I’ll never forget this one Sunday when we watched a Veggie Tales® movie in our church in Canada. The children were seated according to their grades, and girls and boys were separated. At one point during the movie, the grade one and two boys started laughing loudly. I looked around the room. Clearly, they were the only ones who caught on to the funny part in the movie. That amazed me. The makers of Veggie Tales® were experts when it came to understanding grade 1 and 2 boy humor!
Experts on kids. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us, Sunday School teachers/Children’s Ministry workers, were real experts on kids? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we really understood what makes kids laugh, what they love, how to capture their full attention and beyond that, how we can reach their hearts with God’s transforming love? We should be able to figure it out – after all, we were all children when we started off in this world! When we truly value the uniqueness of childhood, understand children and see their potential, it will destroy the Barrier: Church is Boring. I could probably write a book on how kids are different from us, adults, (I wrote a blog about this before: “Through the Eyes of a 2-Year-Old”) but let’s just look at a few differences.
The World Through Their Eyes
Yes, kids are different. They giggle differently, they laugh about other things and they love being silly. They look at the world from a totally different perspective. For fun, crouch down on your knees and look at your house from this lower level. What do you notice? But it’s not only their physical eye level that is different from ours.
When we lived in Addis Ababa, I used to take my two children to the shop twice a week to buy groceries. By the side of one of the little streets, lying on the ground was a beam. I guess it was an old electricity post. Every single time we walked down that street, my kids wanted to walk down the beam, balancing as they went. Honestly, I did not have the urge to do this, but they loved it. Kids are different. When we see a street, they see opportunities for play.
Kids often have a strong sense of justice and fairness, and can believe strongly things that seem right to them. If we give them opportunities, they will amaze us. My niece, for example, managed to raise a lot of money for an orphan project in Africa. Her school organized a fund raiser, and the kids were asked to sell some of their old toys or other items from home at a school fair. But my niece strongly believed in this cause, and decided to take it step further. And instead of taking a small step, this 10-year-old took a giant leap. She went to the mall with her friend and asked many shop owners to donate items to be auctioned off at a fair. My niece and her friend blew the adults away with how much money they raised. My sweet nice passionately believed in the cause, had an idea and she followed through on it. She did not think of obstacles most adults would have worried about. She just did it. She simply did it for the orphans in Africa. Then, when she came to visit us in Africa a few months later, she became all excited when we drove through a town and saw a sign by the side of the road that lead to one of the offices of that organization. Her passion was still there. Kids have amazing potential. They need opportunities. Don’t underestimate them.
On the Yiwedegnal (Amharic for ‘He Loves Me’) kids worship DVD we made in 2012, we included interviews with children from our kids program. One of the questions was, “Who is God to you?” and they responded, “He is my friend” and “He is my everything” and “He is my friend, my Savior, my Brother, He is everything to me.” Many adults were surprised as they watched the children. One lady asked me with tears in her eyes, “Did you tell them what to answer?” When I told her we did not, she shook her head in amazement. “I did not realize that kids can have real faith like this!” she said. Yes, it is true, we often underestimate their faith. Kids are able to have real, strong, beautiful, powerful, child-like faith.
In order to become experts on kids, we must get down to their level – literally. Carefully observe them as they interact with their friends. Pay attention to the things that get them excited, and use those things in your ministry. Do they like crazy facts? Then find some and use them to point out how amazing God’s creation is. Play with them at their level, and instead of telling them what they should do and how they should do it, let them lead as well. Being fully present is key to this. Don’t let your mind be on your to-do list, and don’t be distracted by what you want. Include opportunities for play and playfulness in your time with them and play games with them. Come up with ways in which they can actively reach out those around them, like my niece, so they can use their potential. Recognize their faith, mentor and disciple them so they can grow in their faith, and live by faith alongside them. As we interact with them, we will discover their uniqueness and it will be delightful. Our programs will not be boring!
Kids are different. I could tell you many more amazing stories of how I have seen God work and speak through kids! If we value their childhood uniqueness, if we try to crawl into their skin and understand them, we can use those things and figure out how to reach them with God’s love. When we do this, I believe that we will be blown away by the beauty of the uniqueness of our children!
Coming up next – Barrier #3: Poor Presentation