Just a Phase Intro
Last April, I went to the Orange Conference with several others from our church. This year’s theme and accompanying book was “Just a Phase.” Those who have worked with children and teens, either in an educational or church setting, are at least vaguely familiar with the concept of kids going through developmental stages.
The Orange team defines a phase as “a timeframe in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future.” The “you” includes not only parents, but pastors and volunteers in our kid’s and youth ministries.
So often we show up for the task of volunteering–helping kids memorize verses in AWANA, getting our lines right as hosts and storytellers in UpStreet, or running through the activities as small group leaders–and forget that the kids in front of us are different than the kids just a year or two older than them. We don’t take the time to see what makes them tick, what they find interesting, or how they would learn best. We don’t pause to observe the curiosity of a kindergartener or the doubts of a fifth grader.
And it’s not our fault. We each have a myriad of our own responsibilities, worries, bills, and relationships to navigate.
But what if we were keenly aware of the ways our kids are maturing and developing? How would that change the questions we ask? How would it change how we prayed with 4th grade boys in a small group? What would we do differently when it was time to tell the story of David and Goliath one more time? How might it encourage us to show up consistently after long hours on a Wednesday night?
Because each kid is in a unique phase right now, we cannot afford to miss it. We have to pay attention to the current phase characteristics, because soon, everything will change. We can’t know everything. And some weeks, just getting through a lesson will seem like a victory. But most weeks, we’ll keep in mind that this hour on a Sunday or Wednesday is the “distinct opportunity” we have to make an impact, and we’ll be ready not just with Bible knowledge or a script or fun props, but also with an understanding of what makes these kids, these kids.