All right. You’ve either just signed up to be a Buddy, are interested in learning about being a Buddy, or are already a Buddy looking for a refresher. No matter which reason you’ve come to this article, you’ll learn a lot about what a Buddy does—and you’ll be able to take an honest assessment to see if you’re qualified to be a Buddy. Spoiler alert: You probably are qualified!
What is a Buddy?
- A one-on-one Buddy provides one-on-one leadership and attention to any child who needs additional support. Buddies consistently work with and get to know the child so the child will feel safe. The child will be safer, too, because there is an extra set of hands and eyes to monitor the child’s needs. A one-on-one Buddy may support a child for several weeks, months, or years as needed.
- On-call Buddies work with the Coach. Every experience should have a floating Buddy on call. They can work with any new families who attend church with their special LifeKid. They work with the Coach to identify and work with kids who may need extra support. Example: Any child can have an “off” day, causing them to display challenging behavior that requires extra support. At the discretion of the Coach or LifeKids staff, the Buddy on call can work in any room to offer support to a child so other leaders can better focus on the needs of their small groups. An on-call Buddy may step in and out of rooms as needed to help different kids.
- A Buddy partners with the whole family. It’s stressful for moms or dads who are constantly called away from the church experience to pick their child up from LifeKids due to challenging behaviors. A family with a Buddy can enjoy peace of mind while they’re at church, because the Buddy works closely with them to learn what works at home, daycare, or school, and helps apply those methods to offer a consistent, effective experience for the child.
- A Buddy is not always needed. The goal of a Buddy is to provide one-on-one support for only as long as it’s needed. A child may have a developmental breakthrough in LifeKids at any point. When they’re able to stay in the room using the same supports as their peers, their Buddy can begin to work with a new family who needs them.
- LifeKids Buddies aren’t meant to follow around every child with differences. A parent dropped off a child and mentioned they have autism. Do they need a Buddy? Probably not. Buddies are an incredible blessing to kids who need them, but they’re not a catch-all, mandatory support system to be called in simply because of a child’s diagnosis. Many children with differences don’t demonstrate challenging behaviors and will adjust to their new environment with the existing supports in the room.
- Buddies reinforce the curriculum to a kid at the kid’s level. A Buddy will figure out what their child is interested in and use that as their starting point for bringing Scripture and God’s love into the child’s world. Creative strategies include:
- Learning ways to communicate with a child who is non-verbal
- Singing to a kid who doesn’t respond well to speech
- Drawing a picture of Jesus and telling the child God loves them
- Using a sensory toy to help a child calm and refocus
Am I qualified to be a Buddy?
Some Buddies have formal training for working with children who have special needs, but that’s certainly not required. You have what it takes to be a Buddy if you can honestly say you possess these qualities:
- I am patient with children.
- I can empathize with a child who demonstrates behaviors I don’t understand.
- I can think on my feet.
- I can remain calm in potentially stressful situations.
- I can be tactful when speaking with parents.
- I am quick to forgive.
- I can remain present in the moment.
- I can help LifeKids leaders learn strategies to serve children who need extra support.
But, it all boils down to one question. This is the most important thing. This is the deal-breaker if you can’t answer yes to it.
Can you be a friend?
If you answered, “Yes!” to being a friend, then you’re qualified to be a Buddy. There’s no mistake in the name “Buddy” for the role. Special kiddos need extra support—and it’s best offered in the form of friendship. It’s the single most important quality for a Buddy to possess. Don’t stress. When you live and love like Jesus, you’ve got what it takes.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:12-14 NIV