of ourselves with our friends - these people may know our likes and dislikes, we enjoy their company and we share things in common that we can talk about. Go deeper still and we have the layers reserved for close friends, family members, or spouse. We can feel safe sharing more vulnerable thoughts and feelings with these loved ones and the intimacy shared can grow in a relationship of trust.
People (unlike onions) have a longing to connect
It took 38 years for 50 million people to get radio. 13 years for television to reach the same level. Facebook (which is essentially a platform to help people ‘connect’) added 100 million users in less than 9 months (they currently have more than 2 billion active users). Technology has made it easier for humans to connect world wide and the speed at which it has taken off shows that there is a hunger for it.
People have a longing to connect. Kids are no different - many of them are already on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or play video games with their buddies over the internet. BUT (and perhaps because of these online platforms) many of them lack meaningful relationships. These platforms can only provide for those outer layers of relating to others, but can give the “feeling” of being connected to individuals and groups so they don’t realize their underlying lack.
Through the internet they can have access to better sermons than you or I will ever preach, better entertainment than we could give, better worship than we could ever provide but none of that will ever create genuine relationships. Genuine connections.
How do we as the church tackle this ‘connection’ problem?
Imagine you are at the park sitting on a bench enjoying the sunshine. A stranger walks up to you and says “Hello, will you marry me?” What would you do? Most of us would say something like “What?! No! Get away from me!”
Why? Because someone we have zero relationship with (outer layer) is asking us to make a life-time commitment. So, of course, the answer is no! Yet we as the church expect our visitors to respond to this kind of invitation almost every Sunday. From a connections point of view it goes something like this “Hello, you don’t know me (outer layer), therefore you also don’t know if I am trustworthy or if I speak the truth but you need to commit your life to the message I’m giving you right now… oh and by the way if you don’t you could face eternal suffering in a lake of fire…”
Obviously I’m exaggerating to make a point. Here is the point: Without true connection, no matter how true our message, we can simply end up just sounding like someone trying to sell something.
Connection matters. Once we move to deeper levels of connection (inner layers) we will more likely be heard and have a far greater ability to minister into the lives of our young people.
Our urgency to share the good news and have kid’s connect with God can sometimes over-shadow this important relationship building process where we get to lovingly build trust and connection with each individual. This takes time, which can be frustrating for those of us who are action/results oriented people, but I can guarantee it will be time well invested.
Three important ‘connection layers’ related to Kids Ministry
1. Kids connecting with kids
2. Kids connecting with leaders
3. Kids connecting with God
Obviously #3 is our aim, but without numbers 1 & 2 (aside from a few exceptions) we will rarely see kids progress towards deeply connecting with God.
1. Kids Connecting with Kids
When a kid comes to ‘Kids Church’ or ‘Sunday School’ the #1 thing that is going to keep them coming back is NOT: the program, the quality of the worship, or the number of Playstations, BUT “Do I have any friends there?”
The #1 thing that keeps kids away from church is: “I don’t know anyone there” OR “I don’t have any friends there”. In other words, I don’t have any “connections” there.
So, the first 20 mins you spend in your program just having fun with kids, doing activities, helping them to get to know each other is a hugely important part of your ministry. As kids grow friendships with others kids within your ministry they will more likely come back and they’ll have a much greater sense of belonging.
“But wait, playing musical chairs doesn’t sound very spiritual!”
A quick story. We Lads grew up attending a Salvation Army church in Wellington, New Zealand. At that time our church was not particularly relevant or up to date, in fact it’s format hadn’t changed much at all in the 100 years since it’s beginning. Each Sunday Aunty Dora (our Sunday School piano player and song leader) would lead us in worship as she had done almost every Sunday for the previous 50 years. As a kid I generally didn’t enjoy church much, but I’d be there every Sunday morning and night. I’d be there on Wednesday nights for band practice and on Friday nights for choir (followed by basketball in the youth hall). Why was I there so often? Was it my love for the house of the Lord? Not at that stage. My love for banding and choir? Nope. I was there because my friends were there (Steve being one of them)! We went to Easter and Summer Camps because our friends were there! And we made significant faith decisions at those events. It wouldn’t be far wrong to say that one of the most significant contributors to my faith today was the person who put a basketball hoop in the youth hall at our church. That combination of friends and fun helped strengthen my desire to keep being there.
2. Kids connecting with leaders.
“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
Kids today are bombarded with so much advertising and sales pitches that the gospel can just become another of the many voices kids choose to ignore to get through life. BUT, Sally will always remember that her Sunday School teacher was interested in her and asked about her dance classes. Jonny will always remember that Mr. Peter came and watched his baseball game. If kids know you genuinely care you earn the right to speak into their lives (or lead them deeper into worship) and they’ll listen.
If you’re from a larger church the people making these connections are your leaders. If you’re from a small church it’s you. Fostering and valuing relationship will always come from the leadership and you can create an atmosphere of connection no matter the size of your church.
3. Kids Connecting with God
If kids have friends around and a growing sense of belonging….
If they know you genuinely care…
Then when you share about God’s great love for them and about who Jesus is and what He has done for them, or when you share your own story of believing in Jesus and becoming a Christian and how it has impacted you, they are listening. They are ready when you invite them to respond to Him. They trust you and feel safe to step out into deeper places with God.
Consider how different this is to the park bench marriage proposal scenario from earlier on.
Once connection points are in place and kids feel comfortable, it’s very easy and very natural to turn their attention towards God. He has already loved them through you.
Consider your Kid’s Ministry from a connections point of view. Are there things you can do to promote kids connecting with other kids, with leaders and then with God?
Mark Millard has served in ministry to young people for more than 20 years. When he's not performing as a member of The Lads band, he's writes songs, scripts, curriculum and is part of Big Big Productions, the creators of two different kids TV series (The Lads TV and TuneTime) which broadcast to over 180 countries around the world. Based in Franklin, TN he's married to Andrea Millard and together they have 4 kids.
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