Help Kids Become Change Agents
Change the World is just around the corner! As you make plans for mission projects in your church and community, include the children in your congregation by tapping into their natural abilities as risk-takers. They'll probably surprise others bythe impact they make – even while having fun along the way!
Risk-Taking Is Routine
Kids take risks often. Consider how they navigate the dreaded or beloved first days of school or summer camp. Every ten minutes offers a new risk-taking proposition.Will I know anyone? Where's my class? What happens if I get bullied? When's lunch? Where's the bathroom? How will I ever communicate with kids who speak a different language from my own? These risk-taking adventures prompt children to push themselves out of their comfort zones in order to gain new experiences and perspectives, ultimately shaping their development into adulthood. These daily risks also test their strength and help them recognize limitations. As children's ministry leaders, how can we capitalize on kids' innate risk-taking behavior for use in mission experiences with their families, churches, and communities?
Risk-Taking Moments and What We Can Learn
A ten year-old boy gave me lots of insight into kids' natural risk-taking abilities as he devoured ice cream. Before I share his story, let me clarify one thing&ellipsis;this is one child's experience and not every child will offer similar insights. However, looking back at first day experiences – whether my own, those of my friends or siblings – I see many commonalities. His wisdom is worth exploring.
I invited Travisto recall his own risk-taking situations and to rate the riskiness of each one on a pretend "risk-o-meter." A 1 indicated a low-risk situation while a 10 equaled a high-risk, high-stress scenario.You'll see his responses below with tips for creating risk-taking mission and service opportunities for the kids in your ministry.
1: I said goodbye to my parents in the parking lot and walked into school alone. I wanted to hug and kiss them, but at my age, that's not cool.
KAGOY! Kids Are Getting Older Younger&ellipsis;maybe on the outside, but they're still young on the inside! Be sure to provide time for relationship building between peers and leaders during your service experiences. Children need our guidance, love, support, and physical presence even though they may tell us otherwise.
2. I walked into school knowing there'd be some of the same people from last year, but I didn't know who.
Kids are willing to take risks as long as they do it in community where they know and trust other kids. During mission experiences, place kids in small groups of no more than 6 kids. Allow ample time for kids to get to know one another by playing leader-led, ice-breaking games. For extra friend-making fun, have kids name their group. You'll be amazed by the group's creative branding expertise.
3. I didn't know how to adapt to the new expectations at school. Unfortunately, I didn't write down my assignments. It was hard to balance new responsibilities with making new friends. My grades suffered.
Kids take risks, but they find it challenging to balance the risk and the reward. Set up clear boundaries for kids, and let them know what the goal of the service project is and what potential outcomes could be. Break mission experiences into steps and stages, making service as easy as 1, 2, 3!
4. I had to form my own opinions about subject matter at school. Before, most of my tests required information. Now, I have to offer an opinion and tell people what I think.
Give kids time to process what they did to serve others, and how they felt about it. Ask good open-ended questions that help kids derive personal meaning from the experience and discover how their service transformed their lives and the lives of others. As kids share, remind the group to treat each other respectfully, honoring group members by listening carefully and refraining from judging others' opinions.
5. In my other school, I had more guidance and help from my teachers. I have to be more of a self-starter and track my assignments independently. I'm not good at that.
We can't expect kids to go from toddling to running without lots of practice. It's the same in children's ministry, too. Give kids opportunities to practice serving in your congregation. Guide them during these experiences. Work alongside them. Offer suggestions when they're struggling and celebrate loudly when they succeed.
6. I get frustrated when teachers ask me to do things especially when I don't understand why we have to do them. Even though I do them, I feel like shouting, "I'll never use this when I grow up!"
Kids are concrete thinkers and live in a can-do-and-do-it-now world; they're wired to be results-oriented. To help kids see the results of their service projects and why they matter, pinpoint how each mission experience will benefit the targeted community. While kids serve, keep Jesus front and center by equipping them to tell others why they're doing what they're doing. If kids serve others without sharing Jesus, they'll miss out on a great opportunity to be salt and light in a broken world.
Risk-taking requires commitment.
As Travis recalled each risk-taking moment during our conversation, his facial expressions, body language, and words made me wonderwhy any kid would take such risks. I asked him, "What made it worthwhile? What made it bearable?" His response was illuminating."I took the risks because I honestly believed I could do it and that if I didn't do it, I'd miss out on something great. I knew that the risks would benefit my life...and I hoped the experiences would eventually be fun." Apparently, in the end, all three of these things were true.
Risk-taking changes all of us.
As you gear up for Change the World, consider the risk-taking mission opportunities you want your kids to take and how those experiences will transform them, your ministry and your community. To get started, take advantage of the risk-taking moments shared by Travis and apply the ministry insights you've explored in this article. Check out these additional children's ministry resources from United Methodist Communications. Finally, remember to have fun! You'll experience laughter that will touch your heart and replenish your soul. Seeing kids laugh out loud while taking risks in the name of Jesus can make an eternal difference our lives. It's a 3 on the "risk-o-meter" and the rewards are world-changing.