You can tell a child is excited about a place when he runs ahead of his parents and announces with a flourish, “This is my place”. It’s where he knows he’s accepted, he’s understood… He’s safe.
That’s what we want to create for our preschoolers… a safe place. Let’s look at what makes a place feel safe to a preschooler.
GUARD THE HEART
Small groups are so amazing. They provide an opportunity for a child to be known and cherished by a consistent leader who cares for him and makes his small group feel like home. In fact, you’re providing life changing information just by being an example to kids. Reggie Joiner encouraged, “Preschool leaders: You are giving kids their first impression of a Heavenly Father.”
Children don’t just need your presence or even a helping hand. They need your heart.
Value a preschooler and he will feel safe. The words “You are an awesome kid” brightens his eyes and stirs his heart. All children have ideas, creativity, ingenuity, artistry, intelligence and humor so applaud their efforts and accomplishments. Preschoolers love to be silly and funny so join in the fun. (No eye rolling!)
Love unconditionally and the door will open for you to lead a preschooler. He will join you as a learner and a willing follower.
RESPECT THE PROCESS of how kids learn – it’s a life-long adventure
Remember these are short people with relatively few life experiences. It takes time for them to understand God and His Word. It feels like a safe place when you don’t rush the process.
Abstract concepts like “TRUST” are really difficult for preschoolers to understand. Kids make God’s values their own in concrete relationships. They can see and experience love, sharing, acceptance and cooperation when they watch leaders like you.
Start where kids are emotionally, intellectually and spiritually then guide them step by step to a growing understanding about God and His ways.
Repetition makes Bible concepts stick.
Isaiah 28:10 “He tells us everything over and over–one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there!” (NLT)
Use Sensory experiences. They amplify the lesson you present and help cement a Bible lesson in the memory. Each time they color, glue, clap, taste, sniff or see while they listen; it’s more likely to be remembered. It’s how the brain and heart are hard-wired.
Games are more than fun, they’re one more way to help each little brain receive and remember the point of the lesson. Add sharing or taking turns to the game and you’ve reinforced “cooperation”.
Provide a place where there are boundaries that keep kids safe. Kids know what to expect when your age appropriate rules, follow through and schedule are consistent. One child told another leader he thought I had eyes in my hair because I seemed to know what he was going to do before he did it.
I hated church as a preschooler. Really, I did. I cried before, during and after each experience. My mom finally realized the environment was chaotic and disorganized.
THE INDIVIDUAL CHILD
Preschoolers haven’t yet learned a group mentality. You personalize and reinforce a Bible concept when you briefly remind a child of the idea in context. “You did a great job of sharing today. You showed other kids how to do it.”
When the volunteers learned how to lead, I finally felt safe!
Preschoolers are on a learning adventure. Every relationship, every experience affects what they believe and how they view the world. When you guard their hearts, respect the learning process and lead well, you help them along the way to authentic faith.