When you hear the word “preschoolers,” what immediately comes to mind? Do you feel passion or panic?
When I hear the word, meet a new family, greet a familiar family, or engage in all things preschool, my first thought is passion. Passion to ensure these little humans know they are created in the image of God, that Jesus has a plan and purpose for their life, that they are an important part of our church family and to the Kingdom of God. Passion to ensure they have the best experience possible when they enter their space. Passion for their leaders to feel empowered as they lead the littlest ones in the church. All the passion!
But it has taken many years for this passion to grow, which has come from learning and growing as a leader. If you’re feeling panic today, let’s unpack some practical ways to change your perspective from panic to passion when leading preschoolers to Jesus.
The first person to meet new families or greet familiar ones establishes the atmosphere. Choose check-in volunteers who embrace Buddy the Elf’s mantra, “Smiling’s my favorite!” Strive to greet the child first, at their eye level (can you imagine looking at shins and knees all day?) then the grownups.
As much as possible, ask the child for their information which will create trust, empowerment, and allow the volunteer to get to know the child if they are a first time guest or learn something new if they are a familiar friend. Grownups will feel at ease knowing from check in to classroom their child matters.
Classroom leaders who use the same methods of smiling, getting down to the eye level, and engaging in conversation will reinforce to the child that they are welcome, seen, and loved. Some ways to welcome kids are to say the child’s name and say, “Kate is here today! Hooray, hooray, hooray!” or say to the child, “Hi Kate, so glad you’re here with us today!”
If a child comes in anxious, try to help them understand what is going to happen: “Today we’re going to hear a story, play and make a craft. Do you want to check it out with me?” Then, stay with the child until their anxiety has calmed. Connection will ultimately result in relationships; relationships that we hope will encourage kids and their grownups to connect with their church, their community, and most importantly, Jesus.
What kind of people should you invite or recruit to volunteer into preschool ministry? Committed people are who to look for when building your team. Preschoolers need and thrive in consistency. Leaders can teach theologically sound Bible stories and be placed where they will most enjoy their time. (i.e. crafts, games, leading small groups, etc.) Committed volunteers model to kids that Jesus will never leave or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5), and that He is with them always (Matthew 28:20).
Just the word calm feels like a deep breath when it is spoken. How do we encourage calm when a young child seems anxious?
Here are 3 helpful tips:
Whisper instead of raising our voices.
Teach the child how to take a deep breath then release it and repeat if necessary.
Ask more questions to help kids feel known and safe.
Tummy aches, headaches, and “I want my …” are all indications a child is anxious. Leaders can ask questions such as, “What happened today before you arrived at church?” “Did anything new happen this week?” “How does your heart feel?” “What’s going on inside your heart?” These are all excellent ways to draw a child’s emotions out when you’re out of solutions to calm an anxious child.
The key to getting honest answers? Ask and wait. It may take several minutes for them to express how they feel. They need someone to listen to them. Always lead them back to scripture such as, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3), and pray with them. You are discipling them and leading them to the One who is their Calm.
If you’re new to preschool ministry or in need of a refresher, try these tips this week and see how the kids in your ministry respond. You might be surprised to see kids feeling more calm and safe, and more able to connect with Jesus. And hopefully you will move from panic to passion with some practice.
Kim is the Children’s Pastor at NorthField Church in Tennessee and is passionate about connecting Kingdom calling to the world around us. She sees Jesus everywhere, believes kids and their leaders can too, and invites those around her to do the same through her writing and speaking. Kim is an INCM Engage Certificate alumni and coach, and has her Masters in Religious Arts in Education. You’ll often hear her say “If you don’t like glitter, you might be bitter” as she leaves a little sparkle everywhere she goes.
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