Does your KidMin environment have LEGO® anywhere? Chances are in at least one of your environments has a set or two.
Almost 85 years after the company was first founded, LEGO® continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment market, earning billions of dollars each year. Kids love to create and manipulate their world to figure out how it works and the potential of what it could do. They tinker and experiment; not out of boredom but because that is how how their brains work.
LEGO® understands the mind of a child. They have proven they are experts in innovating their product line to stay current with the research related to their target market: children ages 5-12..Sets made today are better than five years ago. They’re built on the same ideas that have always made LEGO® successful, but designed, marketed and delivered on trend with the current reality and interests of modern-day kids.
LEGO® knows that what kids ultimately want is ownership. The world is currently straddling a digital/analog hybrid where imagination still happens in the context of building blocks not yet solely on video screens. And while LEGO® is extremely successful at inviting kids into their digital worlds, the ever-increasing sales of physical LEGO® prove that kids really want to create new things using their own strategy and imaginations.
With that in mind, why does it seem like the church does the opposite when it comes to helping kids enter into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ? In our KidMin environments, we tend to give them books to read and activity pages to fill out or present lessons like we’re still living in 1987. Many leaders never consider if what we’re using to teach kids the Bible is actually effective and rarely create opportunities for kids to own their faith journey. But, if we want kids to have a growing faith, we need to encourage them to build a faith of their own.
How do we help kids build a strong faith of their own?
Here are five ideas to get you started:
Make Content Memorable.
This sounds obvious. Of course we want to create sticky content that kids will remember throughout the rest of their lives (or at least the rest of their week). Sure it’s more efficient to re-use last year’s curriculum and ideas, but it’s more memorable when you take the time to figure out what’s happening now in their world, and what will resonate and “stick” with them. We default to what we know or how we learn. But kids learn differently than we do simply because of their phase in life.
Attach new information to what kids already know or at least have some familiarity with. Even if it’s using an example from real life, give them a place in their brain to attach new information.
Target multiple senses and learning throughout the learning activities throughout your KidMin environments. When multiple senses are combined during a lesson, the chances are greater for that information to stick.
Create a Lead Small Culture.
Most of large group — even though super fun — is most often a passive learning environment. One of the best ways to make content memorable is to reinforce it in the context of consistent small groups. In groups, students can work through questions and engage in activities that reinforce what’s important in a way they can actually hear and respond in their best learning style.
Weekly, consistent leaders will help create a safe environment where kids will feel free to be themselves. Build an atmosphere together that gives them a chance to practice what it’s like to have an everyday faith, not just a Sunday faith.
Invite open-ended questions.
Giving kids an opportunity to ask questions can be scary. Kids don’t have the same filter adults do when it comes to asking questions, and they may ask their Small Group Leaders very difficult questions about faith. Use this to your advantage. Part of owning your faith is knowing how much we’ll never know about God and being able to get lost in the wonder of it all as we try to make sense of it all.
Your church and KidMin environments should be a place where kids can wrestle with the difficult questions of faith without someone giving them some pat answer or immediately shutting down a question. Either of which may cause more doubts and less question-asking in the future. Free everyone to realize that “I don’t know” is a legitimate answer to faith questions. Then, work together to discover answers. Encourage kids to explore the Bible and search for answers.
Create ownership opportunities.
We help our volunteers take ownership. But what about the kids we serve? How often do we open up ownership opportunities by inviting kids to be a part of creating their weekly environment and church experience? Rarely do we ask the kids using our environments what they actually think about them.
Periodically survey attenders (maybe even their parents, too if you’re really brave!) to find out what they like about your environment. Don’t assume what kids will enjoy based on what you enjoy. Ask informal questions during small group and invite volunteers and leaders to offer feedback throughout the week.
Get kids serving other kids. Older kids can serve as greeters for younger or new kids. Pull kids on stage and have them help lead worship. Kids love being part of something. Let them add value to your environments.
Most kids love to create and decorate. A few times a year, choose different months for your kids to help you create the environment. Let them brainstorm ideas and work together to complete the stage design.
Reimagine your KidMin environments.
Have people who aren’t regular church attenders mystery-shop your children’s ministry environments and offer feedback to get a baseline for where you are right now. Think about your environments not from what you enjoy or your personal design aesthetic, but look at your rooms and hallways from a child’s point of view, keeping in mind what they enjoy and how they learn.
One church videoed a child and parent’s experience from parking lot to KidMin environment and back again. Many churches have done this, but this church recorded this from the height and perspective of the child. They learned SO MUCH watching the playback and made immediate changes the following Sunday!
Once you get a feel for the status of your environments, reimagine how your spaces could feel more welcoming, promote active learning, create spaces for Small Groups, and keep fun front and center. Put the plan together and get to work, ask families to join in the process and ask the kids for their opinions too! Your families will love you for it when the kids want to keep coming back Sunday after Sunday.
All that to say, if they build it, they will come. Make steps this week to create an environments where kids can build a faith of their own.
Your Turn: How do you create ownership opportunities for kids throughout your KidMin environments?