10 Keys to Seeing Smiles Instead of Frowns at Church

Want to know how effective your children's ministry is?  Watch kids' faces.  If you see lots of smiles, then it's a good indicator you're connecting with kids.

Here's 10 keys to seeing smiles at church instead of frowns.

1. Use humor.  Kids love to laugh.  I like to have open mic time right before service is starting and let kids come up and tell jokes.  Yes, occasionally a child will say something inappropriate, but the risk is worth the reward.

Slapstick humor is another way to get kids smiling and laughing.  Kids love to see characters falling, crashing into something, tripping, etc.  We recently did this with a character we created named Dexter for a teaching series.  Here's one episode if you'd like to see it.

2. Give them time to talk.
When kids are forced to sit and listen to an adult lecture on and on and on, you won't see many smiles.  It's simply not an engaging model for today's kids.  Give kids lots of opportunities to discuss questions, share their thoughts and engage in conversation. 

3. Decorate with them in mind.  It's very important to remember that the physical environment you place kids in is a big part of their experience.  Beige walls and brown metal folding chairs isn't conducive to seeing kids smile.  Look through the eyes of a child when you decorate the space they are in.  No matter what your budget, you can do something to make your space kid-friendly.  At the very minimum, paint the walls with kid-friendly colors.

4. Say their name.  Want to see a kid's face light up?  Say their name.  It's music to their ears. 

5. Play games.  Kids love games.  And with games you can accomplish two goals...helping kids have fun and helping kids learn what you're trying to teach them.  Play games with a purpose.

6. Give them opportunities to make friends.  Kids are looking for a personal and communal experience.  They long for connectedness.  Provide opportunities for kids to make connections through icebreakers, small groups, discussion and more. 

7. Honor their attention span.  We are not ministering to 19th century kids.  We are ministering to 21st century kids.  They have very, very short attention spans.   Divide up your class time into 5 minute segments that change often. 

8. Tell stories well.  Stories captivate kids.  You have the greatest stories...true stories...ever written.  Tell them well.  If you want to improve your storytelling skills, here's help.

9. Enter their world.  When you can talk with kids about the movies they watch, the video games they play, the sport's heroes they like, the TV shows they tune in to and the music they listen to, you will seem them begin to smile.  One of our pre-teen staff members, recently started compiling a monthly list of topics that are trending with kids.  We share these with our volunteers each month so they can have conversations with kids about their world.  If you'd like to be added to the mailing list for this, you can email Keegan at keegans@cftoday.org.

10. Put the right people in front of them.  When it comes to stage and up front people, be very selective in who you put in front of the kids.  Choose fun, high-energy, likeable, motivational people.

Okay.  Your turn.  What are some other keys to seeing smiles at church instead of frowns?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.