It might be connecting with a child you know well. It might be connecting with a child attending for the first time. It might be connecting with a child that is always shy and tentative.
Sometimes we don’t connect because we’re more focused on Mom & Dad. Sometimes we’re too busy putting out fires. Sometimes we just don’t know how.
Whatever the case, anyone who leads and serves in Children’s Ministry needs to make it a priority to connect with kids early (as in, as soon as they walk in the building/classroom) and often (as in, different situations throughout the service/event).
Here are a few ideas on how to “break the ice” in order to make that connection with kids of all ages:
1. Make sure you see eye to eye.
This means you’ll need to get down to their level. Kneel down on one knee and look them in the eye as you greet them with a smile.
2. Don’t be afraid of [appropriate!] physical touch.
A gentle squeeze of the shoulder, a high five, or a pat on the head can go a long way. Just make sure to not invade physical space (some kids can be very shy about someone touching them, just like us big people) and to do it appropriately.
3. Make them primary in your interactions.
It always bugs me when I see leaders engage in conversation with parents and completely ignore the kids. How about we give a quick hello to the parents and then get down on a knee to strike up a conversation with the kids? More often than not, this will go a long way with both the kids and the parents.
4. Know their name.
I am terrible at remembering names. But our names are some of the most important words a person can speak to us, and it’s no different with kids. In fact, if you’ve been in KidMin more than a week or two, you’ve no doubt had a kid come up to you and ask if you remember their name! Find ways to learn and remember names.
5. Have a toy or game with you at all times.
This is especially great for those shy kids. It’s amazing what a Gumby or Pokey bendable toy will do (yes, two of my favorites that work great because most kids today don’t know who they are!), or how a quick game of Jacks (yes, another old school game but one that is novel for today’s kids, can be played in about 30 seconds and is easy to carry) can warm up a conversation.
6. Ask about their week.
If you know them and some of the things they’re involved with (soccer, dance, etc.), then ask about it. If you don’t know them, ask them what their favorite thing was that they did this week – you’ll learn real quickly what was important to them, and talking about that topic is exactly how you’ll break the ice with them.
7. Ask them to help you.
I’ve rarely met a kid who didn’t want to help me do something in the classroom. Help me set up. Help me monitor an activity station. Help me carry something. You get the idea. When kids feel needed and wanted, the ice get broken very quickly.
So here are 7 ideas, but I know you’ve got some of your own . . .
How do you “break the ice” with kids?
(Please share in comments below)