KidMin is Important…but you knew that!

childdevThose of us who work with children know it. How we treat children is essential to their future…and ours.

But many have known it over the years. As revealed in Childhood and Society, the published findings from his research, Erik Erikson understood this. “Erikson believed the effectiveness of leaders in his day was limited by a major blind spot in their thinking. As they sought solutions to the problems of society, they ignored childhood. They made no connection between the ways in which children were raised and how they functioned as adults. No importance was attributed to the formative processes in childhood when considering cause or solutions for social ills.”[i]

You could have told him that.

And it’s not so different in our churches. Catherine Stonehouse has also studied children and states in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, her published research findings, that “church leaders suffer from a similar blindness. Although we claim to value children and give lip service to the importance of their Christian education, reference to their spiritual formation seldom becomes a significant theme in major strategies for the church.  Often senior pastors leave the care of children to support staff and volunteers without having integrated the nurturing of children into the big picture.”[ii]

You could have told her that, too.

George Barna’s findings substantiate this fact, too. Barna, who says that in all his years researching adults and ignoring children he didn’t just miss the boat, he missed the ocean, says that “if you want to shape a person’s life – whether you are most concerned about his or her moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional or economic development – it is during these crucial eight years [5-12 years per Barna] that lifelong habits, beliefs and attitudes are formed.”[iii]

And you could have told him that, too.

Whether you are a children’s pastor, school teacher, volunteer Sunday school leader, parent, tutor or babysitter, don’t give up. You know what you are doing is important. Don’t forget it.       

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6).

[i] Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society, 104, as referenced by Catherine Stonehouse, Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, 62.

[ii] Catherine Stonehouse, Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, 62.

[iii] George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, 18.


What’s the key to good discipline?

The Key to Discipline: Giving students what they want!

We know it seems contrary to everything you’ve ever been taught about nurturing children, but the quickest way to achieve a well-disciplined classroom is to give your students (of any age) exactly what they have been wanting all along. Let us explain.

Garrido, a researcher in the field of children’s education, says it clearly: “Children quickly become restless when they are given peripheral material, but concentrate and settle down when given what they have been hungering for.” The problem is that if we don’t know what our students are hungering for, we end up giving them the peripheral materials that cause them to be restless, i.e. to not behave well.

So what is it that children really want…deep down inside? While each child might have his or her own items to add to the list, we believe that it is safe to say that all children of any age in every culture desire a few simple things:

  • To be treated with respect.
  • To be loved unconditionally.
  • To be given safe boundaries.
  • And to experience deep, meaningful relationship with God.

While many of us work hard to create lessons that are polished and presented with great flair, we believe that some simple elements in each session can improve overall behavior.

Start your class by lighting a candle. While this may sound too “churchy,” children are very aware of symbols and your weekly reminder that God, the Holy Spirit, is present in your classroom will have great impact on your students and the depth with which they approach what goes on there.

Spend a few minutes in silent prayer, just listening to God. Children often struggle with prayer because they think they have to come up with lots of big words. Ask your students to sit silently and simply listen for God’s still, small voice. Trust that God is willing and desiring to speak to your students and give him the chance. This very real connection with God combined with a quieting activity will help students focus.

Finally, engage students’ imagination in the Bible story.  Instead of the teacher deciding the point of the story and telling her students how to apply it, try asking open-ended questions and making statements that cause students to think.  Ask your students to “find themselves” in the story and then explain why they identified with a specific character.

Why do these approaches work? Each of these suggestions is designed to connect your students with God and God with your students…an essential  way to feed a child’s hunger.  But they also show the child that you and God both respect her, love her unconditionally, and are providing enough attention to keep her safe.

Give a child what he is hungering for, and he will be his best!

Why are we still losing kids?

Although pollsters can’t seem to agree on the exact percentage of kids who are dropping out of church in the “gap” between children’s ministry and youth ministry programs, we all know that the number is high.  Too high! 

While many ministry leaders have used creative ways to prepare kids for the transition by overlapping leadership teams or visiting each other’s classrooms, for years there has been a critical element missing: relationship. But we’re not talking about “relationships” with other students and ministry leaders. We’re talking about that most significant relationship of all, the child’s personal and transformative relationship with God.

We say that “true Christians” have a “relationship with Jesus.” But let’s be honest.  For most evangelicals, “relationship” simply means some unique standing I have that will get me into heaven for free.  That kind of relationship falls far short of the intimacy that we would want with any beloved human in our lives and will never be transformative in the child’s life, nor mine.

That’s where “spiritual formation” comes in.  For a few decades, leaders and ministries have focused on equipping volunteers to teach kids about God in the most effective ways possible.  While this is good, teaching kids “about” God is only one piece of the puzzle.  Spiritual formation engages kids with God.  That’s very different.

The principles of spiritual formation are ancient and involve practices that have been exercised by God’s people before and after Jesus’ day. When we set aside time for scripture reading, prayer, fasting, solitude…in ways that slow us down long enough to listen to what God is saying…we are opening ourselves to the transformation process.

Children can encounter God personally through spiritual formation practices, too. If we trust kids to want God and we strip away a few minutes of the “noise” at church so that our students and our Lord have time to talk.

In their book, Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey, Catherine Stonehouse and Scottie May share their research involving children who had engaged in spiritual disciplines in their regular children’s worship.  Sam, a five-year old boy, tells them: “He just talks! He talks to us overnight, he talks to us, he never stops!” (p. 47).

Let’s not just change the name of our Christian education and discipleship programs to go with the new trend of spiritual formation.  Let’s expose ourselves to the same spiritual transformative disciplines that helped Jesus as he grew in wisdom and stature.  Then let’s share them with our children and students, trusting that a real God can and will speak to children who can and will listen. That relationship will keep kids coming back.