The way you love a kid can dramatically affect his or her future. Love over time creates worth, and any parent would tell you the most common parenting mistakes are easily overcome by loving our children over the long haul. In the book “Playing for Keeps“, the authors make this statement:

Most research suggests that when it comes to love, the younger the recipient, the more powerful the impact.

This can create quite the urgency in the heart of an elementary small group leader. Think about it. When we are only seeing these kids for a handful of hours a year, how can we demonstrate a love that makes a sincere impact?

It’s quite simple, and it’s built into the very heart of every relationship. You demonstrate love to them by simply knowing them. Every child has a desire to want to be known by an adult. It’s why they want to give you the long winded play-by-play of their soccer game. It’s why they bring you pieces of artwork from school. It’s why they run to say hello when they spot you on a Tuesday evening at the grocery store.

They want to be known. All you have to do is create the space to listen. Here are some practical steps you can take to help you get to know the kids you’re leading:

Show up early. The earlier you arrive each week, the better chance you have to truly visit with those early-arriving children.

Listen with your eyes. Truly knowing a child, begins with putting down the iPhone, cup of coffee, and small group lesson. Make eye contact and listen. Really, really listen.

Don’t worry about the details. You won’t be quizzed on everything you hear from a group of 2nd graders, so relax and learn to enjoy the honor of having all the details shared with you.

We all remember the first adult who made an impact on us. A first-grade teacher who was so impressed with our writing skills. A third-grade P.E. coach who swore we could shoot free-throws with the pros. A church leader who knew our name and lit up every week when we walked in the room. It’s from those adults—from their genuine love for us—that we built the foundation of our self-worth. So don’t hesitate to be that adult for your few. Pour into them. Dote on them. Love them. The time is now.

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