Question: What is most important? A) The kids B) The parents or C) The free donuts
As a volunteer in the 3-4 year old room, I would say….the kids! (With a close second being the donuts of course.) This is why I volunteer in the Preschool Department at my church and gave up my illustrious preaching career. Well, there was also the fact that I couldn’t even do announcements without breaking out in a cold sweat.
During my run on a church staff, I quickly realized the majority of parents let their kids influence their church attendance. The #1 time an adult decides to come back to church is when they have kids. Maybe the parents didn’t like church growing up. Maybe they have never even attended church. But at some point most parents come to the conclusion that a little Sunday School could be good for their kids.
I have seen parents who swore never to set foot in another church become regular attenders because of their kids. I have seen parents leave a church they love because their kids absolutely hate it. I have seen parents attend a church they cannot stand because their kids like it.
You could be the determining factor on whether an entire family comes to church to hear about God’s love for them or stays home to get dibs on the best chairs at the neighborhood pool.
That’s why I see my job on Sunday mornings as way more important than playing blocks until service is over. It’s not just passing out snacks and wiping bottoms. My job is to make sure my classroom is appealing enough for an entire family to come back to church. With this in mind, here are a couple things I try to do:
• Engage the child on their level. I’m 5’9” and I work with a guy that is 6’5”, so I know how unnerving it is to be looking up into someone’s nose when I’m talking to them…..don’t be that guy! Get down on your knees to greet that little guy at the door. Sit down in the little chairs with your knees by your ears to talk to him!
• This isn’t social hour! While it is great to make friends with the other volunteers, you are there for the kids. If you find yourself leaning against the countertop and catching up on gossip from other volunteers, you may need to take those skills to the Information Table at the main entrance. Remember, you may be the only person in many of these kids’ lives telling them about God, don’t waste the time you have with grown ups!
• Hang out and talk with the kids as they are doing their craft. This is a great time to drive home the Bible story of the week. Remember you are not there to babysit….be relational! Would you leave your guest at the kitchen table while you ate in your dining room?
• Connect before they leave. Before they leave ask each kid what their favorite part of their time at church was. This assures they leave on a good note. Plus, it gives them something to say when they get the inevitable drive-home question: “What did you do at church today?”
Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the diaper-to-diaper monotony of the preschool world, to wonder “am I influencing these kids at all?” But I would ask that you take a step back and look at the big picture—look at what may hinge on your attitude when you set foot in your preschool classroom. Because, in fact, what is happening in your little toddler class is arguably the most important and influential area of the church each week. And the real beauty of working with toddlers is that you don’t have to choose the most important. You get to reach the hearts of kids and parents in one go (and get bottomless glazed donuts to boot)!
What do you do to make sure the kids in your rooms have a great time and want to come back?
What pitfalls do you find yourself in that restricts your influence with the kids in your room?