Session 1; How to communicate effectively with kids. (Of all age groups)
So here we are today to talk about how to communicate effectively with kids. These notes and I ideas are not meant to be a ‘data dump’ and no more but rather to provide context and food for thought for our ‘solution sharing’ discussion to follow. You indeed may like to later on turn to your own ministry group and discuss how to apply these three general principals in a more practical way.
The three main principals I want to discuss are split between immediate and long term strategies. The first two being those that we can use ‘real time’ in the immediate context of our ministries and the third something to aim towards over a period of time.
So, the principals. We can communicate more effectively to kids through our
- ….and their Families/Parents.
So, let’s begin with awareness.
- Building our awareness.
We can effectively communicate with kids even before we actually open our mouths. In fact, that goes for any person and it’s something that I am still learning day by day. The truth is, we naturally approach conversations thinking about us unless of course we are deliberate about focusing on the other person.
This is especially the case with kids. One thing that doing youth work for 10 years has taught me is that kids are awesome at spotting when someone is really aware of them. In order to become more alert, we need to be aware of the subconscious questions that everyone in asking whenever they walk into a social context. Even little people. They are:
- Do you see me? (Answer by: Acknowledging them every time you see them, ‘making a beeline’ to chat to them.)
- Do you hear me? (Answer by: being aware of body language, not interrupting them, eye contact etc.)
- Do you understand anything I am saying? (Answer by: Asking questions that demonstrate an understanding of what they have already said. laugh when they laugh, don’t when they don’t, give them constant feedback via body language that shows you understand.)
These are the three questions human beings subconsciously ask at the beginning of any and every relationship, when we walk into any room and join any group.
Thus, being aware of them gives us an advantage when building trust in our ministries and can help to soften even the most deeply rooted skepticism, fear and shyness in a parent, teen, child…whichever.
As you can see, each question has an ‘answer’ that can be applied in the immediate context.
Apply: take 5 minutes to discuss how you might ‘answer’ these questions in your ministry group.
- Be interested.
This one’s a bit of a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how often it goes by the wayside, especially for the older age groups.
The basic principal is this: Get interested in their stuff, and they’ll grow interested in your stuff.
This is good news if ‘your stuff’ is loving Jesus and thinking about the gospel.
We tend to do this really well with toddlers but once kids begin to become aware of their own conscience we begin to frontload many interactions with an agenda. This can also occur in the case of parents.
One of the most toxic attitudes that has severely hamstrung the effectiveness of kid’s ministries in the past is Church’s tendencies to see ‘bums on seats’ on a Sunday morning service as the ultimate thing rather than how valuable that person is to God. Especially in youth ministry, this ‘holy grail’ has often caused us to spend more time taking about ‘our stuff’ (eg: come along to this group, come to the evening service, come to our new alpha course) than listening to their stuff.
But what get what you emphasize.
I love lego. Partly because I love lego, but mostly because there may be a kid out there who needs to talk my ear off about lego for three hours before they’ll feel safe enough to talk to me about if they really have to forgive the kid who bullied them at their last school. Choose to get super excited about small things, you’ll be surprised how much more crew listen.
Like I said, we’re often cool with toddlers. No one minds rolling around on the floor playing trains with a 2 year old, but when that 2 year old becomes 10, we tend to ask them to come to stuff rather than ask them questions about their latest creation on minecraft.
Apply: Who in your ministry do you come into contact with who you think might need to know that you really care about their ‘small stuff’?
- We can communicate to kids through their families.
This is the long term strategic one.
It’s really this simple despite all the ideas and research regarding the power of kids’ peers and social groups over their decisions, the basic hard fact is this; obviously for little ones, but even for teens, kids don’t tend to stick around if their parents/guardians/carers are not also big fans of the ministries we run.
It’s that simple.
Never forget that kids are sitting at the kitchen table when grown-ups talk about both positive and negative experiences they’ve had. What if we made parents feel so loved and cared for that their children grow up hearing nothing but positive things about the church, Christianity and yes, even Jesus.
Hang out with families.
Go bike riding. See a movie. Go fishing. Have them over for dinner. I was awesome to hear that some folks had ‘community families’ over for Christmas dinner last year. It’s the basic, new testament, early church sharing life together stuff but nothing, but nothing is more powerful.
We know how effective we are in our communication buy how much the parents are fans of our ministry over a long period of time.
Apply: Turn to your group and discuss what things you can do in your context to turn the parents of your attendees into your ministry’s biggest fans.
Solution Sharing space:
Lastly, you may have come up with some answers and Ideas along the lines of these principals which you may think are applicable and helpful to the entire group of ministries. Or you may think: “I’m not sure this is actually a good idea or not.”
One of the best way to unify our focus and moderate ides is though our willingness to share them. So let’s now spend the remainder of our time sharing solutions as a large group.
For Next time: ‘Creating a training Culture.’ 20th March.