Here are 7 things I often tell our uptown volunteers to do to make kids feel welcome in Uptown. If we are not consistently thinking about what we can proactively do to help kids feel welcome, we won’t do it.
7 sure-fire ways to make kids feel welcome in church.
1. Talk to them how they talk to you – If they are shy, you need to be shy if they are outgoing be outgoing.
2. Make fun of yourself -If you can make funny faces or do funny voices that’s always a plus
3. Come down physically to their level to look into their eyes as you talk.
4. Stay up on kid culture – Don’t ask them about “Rugrats” ask them about Phineas and Ferb
5. Give them things – stickers, candy, Bible bucks
6. Learn their names and their parents names
7. ALWAYS greet the kids before the parents
I have always been a fan of Twitter. As a reader, I love the brevity as a writer I love the forced clarity. 140 characters is not a lot of real-estate it forces you to think before you type. When you read someone’s Twitter feed what you get is a condensed form about what they are most passionate. Through videos, links and pithy quotes you get a good sense of what they love most.
With Jim Wideman, you get that loud and clear. You get that he is passionate about building the church, loving his family, helping folks grow. One of the things I love most about Jim is he isn’t someone who gets stuck. He learns from others as much as he helps others. I first meet Jim on Twitter a platform that was touted by the experts as a tool to be used by people far younger than he. Jim did as he does with most things jumped on to see what the fuss was. Turns out Twitter was made for Jim. If you hang out with Jim for any amount of time, you realize that he speaks mostly in Twitter. Most of what he says are profound thoughts that have been honed by time to produce an easy to remember truth that appears simple because it’s so short and memorable. That is far from simple because they represent a truth that is only gotten to by years of experience.
This month I head back into family ministry full time. For the past four years, I have served as a campus pastor with little day to day involvement in kids ministry. In my time at my church I have served for 18 years 14 as a kids pastor and four as a campus pastor. Serving in kids, youth and now adult ministry my perspective has changed greatly in many ways. As I head into the day to day ministry to kids and youth for the second time in my life, I do so with a far different perspective. Here are three thoughts that have changed my thinking in the past 20 years.
1. When we expect parents to lead their kids spiritually, we can fall into the thinking that our job is simply expectation. I know that in years past I felt my job was to create expectation and point to a need. I felt my job was to place expectations on parents. One of the Pioneers in the family ministry field who I have much respect for is Reggie Joiner. It was largely through his pushing and continual pushing of the church and family working together for the spiritual good of our kids that has lead to a family ministry revolution in the kids and youth ministry worlds. Much has changed in the past 15 years, and I think one of the dangers of expectation we must be aware of is the temptation to think in terms of best case scenarios. We tend to think of best case scenarios when we think of partnering with parents. We tend to think of Mom and Dad with 2.5 kids having dinner and discussing the Trinity. We tend not to think of how our expectations of a single mom with two jobs adds to her burden rather than lifts it. By telling her spiritually lead her kids without showing or equipping her to do so we feel better, and she feels worse we feel that we have partnered she feels that she is failing. We are not doing our job by creating unrealistic expectations. It is our job to learn to tell a better story.
2. Resources are not the end but the beginning. I have tended to think that a well-crafted resource will take care of any problem. I tend to think that if I make a resource or find a resource I have done my job. What I have come to learn is that life is messy, and resources work for some parents but not all. Resources have to be a mechanism that launches a conversation rather than a tool to solve a perceived problem.
3. Expect parents to lead but lead them if they don’t. Every parent wants what is best for their kids. They want them to exceed them in every way. Most Christian parents want their kids to love Jesus more than they did as a child the problem is they don’t know how to make that happen. The reality is that spiritual change is a work God does, but he most often works through us to make that happen. We need to create environments where kids meet with God on a regular basis. We need to create resources that parents can use to grow themselves as they teach their children. Why don’t parents lead their kids in my personal experience it’s because we have forgotten what it’s like to be kids, and we are failing to grow in our relationship with God. Our ability to lead comes from the overflow of being lead by the great shepherd.
How will this change how I lead in the next season of life and ministry? – I will create an environment where kids can grow and be led spiritually if mom or dad do nothing.
– I will create resources that foster conversation over ones that meet a need and move on.
– I will continue to empower mom or dad to lead their families for their good and God’s glory.
– I will clearly articulate our need for the grace that Jesus provided to us at great cost to himself. Everything changes in how we lead our kids and others as we continue to remind ourselves that we were lost but now are found were blind, but now we see. Remembering this fosters the humility to lead as parents and ministry leaders.
One of the things that I find most comforting in life is know how God sees our future. We tend to limit God based on how we think he works or how we think he should work. This is why the second commandment is such a big deal. When we make a physical representation of God, we remove him from being a God that is limitless to a one-dimensional caricature. We form Him in our image by assuming that he should look and act like us. He doesn’t work that way.
Here is one of the most freeing things that I have come to understand and appreciate in my relationship with God. When I stress over what the future holds I fail to see my future in the way God does. The way that God sees our future is exactly how we see our past. That understanding transforms our trust. When we look to our past, we see a vast array of unconnected dots that somehow worked together to bring us to the job that we have the person we married and the school we attend. Steve Jobs was a self-proclaimed Buddhist but as a result of common grace he understood this. He attributed the beauty of his products to an obscure class on calligraphy he took in college.
What God’s word tells us is that every seemingly unconnected dots that have been linked sovereignly and are how God see our future. We see disconnected dots God see our beginning from our end. It is that simple understanding that help us trust him in every season of life.
While I don’t agree with the ultimate assumptions Jobs makes about religion and faith in God I found much of his address to the graduating class of 2005 at Stanford University helpful. I hope you do as well.