Working with kids can be tough, especially when it comes to communicating with them. How do they not just get some of the things we are asking? We say it as seemingly clear as day, but it seems like we are talking quantum physics with how little they are actually understanding or paying attention to what we say. Have you ever felt that way? Well, it’s because kids aren’t the same as adults. Now,that’s kind of a given isn’t? While this concept is very simple, and you probably already knew it, sometimes it is so helpful to be reminded of it t as you strive to impact the lives of kids with the gospel in the most effective way possible.
Kids aren’t adults
Kids simply aren’t at the same mental development stage as adults (Although I’m sure at least some of us have been accused of still acting like one!). They are going through much different life events. An exciting thing to a kid might be having 3 dollars to their name, but is an adult’s worst nightmare. When talking with kids, it is important to use relevant-to-them topics and examples. Along those same lines, kids tend to be more concrete learners than abstract thinkers. Kids will learn best with examples that connect clearly to what you want them to understand. That may mean talking about how the game you just played actually relates to our relationship with Jesus. We refer to that as a “debrief.” You can read more about that here in Debriefing 101. Beyond that, using physical objects will help solidify what you are saying in a kid’s mind–they simply aren’t going to understand or retain as much if you are using metaphorical illustrations. And remember to keep your vocabulary simple. They aren’t taking seminary courses; they don’t need to hear words like propitiation just yet, because you will completely lose their attention.
Kids aren’t babies
Now, thinking in a new way, elementary kids are more advanced than their younger counterparts. They can understand words and speak them back to you. You can have real conversations with them. In these conversations it is important to remember a few things. First, since they aren’t babies, you should allow kids to think for themselves. Asking open-ended questions and allowing them to answer in their own words helps kids think through what they know and believe in a much deeper way than simple yes and no responses that guide them to what you are telling them to believe. During these conversations it is also important to get on their level. Don’t tower above them and incite fear over them. Get down to a knee or squat to talk with them where they are.
I’ve heard it said that when working with kids, you need to get on their train before you ask them to get on yours. For example, when you have asked everyone to come to the stage, but a young boy is continuing to build this massive lego tower instead, talk with him and find out all about what he is doing. Through doing this, he will be much more willing to come the next time you ask. Situations like this will help you build a relationship. We often say at CentriKid that life change happens best in the context of relationships. That’s why we do what we do, and I believe it should be a goal of yours as well — to develop deep relationships with the kids you are privileged enough to show God’s love. This relationship will instill trust, and you will be able to communicate with those kids even greater once that trusting relationship is there. Comment below with tips you have found work well when communicating with kids.