Kendra runs over to you as you’re trying to set out supplies for the next activity. “Look at my painting!” she exclaims, waving it at you. Do you:
- Say without looking up, “Great; set it over there to dry”?
- Glance at her and say, “That’s wonderful!”
- Take time to look at her painting and say, “I like the bright blues and greens”?
By their behavior, our club members ask us every week: “Do you care? Are you interested in me? Do you like having me around?” All kids have emotional needs—whether or not they act needy and even if they seem to enjoy putting people off. Every child in your club needs to be encouraged from time to time. Words of affirmation from us help fill up club members’ “emotional tanks.” When emotional tanks are full, kids feel better and behave better (a plus for us!).
- Notice children. It may sound obvious, but it’s encouraging to be noticed. Look for something to affirm about each club member this week.
- “I’m glad you’re in our group.”
- “We missed you last week.”
- “Cool shoes!”
- “You really showed patience helping Sam with that memory verse. Good job!”
- “You really used some elbow grease cleaning up after our Cooking award.”
- “I can tell you tried hard today to remember to raise your hand. Thanks!”
- “You look sad. Do you want to talk about it?”
- “Thanks for telling us the fun story about your dog.”
- “I’m really happy you are here today. I was hoping you would be!”
- Listen. Getting down on a child’s level (literally and/or figuratively) and really listening conveys several positive messages. Being listened to by significant adults will also help the children conclude that they can talk to God and be heard. Think about what it means to you to have someone listen.
- You are important to me.
- What you think and say are important to me.
- Paying attention to others is a good thing.
- Ask for help. Letting children know you need and appreciate their help can give them quite a boost – and help them feel good about helping others. Don’t expect perfection, but be sure to say “thanks.”
- Ask for help handing out supplies or snacks.
- Have older children take turns taking attendance.
- Make sure everyone pitches in to help clean up, even if it’s only with small tasks. Resist the temptation to do it all yourself just because you can do it faster or better.
- During a time when everyone is busy helping, play an “I Remember” game. Start by saying, “I remember a kid in the Bible who helped;” and so on. Point out that your class members are following in their footsteps.
- Use activities that help children see their value to God. Check your lesson plans and resource books for Bible studies, activities, games, puzzles and more that show how wonderfully God created us in His image, how we are each unique and special, how God gives us special talents, and so on.
God calls us to love each other. Simple words of encouragement and a listening ear from you can help your club members come to believe in themselves and trust that God loves them, too.