When I was 12 years old, I became a follower of Jesus and started attending First Baptist Church of Desha in Batesville, AR. I had "church hopped" to whatever church beforehand because I had friends who went to this church or that church. I was a kid that "fell through the cracks" but FBC Desha was different because they poured into me as a pre-teen and began discipling me.
There were the sweet older ladies who wanted to pass down wisdom and vowed to pray for our youth of the church. There were families who adopted me as their own and still keep in touch with me and I consider my other parents. I had two youth pastors who really encouraged me in my walk and discipled me to really read my Bible daily and to learn God's word. The community invested in me by coming to my games, doing life with me, and even sharing food. Some of the best relationships that have guided my walk with Jesus started at that small country church and it has led to how I build relationships with people in ministry today.
Chuck Peters with Lifeway Kids recently said: "Kids don't listen to leaders they don't know. You can't have a random person read a lesson from a piece of paper and call it discipleship. Discipleship happens in a relationship. Every child in your church needs a champion in your church; an adult leader who knows their name, and their need, and their story. Who misses them when they are gone, and celebrates them when they come back. This doesn't happen when leaders serve on a rotation out of obligation. Kids need leaders who are invested in their lives."
Ministry is hard and sometimes it's hard to know where to start, but relationships are one of those foundational areas in kids' ministry. Relationships can be tricky, but here are some tips I have that I want to share with someone in kid's ministry:
1) Invest in their lives: go to their events, games, and everything they are involved in. Show up and they will know that they matter.
2) Get to know their culture: Do you know the latest video games that kiddos are playing? Do you know about Bluey for your preschoolers? Do you know why they put their hand on their forearm and say "Sheesh?" Understanding the culture that kids are in is huge and helps you build relationships.
3) Know their needs: get to know what helps them learn. Try to tailor your curriculum to know their needs of learning so that they connect. Get to know if a snack helps your class cool down and focus. Meet those emotional needs of the child and what helps them in your ministry.
I am so excited to see how these tips help you in ministry as they have helped me over the years. My home church helped me learn these things and helped me grow in my faith and fall more in love with Jesus. Now I do the same too for the kids whom I serve and we have experienced growth in our kiddos as I had in my youth. Praying for you in your ministry!