This weekend I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Gatlinburg to attend an event called Kidfest sponsored by the Church of God’s Youth & Discipleship program. I was not apart of the event but served as a chaperone for the children’s ministry program in our local church. I enjoyed seeing our kids jump on their chairs and pump their fists in the air for Jesus as B-Shoc entered the stage with fireworks and all. I laughed with the children as Gigi the turtle led us all into an experience with God through imagination and play. I stood in awe with the kids as I watched David Laughlin and his family wow us all through illusions to lead us into a deeper truth about the love of Christ. I was touched as my daughter cried in my arms as Yancy followed his lead and led us so beautifully in worship.
As a children’s ministry influencer, I have always valued spending time with children. One of my favorite things to do is to get on my knees, look a child in the eye, and allow them to teach me. Serving faithfully in our children’s ministry program gives me the opportunity to do just that and more. For example, I know the kids love gaga ball because I’m there to witness their excitement. I know the girls love “poppits” because they practically dragged me through the mall to find some. I know the types of shows they are into because I watch the channels they stop at, and listen to the conversations they have. I read books in an effort to understand their generation and try to stay atop of what’s trending with these bite-size but mighty voices. Let’s just say, in the world of children, they are the professors and I am the student.
This weekend at Kidfest, school was in session and I allowed them to teach me once more. I watched their little mannerisms and responses throughout the weekend and wanted to share with you a few of my insights…
Kids love being in community with each other
During the trip, the AC apparently went out on the bus. Lucky for me, I was driving separately with a couple of other chaperones and the daughter of one of them. This shy little girl loved her momma but even she could not resist the pull of community. Eventually she asked to join the other children on the bus, hot air and all! This happened with another child on the way home as well. Having a sense of community is vital for every person. This is just as true for children. Being in community unites us. As leaders, we must be intentional in providing opportunities for our children to engage with one another in community. Especially in settings that promote diversity and inclusion.
Kids are extremely empathetic towards one another.
During the trip we had our fair share of injuries, including my daughter. When other children saw her get out of the car with a bloody leg, they all flocked to her like bees defending their hive, showing their concern and expressing their love for her. They looked for ways to help her whether they knew her personally or not. This happened multiple times on the trip with each incident. Grownups could learn a lot from children. How often do you rush to help someone around you when you sense they are hurting?
Kids have a voice and they want to be heard!
One of the girls in our room was very strong-willed. I loved how my co-chaperone diffused every situation by simply allowing her to express her voice. Even if it had to be a little re-directed, her voice was heard and empathized with every time. It’s a fine line between crushing a child’s spirit because you’re the boss and what you say goes vs. allowing them to share their heart and then mentoring them in the right direction. As children's ministry leaders, we need to consider this and choose the latter.
Kids struggle with anxiety and need to know the grownups around them care.
From unintentional spills, children who were home-sick, and lose teeth, I noticed a similar theme. Kids look to the grownups around them for affirmation and safety. If we don’t give it, they will go out into the world looking for it. They want to know and feel that we really care for them. It is vital that children’s ministry workers not just sit on the sidelines as warm bodies but truly be present when it comes to serving children. We have to constantly be in the business of showing them who Christ is through the authentic love and concern we show for them.
Kids want to experience the presence of God
The kids were given an opportunity to come to the altar. They were not forced in anyway. In fact, they were encouraged to stay in their seats if that was something they wanted to do. It touched my heart to see many of our kids go up to the altar on their own accord. They didn’t need us to encourage them because they wanted to go. They wanted to experience the presence of God for themselves. Children’s Ministry leaders should rest in the fact that God has filled our children with a longing for him. We are merely his assistants and he is working in their little hearts in ways we cannot always see. For those who labor to create the prefect experience for kids week after week, that should certainly take some of the pressure off!
I wish I could say that after all these years I have graduated from the school of children and now have all the answers. The truth is, I don’t think I will ever graduate until God calls me into another season and those who have taught me become students themselves as they are called to reach the generation after them. Until then, I will continue to take advantage of every opportunity to learn all that I can to appropriately position myself to reach tomorrow’s generation and train others to do the same.