Snail-Mail lessons for Children’s Ministry
I recently mailed a personal letter to each of the children involved in our Sunday morning programs, letting them know I was praying for them on that particular day. That’s right—snail mail. It took much more of my time than writing an e-mail, and it cost more for sure. And it was low-tech—old-school—so maybe I’m showing my age.
I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the post office to deliver my letters. However, I was quickly made aware that they had been received.
Unlike the returns from the mass e-mails I often send, the response rate to this mailing was high! I received personal phone calls from kids saying “thank you,” videos from parents of their children opening the mailing, and extra-special, mid-week hugs from children who were delighted to receive their own letter.
As I’ve reflected on all of this, I’ve wondered if there aren’t a few lessons we could all learn from those stamped wonders—and the small people who received them. Here are several reminders from this simple exercise that I’ve found to be helpful in my ministry among children.
1) Children love personal things.
It doesn’t take long when working with kids to discover that they are ego-centric—not a bad thing in childhood. Kids are doing the developmentally appropriate work of figuring out how they fit into the world and the community around them. So receiving a letter with their name on it is special indeed.
It’s also a good reminder to be mindful of a child’s desire to connect personally with the story of God. It is not enough for them to be made aware of the great heroes of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, or the Fruit of the Spirit. Children particularly need to feel a personal connection to the God we are inviting them to discover.
Through as many means as possible, work to find ways of putting a child’s name on what you want him or her to learn. It can be as simple as using their names often. Here are some examples:
- “God so loved the world! That means God loves you, Sally, and you, Joaquin.”
- “What does it means to you, Bronte, to hear that the Lord is your Shepherd?”
- “Luka, when you spend time with God, what do you like to do?”
2) Children enjoy objects that they can touch.
A personal letter is not a momentary thing—it is a keepsake. It is tangible evidence of a relationship. Evidence that can be re-read, revisited, and hung on the fridge to show others.
I wonder about the ways we are inviting children to engage with tangibles as we explore faith with them. The nature of faith is unseen in many ways— but there are many aspects of our faith that can be enhanced through tactile experiences. Here are some questions to ponder in your lesson preparations:
How do I model prayer for the kids I teach? Do I invite them to hold something in their hands as they spend time talking with God? Do I make space for them to write their prayers in a journal to re-read? How do I explore the Scriptures with the children? Do I do all the reading for them, or do I let them hold a Bible in their hands, too? Do I let them do the page-turning? Do I let our children explore their ideas through creative expressions? Do I invite them to create a tangible memory marker?
3) Children are moved by a clear, simple message.
A hand-written note is not flashy entertainment. Yet kids ask their parents to read and re-read a simple, personal, hand-written letter over and over to them. We should keep this in mind as we share the simple, personal, once hand-written words that are now our Scriptures.
Telling a clear message of Jesus is riveting when it’s personalized. I am not opposed to the sometimes outlandishly fun and entertaining ideas that children’s programming engages. Rather, I am advocating for a place in our curriculum where there is room for the simple, low-tech, quiet, yet clear, presentation of Jesus’ story.
Children of all ages enjoy the simplicity of a personal touch. This is the lesson that Snail-mail brought to mind for me. Sometimes we get distracted by the way we connect God’s story to children. We can forget that the best part is that it’s true, it’s personal, it’s life-giving, and it is for all .