Jan

20

2010

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5 Tips for Better Communication with Kids

When you work with kids in ministry, many children’s ministers are looking for better ways to get the message across.  We’ve taken some great tips from CentriKid Camp staffers and even shared a few phrases not to use.  Here are 5 of our recent posts geared to challenge your thinking and help you communicate better with kids:

 

1. Effective Stories:  Here are 5 tips for crafting top-notch stories/illustrations.

2. Taboo Words: “Ask Jesus in your heart.”

3. Taboo Words: “Walk with God.”

4. Taboo Words: “Blood of the Lamb.”

5. Taboo Words: “Born Again.”

 

For any of these posts, please share with us how you’ve defined these concepts for kids….and please comment here if there are other tricky words you can share with us that confuse kids.

Jeremy Echols

JE leads the camp team, finds new camp locations, plans training, and lots of other projects. He met his wife Emily working camp, and their daughter #BabyMadison was born in 2011.



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Comments

ON 01.21.2010 Hank SAID:

Sunday night at church, I was listening to a volunteer teach a lesson about Joseph. The teacher was trying to emphsize the fact that God is present and can help us in any situation–whether we are in a pit in the desert, in a prison cell, or sitting on Pharoah’s throne. I had never thought of the following phrase as being a "taboo word," but the way that the teacher presented the concept and emphasized certain words definitely caused the meaning to be misconstrued.

Taboo phrase: God is with you ALL THE TIME.

"I want you all to understand that God is with ALL THE TIME. That means that when you are sitting in class and you are taking a really hard test, God is there. When you are thinking about cheating on your test, God IS THERE! When you are tucked tightly in your bed in your room at night and you see a scary shadow on the wall and you can’t figure out what is causing it, you’re not really alone because God is there. There is nothing that you can do to get away from God, and there is nowhere you can go that he cannot see!" (I kept waiting for her to say, "When you go to the bathroom…" or "When you are in the shower…")

Midway through the lesson, somehow I had the impression that God is a big scary man that is trying to hurt me or kill me, and no matter what, there is no escape! I hardly believe I was alone in this thinking, because as I stopped to take a look at the faces of some of the children, I noticed that their eyes were as big as those of a cow.

Now, theologically speaking, there is nothing wrong with what the teacher said (other than implying that God might somehow mystically help you remember the answers to a hard test–but like I said, this was implied, not specifically stated). It is true that God is everywhere all the time–we call that omnipresence. God, in all his fullness, completely occupies every square inch of the universe at all times (That’s a loaded statement, btw). It is also true that, at times, God’s omnipresence can cause feelings of trepidation or insignificance. David proclaimed, "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!" (Ps. 139:7-8, ESV). God DOES see when we excel, and he sees when we sin or mess up. Still, fear or insignificance is not the best venue for teaching children truths about God (It can be a venue, just perhaps not the best).

How then can we say to a child, (Reassuring voice) "God is with you all the time. He can help you in any situation," without saying (Creepy voice) "God is with you ALL THE TIME! You’ll never escape!"? Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Do not cause children to recall images or situations that are scary. Taking a test…that’s not so bad. Being tucked tightly in your bed and thinking you are safe until you see a horrible shadow on the walll?! Many adults are afraid of the dark, much less children. The fear that a child associates with a dark, scary room can easily be transferred to and projected upon God’s presence in that room.

2. Where appropriate, be more specific in word choice. Children are concrete thinkers. They cannot SEE God in their classroom while they are taking a difficult test, so it is not entirely helpful to simply say that he is there. Afterall, it’s not as though he is physically present and standing over their shoulders. Instead, give suggestions of what a child might do in response to the truth that God is present (i.e. pray to God for wisdom, pray for forgivness for not studying responsibly, etc.). Instead of simply saying that God IS THERE when we sin, consider explaining truths about the Holy Spirit, conviction, and repentence.

3. Own the concepts you are trying to teach! Many times we miscommunicate truths about God to children because we do not actually understand them ourselves. If nothing else, consult several scripture passages on the concepts you are teaching. If needed, check out some commentaries or additional books. BELIEVE ME, if you have a question about it, someone has written a book on it! Having a fuller, more complete understanding of the truths of God’s word will allow you to more easily and effectively communicate the truths to children on a level they can understand.

4. Pray for the HS to give you wisdom as you teach. If we believe in God’s omnipresence and in his indwelling of every believer, then perhaps we should live like we do.

5. Be alert! Watch for clues and don’t be afraid to change your game plan (or vocabulary) if it is clear that you are not getting through. What might be a sign that you are not quite connecting? If a child’s eyes look like those of a cow!

One last example and I am finished. Tonight at church, a different teacher put up an overhead sheet with a rather peculiar picture. The focal point was a large book. A group of VERY happy children was huddled in a corner, and each was posed as if he or she was having a great time (almost as if at a party). Bubbles were coming from their heads. One said, "I found my name!" Another, "ME TOO!" The third, "I can’t wait to find mine!" An adult was at the bottom of the picture, and his bubble said, "Is your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life?" This is the faux pas that I like to call "RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN!"

I bring this up simply as another example of a miscommunication. Obviously heaven will be an extraordinary experience, but children can be easily coerced. I simply suggest that a little more care is needed in what and how we teach.


ON 01.21.2010 Jeremy Echols SAID:

Henry – thanks for sharing these thoughts. You’ve highlighted reasons why we believe it is worth the extra time to choose our words carefully with kids. I wanna help make the message clearer for them, not cause confusion. Thanks again for the great response!