Thanks for joining me as we talked about Connecting with Elementary Kids! Below you’ll find notes from our session along with links to the free downloads I mentioned! Have more questions? Email me at email@example.com.
The presence of community is vital for overall spiritual growth, and when we take the time to connect with kids, our effectiveness in sharing the gospel increases.
Click each question below to find the ideas and solutions we discussed for each one in today’s session!
How do we connect with elementary kids?
Remember how elementary kids are wired – Elementary kids are concrete thinkers, with a clear sense of justice and right/wrong. They tend to see things in black and white and need repetition and clear application. They enjoy cooperate, group activities and are motivated by fun! They are also starting to notice the similarities and differences between themselves and their friends, and they’re asking questions like “Do I have your attention?” and “Do I have what it takes?” and “Do I have friends?”
Build trust with new kids – The easiest way to build trust? Learn their names. Research has shown that hearing your own name, especially when said in a positive and excited tone of voice, causes a chemical reaction in the brain that releases feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. This physical burst of excitement in a child’s brain when they hear their name helps build empathy, trust, and connection with that child. Learning your kids’ names and using them often will foster connections between you and between them! Also help new kids connect with another child in your ministry and with a volungeer, and check in on a new child at least once throughout the morning.
Encourage questions – As concrete thinkers who are trying to discover the world and their place in it, elementary kids have a lot of questions. But they don’t often feel confident enough to say them out loud. When kids know they can ask questions without consequence or judgment, it builds trust, and it’s healthy for kids to see that sometimes we as adults don’t have all the answers either. Encourage kids’ questions with this simple routine that lets them know it’s OK to have questions about the Bible. Inviting kids to guide the conversation with the questions they have also helps you engage their interests in the Bible story and helps you see how they’re thinking about and applying the lesson. Before beginning your regular review questions or other small group activities, ask this simple question: “Do you have any questions about today’s Bible story?”
Step into their world – Get out of your office and out of the church. Learn about the rhythms and seasons of life for your families, then find ways to be part of them. Create individualized engagement whenever you can and come up with a system for tracking it. If your schools are allowing guests, use this free lunch at school printable to help you connect with kids at school lunch!
How do we help our team connect with elementary kids?
Even if you are amazing at connecting with elementary kids, you still won’t be as effective as you can be until you get your team involved. So we have to invite volunteers along for the ride in connecting with kids. Share some of these tips and ideas with your team to help them connect with elementary kids.
Happy/Sad Highlights – This activity is an easy way to connect with kids and get to know them better. It gives you and your volunteers an opportunity to hear what’s important to the kids or make you aware of something they might be struggling with. You can use it as a regular activity with your small group each week, or ask kids to share as they arrive. Go around the circle and ask every kid to share something that made them happy that week and something that made them sad that week. Have kids share both happy and sad highlights in one turn, or have every child share one, then go around the circle again to share another.
Games – Elementary kids are motivated to learn by fun, so add a variety of games to your teaching time and space! This may look like board games for early arrivers or review games for after the lesson. When kids have fun, they want to participate, they want to hear more, and they want to come back next time. Find 6 reasons to include games in your ministry time here.
Be consistent with your volunteer teams – I know this one is hard. Volunteers are not easy to come by and consistent volunteers can be an even more elusive unicorn. But try to keep your volunteers as consistent as possible from week to week. This may look like volunteer teams that serve a month on, then take a month off, or a team that serves one service and attends one service if you have multiple services on a Sunday morning.
Give specific encouragement – As kids start noticing differences between themselves and others, encourage volunteers to notice kids’ specific skills and qualities. Rather than just saying, “hey James great job playing the game,” say: “James, you are so good at solving problems and finding ways to win that game while also making sure everyone was included!”
Crew Cards – Send some good, old-fashioned snail mail! Make it a goal that every child in your ministry receives a handwritten note from you/someone on your team at least once a year, if not once a semester. Use a system like Crew Cards (download your free copy here) to help you get your whole team on board!
How do we help elementary kids connect with each other?
As friends grow in importance in a child’s life by the end of their elementary years, how can we help kids connect with each other?
Fun! – For an elementary kid, fun and games are how their brains are wired to learn and to connect. Fun is an elementary schooler’s love language. So be OK with downtime in your ministry where kids just get to hang out, build relationships, and have fun together. And maybe even consider an entire event that’s solely focused on providing space for kids to have fun together.
That’s Me Game – Elementary kids are primarily motivated by fun, and they’re starting to discover differences between themselves and other kids. So use this fun game to encourage kids to share about themselves, learn about others, and discover similarities and differences! Shared interests create connections for kids with you and with each other. Kids love this game because they get to talk about themselves, learn about their friends, and yell at church. It’s an all-around win.
- Have all kids sit in a chair, forming a circle with the chairs. You stand in the middle and say a fact about yourself. This could be anything from your favorite color or favorite animal to whether or not you ate breakfast that day.
- Every child who also shares that fact or favorite thing stands up and yells, “That’s Me!” and must find a new chair to sit in.
- You/the kid in the middle of the circle must try to sit in one of the now-available chairs, leaving a new kid to stand in the middle.
- The new middle kid shares a fact about themselves. Anyone in the group who shares that fact stands up, yells “That’s Me!” and changes chairs, while the person in the middle tries to find an empty chair too.
- Continue playing as long as time allows.
Shared memories – When kids create memories together through special events like VBS, it forms bonds that help them grow together too.