At WOWkids, our children’s ministry at Woodvale, we believe that children are ten feet tall. The first rule that all of our ministry volunteers learn is the “Ten Feet Tall Rule.” If you go to any of our training opportunities you will learn that rule before any other. It simply says this:
All children at Woodvale are to be loved, valued and treated with respect. They must be made to feel ten feet tall.
We believe wholeheartedly that children are valuable to God. Jesus placed high value on the lives of little ones, even to the point of telling us stodgy adults that we should be more like them in order to enter His kingdom.
Let me say this first: Making a child feel ten feet tall is not making them feel that they are the centre of the universe.
These days children are given more voice than they were when I was little. The generation before mine believed that children should be quiet and should do exactly as they are told or face strict discipline. Our generation apparently bucked that school of thought and, in my opinion, have overcompensated by permissively raising our kids to believe that they are the centre of the family and consequently, the centre of the universe. Children who are taught that way are difficult to lead in the ways of Christ, because they have not been taught submission to authority. They have not been taught to be humble like Jesus. Even though Jesus actually was and is the centre of the universe, He didn’t act like it. He submitted to the will of His Father and gave everything He had for others.
So here is what a ten-foot-tall child should look like:
1. Their voice is heard.
I have a little boy in my house who is heard all the time. He never stops talking. He gets up talking and falls asleep with a word half-spoken on his lips. He talks loudly and incessantly. Obviously, when there are children about, there is noise. But really hearing a child is listening to their words and what they are trying to communicate. It’s getting down at their eye level, maybe holding their hands and really taking in what is said. What is happening in their family? Do they feel comfortable? What makes them tick?
I’ll admit that sometimes this is hard for me, especially now that I have children of my own at home. It’s amazing how much they ask, demand, scream and say random things all the time. When I get into my Children’s Pastor mode, I sometimes tune out the little voices that are saying things like, “Pastor Shelley, wanna know what I did today?” “Look! I lost my tooth.” or “I didn’t get to see my Mom today.” I am constantly reminding myself to stop setting up that prop or projector or whatever to get down on someone’s level and really hear what they are saying. Sometimes it’s quite profound.
2. They are spoken to with kindness and respect.
My daughter came home the other day from having been to a corner store with her friend. They were just looking at something and then stood there for a few minutes talking about it, deciding whether or not they would buy it. The storekeeper yapped at them, “WELL? AREN’T YOU GONNA BUY SOMETHING? IF NOT, LEAVE!” Methinks that perhaps the storekeeper would not have said that to them if I were with them. Many people deal with children in a very sharp and disrespectful manner. After all, they’re just kids, right?
Jesus never dealt with kids that way. The Bible doesn’t record any actual conversations with them, but kids always felt happy to go see Him, and to be with Him. I am pretty sure His words were sweet.
3. They are complimented and encouraged.
As a parent, I have noticed that a large part of the adult feedback that you get regarding your children, whether from teachers, babysitters, or whoever, is centred around what the child did wrong. They are constantly reminded of the wrong things they do. How sweet it is when a teacher calls just to say that the child did something amazing. You can see a child stand a little taller when a school teacher or Sunday School teacher compliments them, especially in front of others.
Children are pretty sharp, though. You can’t throw out an insincere compliment or they will see you as a fake. Try to find something great in the child (and there is always something spectacular in each child) and point that thing out in a sincere way. You will see them grow about 7 more feet taller when you do.
4. They are disciplined.
One wouldn’t think that disciplining your child helps them feel great about themselves, but think of this: What does it communicate to your child when you don’t care what they do? Proper, loving discipline says that you care about them. Children do not articulate that in their minds, but they know that they are safe and that they mean something to you when you care enough to not let them get away with being a scoundrel.
5. They are welcomed.
Sometimes when children come to church, it’s easy to not notice them. After all, they are little and they are low to the ground. They are also fast-moving, and they often don’t have great communication skills, especially with adults.
At WOWkids we believe that children should feel welcome, that church is their home too, and that it is a fun place to be. Take a minute and shake their little sticky hands. Give a pat on the head. Sneak ’em a candy. Show that you see them. Call them by name. If they are still an infant, clap your hands and give a big smile to show that you are happy to see them. Jesus said, “Whenever you welcome a little child like this in my Name, you welcome me.” Set out this Sunday to welcome Jesus.
6. They are having fun.
Make sure that church is always fun. I truly believe that Jesus was fun. I know that because little children flocked to be with Him. Children don’t flock to people who are always serious. Knowing how to be appropriately silly with kids communicates to them that you know how to relate to them and you care that they are comfortable and having fun.
7. They are given opportunities to serve.
Children have so much to offer the kingdom of God. They are talented, smart, and extremely uninhibited. They can do just about anything that an adult can do in ministry, in their own way. They need to know that they have a purpose, that they can serve God in the way that they have been gifted. Help them find their gifts and use them to God’s glory.
8. They are included in the church family picture.
A friend of mine was in a large church once in a city that shall remain nameless, and she attempted to enter the service carrying something that was contraband – her children. She was told at the door that children were not welcome in the service, and that there was a special place for them elsewhere.
Are you kidding me?
Any church that is uncomfortable with a child in the service is not a church I would like to attend. We offer children the opportunity to attend our Children’s Ministries, but they are not required to do so. I believe that the best spot for a child to learn from God is at the side of their Mommy or Daddy, but we offer them the opportunity to come and hear a kid-style message that is geared to their ears as well. It is definitely not required.
Children are baptized, they are given communion, and they participate in worship both actively on stage and in the pew. They dance at the front and let their voices be heard. They are hopefully learning that there is a place for them in the service, just like everyone else.
When a child walks away from our church on a Sunday morning, how does he or she feel about themselves? Do they feel significant? Have they made a new friend? Have they been noticed?
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” Children are welcome in any church that listens to the voice of Jesus. Let’s be the place where children feel at home, where they are accepted as they are, and where they feel that they have been with Jesus.
Let’s make them feel ten feet tall.