Getting the “New Kid” to Open Up

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As a Small Group you leader you need to have the ability to get kids to open up to you.  We need to feel pretty confident that we can get any kid, anywhere, in most any circumstance to talk with us.   You may be thinking, “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 group, 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 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!

Read the rest of my contribution at the Lead Small blog at: http://leadsmall.org/elementary/getting-the-new-kid-to-open-up/

Ideology towards Practicality

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I’m a father and I’m learning. I’m learning that signing my son up for baseball means I get to sit outside in the freezing cold March nights. I’m learning that my daughter will talk about her favorite songs for hours on end. I’m learning that what my kids hear at church isn’t necessarily easy for them to do right away. I’m learning that my children are a much greater challenge to me than my job as a leader of children’s ministries.

I’m also a pastor and I’m learning. I’m learning that setting things on fire in a building with sensitive smoke detectors is not a great idea. I’m learning that glitter is the archenemy of our custodial staff. I’m more importantly learning the best of intentions does not guarantee a real connection with my families. I’m learning that children are the most important people in the lives of their parents. I’m learning that what I teach kids at church is second in importance to what parents teach their children at home.

We’ve all been there. We start working with kids, because we love the kids. We love teaching them new things about God. We love hearing them discover new ways of understanding God’s plan for their lives. Then, we realize that it’s much more fruitful to pour equal amounts of energy into the people these kids we love so much live with. That’s when we hit the proverbial family ministry wall. All that work you’ve been doing to connect families to your church could be for naught. The parents aren’t doing it at home. Your materials are top notch, they’re shiny, and they’re perfectly designed for parents … you think.

Read more from this article that originally appeared in Kidzmatter Magazine March/April 2014 at: http://kidzmatter.com/helping-every-parent-take-a-next-step-from-ideology-towards-practicality

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Hard Conversations & the Small Group Leader // Starr Cliff

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For an hour every Sunday, I hang out with 3rd graders and their AWESOME small group leaders. I bounce around between five small groups totaling about 50 kids. I’m there to help the groups in any way I can: getting them supplies, filling out rosters, helping with unruly kids, etc.

Myself and the leaders…we don’t exactly run a “tight ship.” In fact we run a rather….err…crazy ship. We don’t expect kids to sit in perfect circles for an hour. There is a lot of sprawling on the ground, getting up and down a million times (especially the boys), running, wiggling, heck sometimes there’s breakdancing.

We understand that anytime you have that many 3rd graders together, the goal is controlled chaos with small moments (like, counted in seconds and minutes) of calm and discussion.

But occasionally a kiddo’s behavior will move beyond “normal third grade activity and commotion” into true disruption. If a kid is picking on someone relentlessly, or the only one refusing to let the group have a moment of discussion, or is just being over the top with inappropriate behaviors, then I have to talk about those behaviors with their parent.

Listen, it’s never easy to talk to a parent about what their kid does wrong. I only do it in extreme cases, and I’m always quick to also share that we LOVE their child, we’re THRILLED they are at church, and we want them to come back. But the fact remains…I’m still telling a parent about their child’s misbehavior, which can be an awkward and hard conversation.

Know what makes that conversation even harder? If it’s the very first one I’ve had with that parent.

It’s difficult, and maybe even wrong, for the first time you engage with a parent to be when you are unhappy with their kid. You’ve got to do some work ahead of time, so that when and if those conversations need to happen, that parent will already be assured that you are invested in their child.

How do you make those conversations happen? Here are some ideas:

Be sure you are at the door smiling at parents at arrival time. Say hello to kids, and call them by name.

When you see a kid in the church lobby with a parent, approach them and engage in conversation.

Send postcards and birthday cards to kids in your group.

Share the smallest of wins with parents:

“He was so engaged today!”

“He gave a great example in discussion time.”

“He rocked at our game today!”

“He is always so respectful.”

“I love how he’s a great friend!”

“He prayed for our group today during prayer time!”

Work hard to find ways to talk to parents about the GREAT things that you love about their kid. Even the toughest and rowdiest of kids have value and worth, and those are often the parents who need to hear it the most.

And when you do have to say “He had a bit of trouble in small group today. We talked a lot about being respectful and not disrupting prayer time”, it won’t be the first thing that parent has heard from you. They’ll know that you don’t just think of their kid as “disrespectful and disruptive”, because you’ll have already told them otherwise!

Storytelling to Perfection

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Weeks after reading the book  Playing for Keeps, one statement is still rattling around in my brain. The book says,

Stories are just another one of God s brilliant ideas to connect us to what really matters.

As a small group leader, isn t this really my main objective? To connect kids to what really matters? It s the bottom line for why any of us want to work with kids. It s the burden parents carry. It s the reason behind why churches do so much for kids these days. They want to connect them to something bigger than themselves.

- Read the rest of my contribution to the Lead Small blog at:  http://leadsmall.org/elementary/storytelling-that-works/

Parents Have the Loudest Voice

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Let us look at the singular most valuable voice in the life of your child. As a parent, you have the greatest potential to influence your child s heart and life. You are the loudest of all voices, and you are the best person to show compassion, forgiveness, and affirmation to them. Even when your children begin to age and seek out other voices, your voice should and will always stay the one they most need to hear.

It s important to find valuable voices all around your children, and begin to choose who many of those voices are. It s important to leverage what they hear from others to help them as they mature, and it s important that you are picky with whom you let influence your children. But all of that is diminished if your voice isn t the one speaking grace and truth in equal measure to them.

You are the champion of all voices, and as you seek God s will for how to lead your family I m certain that you will be given opportunities to say what needs to be said when it most needs to be heard.

I believe that you are equipped to be the voice of forgiveness for your children when they need forgiveness the most, because who else knows them like their parent?

I believe that you hold the possibility to direct your children in the way of wisdom when they need wisdom the most, because who else knows them like their parent?

I believe that you are the voice of love your children need to hear more anyone else, because who else knows them like their parent?

Begin to value the voices all around your child s life, but seeing your own voice as the most valuable of all. When the full weight of that sets on us as parents, it draws us to seek wisdom for ourselves as we continue on the journey of being a parent, and what a great journey this will be!