Saturday, January 2, 2010

5 Layers of Life Change: #1 Safety


How do we ensure that our ministry investment truly has impact? Ultimately we want to see the lives of our children transformed through the power of God. We begin by understanding the layers of life change we build into our children’s ministry. These layers are: Safe, Fun, Relational, Relevant, and Personal.

Every child grows best in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe. The first contact with your ministry defines it in the minds of your parents and children. You’ve got 3 seconds before children decide whether they want to come into your ministry or not. Ready, go!

Why must safety come first? If children do not feel physically or emotionally safe, it is difficult for them to become engaged. In order to revolutionize their lives, children must be open to the life-changing message of Christ. The first step down the road of transformation is feeling and knowing they are loved and safe. Nothing melts children’s guarded hearts more than the knowledge that someone has their best interest in mind.

Children aren’t the only ones who need to be convinced of safety, however. Parents now demand that steps are taken to ensure the security of their children, and churches are responding by instituting safety precautions. Statistics are alarming for churches that do not take this issue seriously. Creating a screening process helps protect your kids and volunteers, and communicates to parents that you value the lives of their children.

Creating a physically safe environment demands a firm screening process.
* Written application
* Finger printing volunteers
* Interviews for EVERY volunteer in your ministry
* Background check
* 6 month rule
* Supervision of volunteers (2 person rule)
* Budget for your process

After creating a physically safe environment, your next step should be to train your volunteers to create emotionally safe environments. Emotional safety is represented by affirmation, attention, appreciation, and authenticity. Affirming children is simple and easy to do. Kneel down so you are on their level. Look them in the eye when they are talking to you, practice focused attention, and affirm their positive behavior. Paying attention to children is equally important. Conversing with them allows connections to be established. Conversations can begin with simple questions that send the message, “I’m interested in your life. Tell me about it.” Showing appreciation to children proves “You are valued here.” We can honor children by welcoming them with a smile and a high five. We also honor children by listening more than we talk. Finally, remember to be authentic and genuine. You can show kids you sincerely care about their lives by praying for their requests during the week, asking them about their weeks, and remembering things they share with you in conversations.

Jesus was relational and showed God’s love by how he cared for people, especially lost people. Kids come to church for a variety of reasons. What will make a lasting impact in the lives of children? Most likely, it will be the relationships they establish with people who genuinely care for them. Communicating to children in safe, honoring, and affirming ways becomes our first call to action.

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