Communicating Love to Kids

Have you ever taken a road trip?

I bet you have.

Chances are, though, you didn't just wake up one morning, hop in the car, and start driving. You probably spent days, weeks, and maybe even months getting ready. You mapped your route, flagged site-seeing musts, packed your bags, and serviced your car. It's no secret that a little preparation on the front end usually makes for happy travelers and a memorable trip that everyone will be talking about for years to come.

As the new church year rolls around the corner, you are probably busy getting ready to "hit the road" for a different kind of adventure—a missions adventure! Maybe your checklist looks a little like mine:

  • decorate the room
  • purchase materials
  • organize supplies
  • study lesson
  • schedule monthly missions projects

Check, check, check, check, and check! Who doesn't love a nice, little checklist??

But, reality check—I need to add one more very important thing to that list: What am I doing to prepare my heart to welcome a diverse group of kids to a fun new year in missions?

It's easy to appear prepared on the outside; but if we haven't prepared ourselves on the inside to communicate love to the kids we lead, we may miss out on valuable opportunities to share the real reason we do what we do each week. Will our actions and attitudes enable each child to know these absolute truths?

  • Jesus loves me.
  • Jesus loves all children.
  • Jesus wants me to tell those who don't know Him.

At a recent children's ministry leadership conference, I learned some great ways to communicate love as we interact with kids.

  1. Acceptance—Smile at each child and look him or her in the eye. Give hugs, high fives, and fist bumps. Be careful to take cues from each child.
  2. Joy—Convey a general sense of peace and happiness about your role as the leader.
  3. Love—Serve each child as if she or he were your own. Let each one know you genuinely care.
  4. Boundaries—Just like Christ gives us boundaries, kids need us to provide boundaries as well.
  5. Routines—Establish routines and stick to them. Children need predictability and structure, even at church.
  6. Affirmation and Blessing—Find positive things to say about each child.
  7. Patience—Kids aren't perfect; even in moments of discipline, we must be slow to react or speak without wisdom.
  8. Wisdom—Ask God for His help in understanding each child's heart so we can speak and react appropriately. As you go into your meeting space, pray for wisdom to understand each child's heart. You don't know what kind of baggage they are bringing with them.
  9. Gentleness—You can convey a spirit of gentleness by encouraging "calm, kind words" from "calm, kind faces."
  10. Faithfulness—Do the job you have been called to do with your whole heart for the whole time.
  11. Self-Control—Take every thought captive before the Lord, and then let your behavior flow from a spirit-controlled heart and mind.

As you get ready to "hit the road" for an incredible missions journey, don't be caught off-guard! Prepare your heart to go and serve Him in love.

Melissa Whetstone serves as the GA editor at national WMU. As the mom to three busy boys, she loves spending time with "her girls" each week as she leads GA at her church.

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