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Talk To Me

I m not bragging, but I have an innate ability to get kids to open up to me.   I feel pretty confident that I can get any kid, anywhere, in most any circumstance to talk with me.   Ok, I admit that is bragging. Those that work with kids are thinking, big freaking deal!   I just wish I could get my kids to STOP talking so much!   But I m not talking about the kids you know, I m talking about those first time kids that come into our ministry environments, or maybe the kid in the checkout line at Wal-Mart (of course in public make sure you don t creep the parents out and be sure to invite them to your church).

Are there things you can do to get any kid to talk to you?   Yes you can, and here are a few of my tricks.   Feel free to put them to the test, and I guarantee you that you will get a positive response.

  • The Nickname Method: Simply ask them if they have a nickname.   This worked fabulously when I worked with more inner city kids, because they ALL had nicknames!   But even out here in the the nether regions of West Texas I ve found that kids love to share nicknames.   Maybe they have a name that their mom calls them, or something their friends joke with them about.   Kids love nicknames.   If they don t have one, then you can offer them some suggestions.   It s an instant ice-breaker!
  • The Girly Dress Method: When seeing a girl wearing something super girly, I tell them that I almost wore the exact same thing today and I m so glad I didn t because we would have looked exactly alike.   This has an almost 100% guarantee of getting a little girl to smile.   Of course if you re wearing a Veggie-tale tie, and your socks are bright orange to match your custom-made knickers; then the kid might find you believable and it then becomes creepy. On this note, be sure to always tell the girls how beautiful they are!   Don t miss the valuable opportunity to positively affect the self-esteem of the girls we see every weekend.
  • The Tattoo Method: When spotting a temporary tattoo on a kid, I always make a big deal about how I can t believe their parents let them go get a tattoo and warn them that it s never coming off.   Kids love temporary tattoos, and they love showing them off.   It s so fun listening to a 7 year old explain that it s not a real tattoo, I get some personal satisfaction being corrected on this method every time.   Kids really crack me up when they try and get serious.
  • The Grade Method: Always tell kids that they must be in a grade that is higher than what you know they are in.   For example upon meeting a new short 2nd grader, ask them if they are in the 8th grade and make a big deal about it.   I ask kids all the time if they drove themselves to church, because they are so big and grown up looking.   Sometimes I will tell a 1st grader that they are too old to attend, because they must be 13 years old.   I m never very serious, and the kids always know I m kidding.   However, much like the Tattoo Method, the kids love to explain that they are only nine and always correct me quickly.   Kids love to be told they look older than they are.   Really!

There are so many different ways to get kids to open up and feel comfortable coming into a new environment and I feel that as a Children s Pastor one of my primary jobs is to help kids not be intimidated by a new church experience.   I d love to hear what works for you if you work with kids.   Please share in the comments.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.

6 Comments

  1. gina · March 9, 2009

    good stuff. can’t emphasize the complimenting the dress enough! you’ll never see a smile brighten or a skirt twirl faster after you’ve mentioned their dress.

    i’ve never used the nickname thing. but i will from now on.

    i also like to get on their level. i try hard to get eye level with them. i guess i think i’m communicating thru body language that i don’t look down on them.

  2. Tim Gabbard · March 9, 2009

    I heard that if you use puppets kids will open up to you. You should try that sometime.

  3. Starr · March 9, 2009

    With Spring Break coming up I’ve been getting a lot of kids to open up about Spring Break plans. And if they don’t have any they’ll talk about how they are happy to have a week off of school.

    Little guys like it when you mention their “cool spiky hair” and act like it pierces your skin when you touch it. :-)

    Elementary boys will also generally talk about Texas Tech. Oh wait…that’s probably just a Lubbock thing.

  4. Cash Clan Japan · March 9, 2009

    I think I smiled cheesily through this whole post. You’re a real softie, Jonathan..Love it. :-)

  5. CandA Prince · March 13, 2009

    Great post!
    I coach my team to make sure they get down to eye level with new kids to welcome them.
    Now I can give them more tools when it comes to what to say!
    Thanks!

  6. Kenny · March 25, 2009

    What a great reminder. I’ve been doing this for 11 years and my role now has me a little more separated from the kids compared to the way it used to be a few years ago. It’s funny how quickly I can forget my bag ‘o tricks.

    The one I love doing is ask for a five (every kid loves to give you a five) and keep moving your hand so they can’t hit it. Seriously, they’ll try for 10 minutes to complete the five. For 90% of the kids, this is instant fun and they quickly realize that you’re fun… or a jerk… so be sure to let them hit your hand after a few tries.

    Oh, sometimes I do the hand shake and tell them to squeeze real hard and when they do, grimace in pain, let out a yelp and go down to one knee. The preschoolers love this one as they marvel in their strength.