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.