When I was a kids pastor at the ripe age of 21 I did then what I find unthinkable now. I wouldn’t sing Christmas songs in kids church and never would sing hymns. As I think back I can’t even remember why I felt that way. I think I felt that kids wanted to have fun and Hymns were above their pay grade. I think I thought Christmas Carols were things you heard in stores not songs of praise sung in church. What changed my perspective was being in the same church for 20 years. Seeing the kids grow up that I had taught in preschool I realized that I had made a couple of mistakes.
One mistake was thinking that fun mattered more than substance. If I made it crazy enough they would come back. I’m all for fun but not at the price of substance. The other mistake I made is I thought I was helping kids with the faith that they need today rather than preparing them for the faith they are going to need. As kids pastors we have to give them a faith for today but we also have to prepare them for the faith they are going to need.
We must give our kids a faith that is big enough they can grow into. Kids also need to be connected to the history of our faith. The need to know that God loves them yes, but many people have lived a life of uncompromising faith they can to by God’s grace.
In my last post I made the case for systematic theology and why kids need it. I know many of you might be thinking that there is no way that you could teach your kids systematic theology because you don’t really even understand it yourself. Take heart you are not alone. The good news for you is there are many resources that are now available to help your kids and you understand the basic framework of our faith.
Theology is something that is scary for many parents as many of them were never taught theology because much of it was assumed when they were kids. Their parents assumed they understood things about God. The most important thing about our kids is what they think about God. Because that’s true we can leave nothing to chance.
So where do we start. I would not start with Systematic Theology for kids under 6 or 7 for them I would read them books that tell the large story of God as a Redeemer. To do that I would recommend the following books
The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
Once kids have an understanding of the big picture of scripture the parts will make sense. When your kids are between 7 and 8 I would working through a systematic theology with them. There are three that I would recommend this list is by no means exhaustive. I have broken them up into younger, slightly older and older again this is for connivance what is important is you find what works for you family and do that.
Everything a Child Should Know about God by Kenneth Taylor
The Ology by Marty Machowski
Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware
Bible Doctrine: Essential Teaching of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem
In the kids ministry world the idea of partnering with parents is definitely mainstream. Most people are talking about why this is important. We need to be having this conversation. The more we talk about partnering with parents it reminds us of our primary job to lead and guide not to parent the kids in our ministry. This is so important. We are here to train and equip parents to more effectively lead their homes.
One of the things I often wrestle with personally is how do I take my understanding that I need to partner with parents and translate that into action. It’s so easy for me to nod my head at conferences and tweet things that say partnering with parents is important but how does that become a reality and not just a good idea. I would say the answer is small first steps.
When I first started leading elementary and preschool environments, I had no problem leading and recruiting elementary volunteers, preschool was a different story. It wasn’t until I came understand what makes preschool ministry so amazing. The biggest game changer in preschool ministry and recruiting people to help in preschool ministry comes when you understand that you may be the first person to introduce a preschool to Christ. It’s a huge honor to serve in preschool ministry. To help shape a child’s first understanding of who Christ and what he did for them is amazing.
Here are 5 actions every preschool teacher needs to take.
1. Smile, love the kids you serve. Let them see in you the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is a result of a Christ-centered life.
2. Make sure the snacks are good. – Two things no preschooler ever needs is stale goldfish and stale faith.
3. Use snack time to drive home truth. Preschoolers don’t move and don’t talk and listen most while they are eating. Use those few moments well.
4. Remind kids – 1. Jesus loves them 2. We love you. 3. We all need God’s help
5. Practice consistency and flexibility they are your two greatest friends when working with small people.
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