There is something happens when a child hits 4th or 5th grade. They can focus on a task or activity longer, they can read more difficult text, they develop true friendships, they begin to smell (terribly), and many of them also develop attitudes that are less than desirable. But what if I told you it’s just a phase? Would you want to hurry through the phase, or join the kids in the here and now? Here in Crossing Kids we encourage you to do the latter, to leverage the time you have with your 4th and 5th graders each week. Here are some things to think about as you work with kids in this phase of their life.
The “I’ve got this” Phase
4th and 5th graders want to be seen as independent. They can pick out their own clothes, get their homework done on their own, and often make choices that lead them down the wrong path. Our job, as leaders, is to be there when they do mess up, and to treat them with grace in the midst of their failures. We can do this in two ways…
- Teach them that failure is part of the spiritual journey, and that the church is a place of grace upon return.
- Be more intentional about admitting our own messiness. We need to tell real stories about God that evoke a response to follow Jesus.
They wonder, “Do I have friends?”
This is the phase where kids begin to value friendships and peer approval. They want approval from adults too, which is where we come in as leaders because we can help them feel loved and accepted. We need to be ready by knowing what they like, and that comes from serving consistently. We can ask kids about…
- Their interests
- Sports they play
- What special events they have coming up
We need to engage their interests
According to the reThink group, we need to gauge kids interests, “so they can trust God’s character and experience God’s family.” We can do this by…
- Connecting them with a faith community.
- Praying with and for them.
- Reading Bible stories and helping them answer questions that they have about God and the world around them.
What do our volunteers find to be important?
Erin, one of our 5th grade volunteers recognizes that this phase is a “tweener” phase. One of his favorite parts about volunteering is “how the kids and I build a personal relationship within our Sunday mornings together…They are figuring out that friends and relationships can be difficult at times, and it’s exciting to see them grow…physically, intellectually and spiritually.”
Kerry, another 5th grade volunteer, likes tying the lesson to a real life testimony. When he does this, he’s helping kids see how God works, and engaging them in real-life stories.
So whether we are helping kids view the church as a place of grace, connecting kids to a faith community like Erin, or engaging their interests like Kerry, we are working to leverage the phase that these kids are in now. It’s a phase that won’t last, and we don’t want to miss the chance to make an impact. 4th and 5th graders have an average of 468 weeks until graduation, and we want to make every week count.
*Most of this information was taken from the book, It’s Just a Phase so Don’t Miss It by Reggie Joiner & Kristen Ivy, and from the Orange Tour conference.