If you’ve been in Children’s Ministry for just one month, maybe even just one day, you’ve had some trouble on your hands. You’ve had kids that were straight up wild’n out. Don’t know what wild’n out is? It’s similar to the word, “crunk”. I was going to post a link to the Urban Dictionary meaning of it but the examples and related terms really took a nosedive, so I decided against it.
So here we are, it’s Sunday Morning and you are ready for a great day of ministry to the kids in your church. Your awesome volunteers are all there and everything is ready to go. However, the train starts to derail and things quickly spiral out of control. Little boys wouldn’t stop running around, little girls wouldn’t stop talking to each other, all this before your teacher even starts.
Are you mentally reliving this? When this happens, you have a choice to make. You can get angry, you can get frustrated, you can quit, cry, or just keep going like nothing is happening.
Let’s briefly talk about why this may be happening.
Reasons for kids wild’n out in Children’s Ministry
1. Kids have a desire to belong
When you look at toddlers, they’re quirky, have their own style, and often have big personalities. Something happens around elementary school where kids desire to fit in and quickly blend into the larger group. Maybe school encourages this behavior or it happens normally, but it happens. I know parents that dread this happening. They want their kids to keep their big personalities. Unfortunately, most children will want to fit in.
When your kids see someone else misbehaving, and getting away with it, they’ll see this as acceptable behavior. Do not allow a handful of kids to disrupt the wider group. Inappropriate behavior needs to be addressed ASAP.
2. Kids are experiencing your disorder
When you have unclear rules, untrained volunteers, or disorganized programming, you allow chaos and therefore, misbehavior. There should be as little chaos as possible in your children’s ministry, because, well, chaos will come all on it’s own. Therefore, the more organized, disciplined, and well trained you are, the easier it will be to encounter chaos and be able to move on.
3. Your environment is not suitable to your goals
Think about the environment in which your delivering worship, teaching, small group, or activity times. Does it encourage your goals or move away from them? There’s likely no in between. So what about those children’s ministries who are mobile and have no choice on the environment? Well, I have good news for you. The challenge of thinking through your environment in a mobile context, and adapting to it will only make you stronger. It will be difficult, but it absolutely will make you a better children’s ministry.
4. Your program isn’t engaging
Do you “wing it” in kids worship? Do you expect for your team to get up in front of kids and just mouth along with a music track? What about your teachers, are they prepared beforehand or are they reading through their lesson right before the service? Do you have an interactive time with kids or do you expect them to listen to your teacher talk the entire time? Do you have activities planned out in advanced? Are your teachers well resourced? Ask yourself these questions and be brutally honest with yourself. Better yet, put together a surveymonkey or polldaddy survey and send it to your volunteers. Allow them to answer it anonymously and learn from their feedback.
If your team isn’t prepared and/or what you have planned isn’t well thought out and engaging for the children your ministering to then kids will get bored. When kids get bored, they’ll begin acting up. New or visiting kids won’t be the ones causing trouble, they’ll be on their best behavior in a new setting. The ones who’ll act up will be the kids who’re their everyday. Those are the kids who feel comfortable in that setting and are most used to your program.
5. Your kids are acting out what they see at home
A common challenge that you’ll see is behavior that kids learn at home. Just because a family comes to your church doesn’t mean that everything is Christ-like at home. Even the most committed Christian fathers and mothers have their own problems they’re working through. So when their kids see their behavior, those kids will unknowingly model that behavior with other people. Adults are sneaky enough to publicly behave accordingly, children aren’t. This is a good thing. Every family who wants to follow Jesus should be able to do so, as a family, and that is why they need to be at church. Those “problem” children are there to be ministered to, so are the “good” children. In reality, there’s a thin line between problem kids and good kids, often, it’s what they see at home.
Aside from engaging the family in counseling (and it may come to that), there aren’t any short term solutions to this. However, it always helps children to see Biblical behavior modeled by men and women. Do your best to lead in this way.
Can you administer discipline in your Children’s Ministry?
Not only can you, but you MUST administer discipline.
I’m not talking about physical discipline. You NEVER have the authority to do that, even if parents “give” you permission.
When we talk about discipline, we’re really talking about consequences to actions. Consequences should be communicated clearly, should be administered fairly, and should be kept consistent.
Consequences should go something like this.
- Verbal warning
- Change of physical space (move child to another place in the room)
- Briefly remove from room
- Conversation with the Children’s Service Overseer
- Conversation with the Children’s Pastor/Director
- Call the parent
- Children’s Pastor discusses with the parent
Some Children’s Ministry Pastors/Directors are ok with suspending a child from Children’s Ministry. I will NEVER advocate that. When we’re speaking of Children’s Ministry, we’re talking about newborns to 5th grade. I don’t see a situation that warrants permanent or even temporary suspension of a child from Children’s Ministry. I can see a situation in which a 4th or 5th grader can be a danger to him or herself, or to others. In that case, I think I, or one of my leaders, would personally take on the responsibility of ministering to that child during that service.
The worst punishment I would advocate is for the parent to come pick up the child during Children’s Ministry. That’s not a punishment that we would administer very often and it was valid for that day only. New day, fresh start.
In any case, I encourage you to address issues and lead a Children’s Ministry that’s safe, Biblical, effective, and fun. Your kids will love attending and their parents will love you for it.