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Redirecting Misbehavior in Children’s Ministry

RoadSignYou know the one… the child in your children’s ministry who won’t sit still during the Bible story, the one who can’t keep their hands (or feet) off the other children, the one whom the other children tattle on, and the one who yells “no!” when you ask the audience if they are having a good time.

Are you surprised that I know this child from your church so well?  Well, it’s because most of us have, or has had, at least one child like this in our own churches.  I like to refer to them as my "High Energy Kids” and believe me, I’ve been “blessed” with many of these children over the years.  When a High Energy Kid is part of your weekly children’s ministry, it can be tough; it’s more challenging to teach, volunteers may step down, and it can even cause you to question your own calling.

But…ministering to these kids can also be one of your greatest blessings in ministry.  It’s all about how you approach the child and their behavior.  As those who minister to children, we are to model Christ as well as teach about Him.  That’s done with love, positive interaction, and redirection.  Here are several methods that I have found helpful:

Build a relationship with the child. Tell your brain that no matter what, you are going to look forward to greeting this child every time they walk into the church, even on the days you are not scheduled in their room.  When you greet them, ask a few questions about their week and their interests, getting to know them better and being ready to share an interest of theirs the next time you talk.  The goal here is that when a child knows that you really care about them, the more willing they are to follow your requests.

Find out what’s happening at home. When I learn that a child’s dad has left home or their mom is in the hospital, I think, “Of course they can’t sit still, I wouldn’t be able to either.”  Sometimes there is nothing out of the ordinary going on at home, but most of the time, I find the children who are the hardest to love, need love and loving attention the most, and it’s much easier to extend patience when you know what the child is going through, outside of the church.

Give the child a special job or responsibility. I have had kids who were all over the room causing others to focus more on them than on my teaching, but as soon as I lovingly invited them on stage to hold a prop or dress up as a Bible character, they instantly calmed down and engaged in the story.

Give the child something tactile to hold and/or use audience participation. The three most common learning styles of children include; auditory learners, visual learners and kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic learners learn best when they are moving.  If these learners are forced not to move, their brains don’t work to their full potential, which results in frustration.  Incorporating audience participation (think “Going on a Bear Hunt”) is an easy way to do this without singling out one child.  Another method is to give them a small squeezable toy when you need them to focus.

Have friendly adults participate alongside the children. These loving adults model desired behavior like raising their hands and doing motions to the songs, and when a child gets off tract, they can give a friendly rub on the back and point to the front, whispering something like, “I wonder what will happen next!”

Do you have other ways that have helped precious children like these in your own ministry?  If so, comment and let us know!  And remember, if you need additional help in your Children’s Ministry, I’m just an email or phone call away!

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