Expert from the book: Flip the Script
We have assumed kids and students arrive at church comfortable and ready to greet friends and learn. Today, many of these kids and students are either first-time attendees or (even more likely) infrequent attendees who may arrive feeling like outsiders. As kids increasingly assimilate into the group, their fear of being embarrassed or marginalized decreases and their ability to learn and contribute increases. Click To Tweet
Kids who feel like outsiders experience fear and insecurity and don’t learn effectively. As kids increasingly assimilate into the group, their fear of being embarrassed or marginalized decreases and their ability to learn and contribute increases. We aim to intentionally design the church experience to move each child toward feeling like an insider and contributing to the group. It’s important to visualize the experience newcomers have, being mindful to design the content and flow of a church experience to address each phase they might go through in the duration of a typical one-hour session.
The model shows each phase from the Outsider–In methodology. This diagram represents how to design an experience that strategically moves kids and students to a level of comfort when they arrive so that by the end of the hour they feel confident enough to participate fully. When we strategically implement radical hospitality, we help a child move from fear and anxiety to belonging and safety.
When kids and students arrive at church and feel celebrated and known by leaders and other peers, they feel psychologically safe to engage and participate. As we engage them in games and activities that are built around relationships, they begin to feel included in the group. With our actions we are saying, “You belong here. You are part of this team.” As they assimilate into finding a place on the team, they further join in participation.
As kids and students reach the point of participation, they feel more comfortable within the group to be ready to listen and learn about God and the Bible. Then they become more like insiders, engaging in questions and applying what they learn. This Outsider–In methodology helps position leaders to meet children where they are in the first three stages of the NextGen Ministry model and create an environment of deeper engagement, understanding, and relational trust.
Notice the value of relationships in this model. We can’t expect kids and students to move toward inside contributors without the relational trust we build as leaders. Start building relational trust from the moment kids walk in. Begin by showing extravagant welcome, celebrating them, getting to know them as people. This helps them move toward the valuable moments where they fully learn, contribute, and apply the biblical content they are learning.
We must make relationship-first ministry strategies a priority. Kids and students aren’t going to care what we know until they know that we care. They are less likely to have open hearts to hear the message of the gospel if they don’t feel like they belong. It’s easy for people to walk away from a program, but it’s much harder to walk away from rich relationships.—Flip the Script, pg. 52-53
The strategies presented in Flip the Script are not just for kids and students. These are whole-church strategies that reach every member of the church. The epidemic of not feeling included or wrestling with identity is not an issue isolated to kids and students—it is a cultural issue facing every person in the church.
This is a thought-leadership book for your whole church leadership team. Get your copy today.