The heart is the main issue when dealing with children. Steve Curington said, “Rules without a relationship lead to rebellion.” This is especially applicable to children. Children are very familiar with being given a list of “dos and don’ts” when what they really need is a loving personal relationship with Christ. As Children’s Workers, we need to foster that relationship by developing our own relationship with Christ.
Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” We need to win their hearts. What are the keys to the heart of a child? Proverbs 4:20-21 says, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.” The keys to the heart are the in the eyes and the ears.
The second part of Proverbs 23:26 says, “let thine eyes observe my ways.” As a child, I saw teachers put themselves up on a pedestal. It seemed they thought that they could do no wrong…and I could do nothing right. But the result of this self-righteousness is children learning how to put on a show or performance of self-righteousness. This show often lasts until they are old enough to leave home, and then the façade is revealed. Sadly, we now have a generation that grew up in church and often look back on it and regard those who are still there as hypocrites, because that is how they attended. Through transparency, we must show children humility, honesty, holiness, and humor. (After all, children need to have fun, too!)
We should never look down on children. We are there to minister to them. We need to lift them up and encourage them to do right. You cannot accomplish this when you are looking down on them. Being a Children’s Worker takes humility. Often the children’s ministry is in the background and not seen. This is a good opportunity to show the children that we are humble and how to be humble.
Isn’t it odd that people in the Bible are often taught as if they were all perfect Christians? We give children a false impression. The Bible also gives us information about their mistakes, too. They were sinners just as are we. We need to be honest about them and about ourselves, too! Many times I will use examples out of my own life to teach a biblical principle that I had to learn. This is an example I have said, “Did you know that when Mr. Ben was a child, he stole a piece of candy from a grocery store? I did and when I got to the car my dad made me go back by myself to find the manager and give the candy back and apologize for taking it.” Honesty will help your children find “even ground” with you and make them more willing to listen to you as they see that you are real.
Children also need to see that you are doing what is right now, and that God has changed your life. They need to be reminded of the importance of doing right in their own lives. Unfortunately, many Children’s Workers are falling by the wayside because of a lack of holiness in their personal lives. How many youth have been disappointed and alienated from the things of God because they saw the facade ripped off of a youth pastor who did not maintain a standard of moral excellence and holiness? They need to see you do right.
Humor is important. I love to just have fun with my kids. I sometimes feel weird about it when someone who does not work in Children’s Ministry walks in and sees me acting like a child with the children. But humor is necessary. It is what makes a connection that keeps them coming back every week.
The second key to the heart is through the ears. Proverbs 4:20 says, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.” Children need to be taught. They need to learn God’s Word. This must be done with sincerity. It must be scriptural. It must show affection and appreciation.
The Bible is called the sincere milk of the word. Children are very sincere. Oh, they may not understand it all, or they make a mistake in what they are saying, but they will always be sincere in their answer. When we teach them God’s Word, it should be taught with sincerity. You care about them, and God cares about them. The Bible tells them they are cared about. Whether they come from a godly home, or from a dysfunctional home, many children deal with issues of insecurity. (Extra Tip: Children who are churched and unchurched should be taught and treated equal…and rewarded equal.)
Children are very impressionable and smarter than you think. Make sure that what you are teaching lines up with the Bible. Many times we tend to give our opinion as if it were Scripture. Children will soon learn the difference between fact and opinion.
3. Show Affection
Sadly, children today are often thought of and treated as a burden rather than a blessing from God. They need to know that you are affectionate towards them. A high five for a job well done or a pat on the back goes a long way!
4. Show Appreciation
Children love to help and be involved. This is because they want to feel appreciated. Let them put away the crayons or help with setting up. Then show your appreciation! Give them a special prize now and again.
These are the keys to a child’s heart. Without the heart being reached, instruction will be of no effect. The heart of a child is what Children’s Ministry is all about!