Serving as a small group leader for 4th and 5th graders has been such a blessing to me. But it wasn’t that way from the beginning. Whether it’s incessant tattling or the talker that is always off topic, we all have things that make us stop and think, “what did I sign up for?” For me, it was getting over the hurdle of watching my boys show off in front of each other after they hadn’t seen each other in a week. But rather than focusing on how to handle the specific issue, I began to follow the lead from our children’s ministry director. She reminds us that a “win” is (1) building meaningful relationships and (2) giving them tools.
With that win as my focus, my attitude began to change dramatically and I was able to see the blessing God had given me. So how do you build meaningful relationships with elementary schoolers? I don’t pretend to be an expert, but have found a few things that work for me:
- Turn on the radar: find the kids that are new or feeling insecure. Spend a few minutes with them. Introduce them to other kids their age. Sit with them during worship time.
- Ask questions: Find out what is happening in their lives (What bugged them this week? What’s something cool that happened?)
- Be consistent: Tell them you will be there every week and you will be looking for them (the relationships grow so much faster and deeper with weekly interaction)
Then, we get to the second part of this win: giving them tools. Tools to take what they heard in church and apply it to their lives at home and school.
- Internet: I asked the kids who owned their own Bible – around half did; I then asked how many had access to the internet – all did. So I referred them to a cool Bible website.
- Focus on Jesus: Each week, I remind them to keep their eyes on Jesus (so they won’t sink). The story of Peter is such a visual reminder!
- Purpose: Remind them that God has a purpose for each of them and you can’t wait to see how God uses them (I point to the Middle School Leaders and remind them that in one or two years, they can begin serving).
- Interpret God’s Word: Ask the kids to put the verse in their own words. (One week, a boy said, “So God has your back!” I knew he got it!)
- Get excited about the Bible: remind them that the cool story from today’s lesson is in God’s Book where there are many, many more cool stories!
So, what does all this mean to the kids?
Hopefully we are building a safe place where they can count on getting love, attention and acceptance (while having a blast!). Our hope is that they will want to share this fun experience with a friend. Meanwhile, we can only pray that they will grow in wisdom and knowledge and in their relationship with our awesome God.