Reading your congregation is one of the most important things we need to learn to do in ministry. Have you ever been in a service where the speaker is "fired up" about what he/she is saying, but one quick scan around the room tells you that everyone else is ready to head home? It's easy to be so excited about what you are doing or what you've planned to miss the cues that those listening to you might give, but it is important that we keep watch for those cues. They will tell us what we need change, if we are connecting with our listeners, or if we are losing them. And it's something that we need to be aware of no matter the age group we are leading. Here are a few key things I've found to watch for:
Granted with you work with kids, there is going to be a bit of fidgeting. It's just part of being a kid. But if they simply can't sit still...and it's more than just the normal one or two kids who struggle to sit still, you may be losing their attention. Try to change up what your saying (maybe use and accent or funny voice for a moment), insert a quick moving game where they get to stand or stretch for a minute, or even give a two minute break where they can get their wiggles out. But constant fidgeting may mean you've lost their attention so do something to get it back.
People who constantly watch the clock, or kids who constantly ask the time, may be ready to leave. They have other things they want to do and sometimes they have had all the "learning" they can take at the moment. My Dad has this awesome line that I think he got from a professor years ago and I love it. He says, "The mind can only absorb what the seat can endure." It's so true. You can only sit for so long and then you will do about anything to change positions. Clock Watching can be a sign that the "seat has endured all it can," so you need to finish up quick. Now if you are leading a children's service sometimes the Pastor goes longer than you, but it's ok. Finish your service and then do something fun while they wait for their parents to arrive. (Side note: If the child asking the time is new to your group, they may be nervous about being left behind...reassure them that the people who brought them will be back to get them.)
Do you have chatty kids in your department? Sometimes it's because they are just very social kids but sometimes, especially if it happening with children who normally are not chatty, it's because they are bored or don't like the activity happening at the moment. If you have difficulty getting the kids to focus during a particular song, perhaps they just don't like that song. Remove it from your rotation for a while and see if there is a change. If they are constantly chatting and not listening during the craft activity, maybe you take away the craft for a time and see if the problem improves. Simply take note of the activity happening when the "chattiness" begins and see if a change in that activity brings a change in behavior.
These are not all the things you will see from your congregation, but if you've not been reading your congregation, perhaps they will help you begin to do so. They've been helpful for me.
Until next week!