As a leader, you already know that healthy relationships within your congregation are important. You work to develop your team, strengthen marriages, and connect with your community. But what about relationships with the “under 18” crowd? We’ve seen statistics on the frightening number of high school grads who don’t return to church. Addressing the need for healthy, transformative, Christ-centered relationships at the children’s ministry level is vital in reaching the next generation.
Here are some principles for developing transformative relationships at the children’s ministry level:
- AUTHENTIC relationship over “bling”. Kids are smart. Most of them understand that attending a concert does not make them friends with the lead singer. If you have the resources for more media and visual effect in your children’s ministry, go for it! But more important, do you know that 6-year-old boy’s name? The one with the big smile, missing 2 front teeth?
- MENTORING over “plugging holes” in ministry to children. This will mean a time and development investment, but placing church members in a room to “watch” children is not valuable. Using a gifts identification tool or a survey may be worth your time to pick out those who would work well with children.
- GENDER SPECIFIC relationships work. In Girls Ministries, my personal experience (and the experience of young women and men I talk to) tells me that the connections developed with men and women in churches have an “anchoring” effect on children when adults walk out their faith with them, not in front of them. Cultivating these bonds allows for the different needs of boys and girls to be addressed in a safe, appropriate way.
Our children are just as deserving of close, meaningful relationships in our community as our adults. Making those connections makes a difference! Children crave healthy adult role models as they grow and develop, and those bonds have an impact on them as they enter and walk through adulthood.
Lisa Durant serves as the Director of Girls Ministries for the New York Ministry Network.