Four Essential Relationships Every Kid Needs at Church
When I was a little girl, my dad taught me a fun way to show me what a church is by folding my hands together and saying, “this is the church”, then pointing just my two index fingers up saying, “this is the steeple”, then opening my hands revealing all of my little fingers folded inside saying, “open the doors and meet all the people!” Maybe you remember something similar from your childhood to explain that the church is not just a building with (potentially) a steeple, it is a place where people are inside and hopefully all know each other and like each other. That said, we may be assuming too much that the kids in our ministry feel like they are an important part of all those people!We must ensure that every child feels like they belong at church and that begins by prioritizing the power of relationships. Click To Tweet
We must ensure that every child feels like they belong at church and that begins by prioritizing the power of relationships. Countless studies tell us that when a child feels seen and known, they are more likely to listen, engage and learn. This means a big part of our job as leaders should be to make certain that the kids in our ministries have these four essential relationships at church. An easy way to remember these is by using the acronym FLIP.
F stands for Friends: Every kid needs to find friends at church. One of the best things we can do to encourage belonging is to help kids and students develop lasting friendships with their peers. In the Nothing Less study by Lifeway Research, children who had a best friend who influenced them to follow Christ while growing up had a higher score of spiritual maturity as adults. Therefore, those who found friends in the church as kids are more likely to thrive in their faith as adults. We need to always find ways to foster friendships at church.
L stands for Leaders: All kids need to have adult leaders who care about them and know their names, their needs, and their situations. The Nothing Less study also found that children who feel connected to several adults at church while growing up are more likely to become spiritually healthy young adults. These leaders might include their small group leader, a Sunday School teacher, a large group worship leader or VBS director. Challenge the leaders who serve under you to get to know the kids in their groups by knowing their names and saying them often, by learning about their interests and hobbies, and by meeting their parents and caregivers.
I stands for Influencers: While kids need to have one adult leader who knows and cares about them personally, they also need the influence of a broader faith community in the church. Children need to see other invested adults and older kids who are involved in the church, committed to their faith, and connected in relationships within the church. These may be the middle school students who help do the motions during worship or highschoolers who help with games and recreation. It might be the senior citizen who helps serve snacks or the parent of a friend at church. When kids see these influencers throughout the church loving Jesus and living for God, they will be drawn to do so themselves.
P stands for Pastors: Kids need to know that the pastor, or pastors, of the church are more than personas on a platform. They need to know that the pastor of the church is their pastor too. As kids’ ministry leaders, we need to welcome and invite pastors to spend time in our areas to know and be known, see and be seen, and hear and be heard. This investment allows kids to see their pastor up front in a worship service as a friend rather than as a stranger.
To learn more about FLIP relationships in Kids Ministry, check out the new book from Lifeway Kids, Flip the Script: Disrupting Tradition for the Sake of the Next Generation.
Jana Magruder serves as the Strategic Initiatives Director of Lifeway Kids in Nashville, TN. With a background in education, publishing, and ministry, she loves championing the local church to help families disciple kids of all ages. She is the author of Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith. Jana and her husband, Michael, are native Texans planted in Tennessee and love to explore both states with their three teenagers.