Use This Proven Way to Get to Know Kids Better

Use This Proven Way to Get to Know Kids Better
April 20, 2015 Jody Brolsma
Use this tip during your VBS small group discussions to make a deeper connection with your kids.

Recently a Denver teacher wanted to get to know her students better, so she asked kids to complete the sentence, “I wish my teacher knew…” Teacher Kyle Schwartz was touched at what she read—so touched that she began posting the letters (without kids’ names) on Twitter with the hashtag: #IWishMyTeacherKnew.

“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.”

“I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot.”

“I wish my teacher knew that I want to go to college.”

Like so many people who love kids, these notes moved me…and reminded me of the critical importance of face-to-face discussions with kids. This teacher—who spends nearly 8 hours a day with kids in her class—felt like she didn’t know her students well!

Wow. If a third-grade teacher doesn’t feel like she knows her students, after spending months with them, how well are you getting to know the kids at your VBS (and in your community) during a few hours of VBS?

Don’t Skimp on the Small Group Discussions

In Group’s VBS, we build in conversations with open-ended questions like, “Tell me about something that scares you,”  “When have you needed courage?” or “Who makes you smile?” Because we field-test every aspect and every question with kids, we get to watch astounding transformation within crews, as kids and leaders huddle together to talk about things like this. Those conversations aren’t filler. They’re not fluff. They’re not “Bible-light.” They give caring Christian leaders insight into a kid’s world. Into a child’s heart. As you reach kids with VBS this summer, don’t skimp on the small group discussions. In an effort to pack in more games, a craft, or a goofy skit…don’t forget the importance of face-to-face, someone-really-cares conversation. Ask the questions…then listen.

It matters.

I’d love to hear how you’re getting to know the kids in your ministry. What are some of your success stories, insights, and “ah-ha” moments? Let us know in the comment section below!

Jody Brolsma is the VBS Executive Editor/Champion at Group Publishing in Loveland, Colorado. She’ll be the first to tell you that it is truly the funnest job in the world! (That’s why she’s been doing it for more than 20 years.)


  1. Billy Redd 9 years ago

    Great Post! As I read this post I began thinking about the programs we have here at Mars Hill. Most of them are filled with videos, crafts, coloring sheets, and teaching, very little is left for discussion and really building relationships with kids. What if…. we dropped the lesson for just one Sunday and focused on getting to know our kids?

    • Author
      Jody Brolsma 9 years ago

      Great idea, Billy! Sometimes we “program out” God moments, don’t we? I’d actually encourage you to be bold enough to intentionally integrate small group discussions with open-ended questions into every Sunday. Kids will walk away EVERY week knowing someone heard them and knows them. That’s powerful and relational! And your leaders may just change how they relate to kids, pray for kids, and talk to kids based on these insights into everyday life.

  2. Heather 9 years ago

    Back in my days of teaching 4 and 5 year olds in Sunday school, I often found that these open-ended questions could be hard to navigate, as some children will jump at the opportunity to tell the group (at length) about whatever is on their mind – be it actually related to the question or not. Do you have any tips for dialing the question back in to the Bible instead of say, the awesome Spiderman action figure the child just got for their birthday? Is there a polite, loving way to interrupt stories like this without making the child feel unappreciated?

    • Author
      Jody Brolsma 9 years ago

      Heather, we always use small groups of no more than 5 kids and one adult. So we generally don’t ask the large group to share a discussion question. (We’ll ask it to the larger group and then direct kids to circle up with their small groups so everyone can share.) And our leaders give time cues, such as “OK, time for the next person to share if they haven’t already,” or “One more minute.” Sometimes I think leaders may look at the material and think, “There’s not enough here,” but when you give TIME for kids to share, you don’t need as many activities.

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