True belonging, especially for a child, is felt when he or she feels emotionally safe, comfortable, and welcome in an environment.
One of my daughters is in the 3rd grade, and I teach her class of 3rd graders each Sunday. She is at church with me nearly every single week. As the teacher, I try to be the first one there, so of course my daughter arrives early with me. Because she is a regular attender and her dad is the teacher, it might be easy to assume that she always feels like she belongs. But, in reality, I know that my daughter may still feel like an outsider sometimes. If the class is predominantly boys, she may feel like an outsider. If most of the girls there that day are girls she isn’t particularly close to, she may feel like any outsider.
So whether it’s a child’s first time or fiftieth time at church, every child potentially enters a room feeling like an outsider. The children in our ministries will be better served if we, as leaders, intentionally and strategically drop all of our assumptions each week for every child.
We can’t assume a child shows up feeling like she fits in.
We can’t assume a child shows up having a good day.
We can’t assume a child shows up knowing/remembering what we discussed the week(s) before.
We can’t assume that a child shows up ready to learn.
We can’t assume that a child shows up ready to hear the gospel.
Our assumptions, whether intentional or unintentional, can become a barrier to the children we serve feeling like they truly belong in our ministries.
We can only assume that a child is physically present that day.
By intentionally removing our (potentially weighty) assumptions, our ministries can start to become a place where every child every week feels welcomed and like he or she truly belongs.
Here are some thoughts to remember each week about each child:
- This child is known and loved by God.
- This child is a gift from the Lord.
- This child is worth both my attention and intention. We should pay attention to each child and be intentional in building belonging through genuine relationships.
- This child is here because God has something to say to her and has chosen me to be here for that moment.
To learn more about “flipping the script” in NextGen ministry, check out “Flip the Script” from Lifeway Kids.
Jeremy Carroll is the Lifeway Kids Ministry Publishing Manager for VBS and Discipleship resources. Before coming to Lifeway, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.