Four Tips for a Relationship-Starved Generation

by Mark Entzminger/ August 30, 2018

I don’t know if you’ve noticed what’s going on in our “connected” world, but there’s a disconnection of actual relationship. Being truly known is going out of style in favor of being known only for the “10th take” and the posts we think our friends will respond to on social media. It is with that in mind I share with you an observation: Our kids crave relationship!

Dad’s cannot put away the smartphone long enough to truly watch the ball game. Moms may spend more time on their devices than listening to their kids talk about the day. This leaves our kids to retreat into their own worlds, void of truly being known.

Here are some tips to help you create a relationship-focused ministry (or home) to allow you to truly minister to the needs of this generation.

1. Sacred Space

My friend Annette Roux first introduced me to this concept. She defines “sacred space” as anywhere you need to be completely focused on the other person you are with. That could be a ministry classroom or coffee over a conversation. But the point is to be totally present when you are in a sacred space. Turn off the devices and put them away completely—not upside down on the table, not in your pocket where the notifications still come through. Off. Gone. Completely.

This will take some work because we are so dependent on these devices. But the truth is, your ministry will be stronger if you can eliminate these distractions.

When your leaders come into your church, they should know these devices are off limits. Your goal is to create a sacred space, not a connected space.

If you want to post on social media, consider having a person to do that job during ministry times so the ministry workers can more intently invest in the people.

2. Leaders Arrive Early

Our church serving schedules often are designed to accommodate the most busy individuals by allowing them to show up just moments before the session begins. Consider what would happen if we asked each leader to come just 15 minutes earlier, and be prepared to greet and spend time with the kids.

Instead of using that time to gather supplies, run photocopies, grab a cup of coffee, and chat with other workers; have them stationed in their ministry environment, with the instruction to greet the children and spend time with them.

This will take some time and effort to change. It’s way easier to talk with peers about their week than it is to try to have a conversation with a “little” who rarely looks at you when talking, and has an attention span that can change at any moment.

3. Plan for Discipline

Most often children’s ministries’ plan for discipline includes the reading of a set of rules during a service, and then having the teacher correct children if they get out of line.

The other approach is to allow the adults to stand around the perimeter of the room watching for misbehaving children so they can step in and keep them in line.

These approaches to ministry undercut the ability to strengthen relationship.

There still may be a need for one or two leaders whose job is to step in and correct disruptive children, but most leaders should know their job is to engage the kids who want to learn, and are doing their best. Don’t rob those who are engaged to starve relationally because there is no plan for a disruptive child.

This becomes very obvious in small group settings. Once the group splits up into classrooms or “pods” around the room, a small group leader who spends most of his/her time trying to correct one or two children rather than really engaging in the discussion and relationship-building opportunity, needs the discipline plan in place.

Who can these leaders rely on to assist them with those who are not cooperating so that those who are can be ministered to?

4. Value Investment

In the process of making serving in the church so easy, I fear we may have devalued what the individual brings with them into the environment. Each person serving on your team has a story. Their faith means something. God has planted something inside their life that the next generation needs to hear.

By not valuing the leader’s investment of time and energy, it communicates a lower value that “anyone can do it.” Let the leaders know there is a guide to help them through the discussion time, but don’t leave out that there may be opportunities to share their own faith story as well.

Help the leaders know that in this world there are so many people who walk out on children, and that being consistent in showing up makes a huge difference in their lives.

5. Don’t Underestimate Maturity

Something happens when a person has gone through a season of life of having their own children. They see children through a different lens. Though we need to balance things out with the energy that comes from younger leaders, don’t underestimate the maturity that comes from more seasoned leaders in the church.

They may not struggle as much to connect with children because of their season of life. Whereas young leaders may be more focused on knowing the cool stuff kids are into, mature leaders may be more focused on knowing the kid who’s into the cool stuff.

In short, the kids you are ministering to may not appear to value relationships. But I have found that to not be true. Rather, they are just not provided with the right environment to foster the relationship. And we, the adults, may be to blame with how distracted we have become.

What will you do to grow the ability of your leaders to truly know the children in your ministry.