Sometimes it’s so easy to get lost in the practical side of going back to school–buying backpacks, lunch boxes, notebooks–that it’s almost natural for parents to forget about what their child might be going through emotionally. This is especially important in those transitional years between preschool and elementary, elementary and middle, and middle and high school. However, kindergarten and first graders are in a transitional phase of their faith too.
As leaders, we have an amazing opportunity to walk with parents through these potentially stressful periods of life. This shift from preschool to kindergarten might not be as dramatic as some of the other periods of transition, but it’s just as important. These are the years in which kids are developing the foundations of their faith–so, it’s vital to recognize what they might be experiencing.
Here’s one way to approach kindergarten and first graders during a this transitional time. First, understand that preschoolers think like artists. Their world is full of wonder and imagination. As they move into the elementary years, they’ll start thinking more like scientists. They combine that wonder with discovery–that curiosity that leads them to constantly search for answers to their many questions.
It’s our job to help first graders understand and rediscover how God relates to them as they make this transition. So, as you help them mature through this stage, keep these three ideas in mind:
3 Ideas for Ministering to Kindergarten and First Graders
1. Give one story and one idea.
By now, kids know the difference between history and fiction. They can just sniff it out. They want to know what a story means to them both practically and personally. At this age, first graders take the scientific approach of understanding one concept at a time. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to keep their approach simple–give kids one story and connect it to one concrete idea.
2. Get real with illustrations.
Kids this age want concrete proof. They need that evidence because they rely on what they can observe. Abstract metaphors don’t always make sense. When you ask a literal-thinking child, “Do you want Jesus to live in your heart?”, they’ll probably respond with, “Does my heart have a bed?” Use visual, real illustrations to help your kids connect with God. Then, take those illustrations and connect them back to what they experience every day.
3. Have fun.
Kindergarten and first graders (and all kids, really) love to have fun! In fact, fun is one of the best ways for kids to learn. This might look different to each kid, so look for ways to engage their interests by adding variety and unexpected twists to your lessons. Use puzzles and maps and games with lots of movement. Go outside when you can. Sing and dance. Your time is limited each week–so make the most of it and have fun with these first graders!
Bottom line: Engage with kindergartners–on their level–and you’re off to an incredible start as a leader. You won’t be perfect, and no one expects you to be; but you’ll make a huge impact on these kids as they make a huge emotional transition in their young lives.