Last week at Kids Club, I worked with team leaders to help them shepherd the kids on their teams. It was a joy to see these leaders build relationships with kids and be intentional about the time they had together – these relationships are truly the core of Kids Club and Crossing Kids. These relationships are what change kids’ lives and draw them into Christ’s love. To build these relationships with kids, a leader (or parent) has to be intentional about being a shepherd. But what does it mean to shepherd a child?
A shepherd is one who cares for his sheep. He guides them in the direction they should go, he tends to them when they are sick, he picks them up when they stumble, and he looks for them when they get lost. The Bible tells us that Jesus Himself is the Good Shepherd in John 10:11:14-15.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to shepherd, but what does this look like practically when it comes to shepherding children?
In his book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp writes,
“As the shepherd, you want to help your child understand himself as a creature made by and for God. You cannot show him these things merely by instructions; you must lead him on a path of discovery…This shepherding process is a richer interaction than telling your child what to do and think. It involves investing your life in your child in open and honest communication that unfolds the meaning and purpose of life. It is not simply direction, but direction in which there is self disclosure and sharing. Values and spiritual vitality are not simply taught, but caught.”
Certainly at Kids Club, leaders did not have a lot of time to go this in depth as a shepherd to the kids in their team. However, in our Kids Club training time, we talked about five practical ways to intentionally shepherd children. I hope these five shepherding tips will help you as a parent, a grandparent, a volunteer in the ministry, or with any children God has placed in your life.
1. Pray for the kids.
This might seem obvious, but there is such power in lifting up people to God in your prayers. Write down specific prayers you have for kids. Name the kids you are praying for and follow up with the children about their prayer requests. Make a special time each day to do this either on your own or with the kids. Look for opportunities to pray aloud or silently with others.
2. Share your story.
Be vulnerable with your team and share what God has done in your life. Be open about what God has taught you, what you love about God, what the Bible means to you, and what your life as a Christian looks like. Help kids see that you are on a faith journey just as they are.
3. Listen generously.
Pay attention to the words and actions of those on your team. Notice their body language and how they interact with others. As you talk with you team and overhear conversations, really listen and hear what is going on. Look in their eyes as you talk with them. God might give you more insight into the hearts of those on your team.
4. Ask questions.
Be ready to get conversations going. Ask open-ended questions to really invite conversation. Then ask follow up questions, such as “What did you mean by that?” or “How did that make you feel?” Asking questions shows interest, love, and respect and gives you a chance to get to know your team more deeply.
5. Look for teachable moments.
Look for opportunities for share Christ’s love and wisdom. If you notice a child sitting alone, invite her to help you do something and say how much you appreciate her help and service. If two kids on your team are fighting, use that as an opportunity to talk about brotherly love. God will provide many of these moments, so look for them and act on them!