Children’s ministry is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in this life, but can also be very difficult. Teaching and training many different personalities and types of children can make ministry hard. Every child learns differently. While some are able to sit and listen, others are more visual or kinesthetic learners and need more of a hands-on experience or a variety of options to be successful. It can be trying at times, ministering to each and every personality. What is important to remember, is that children’s ministry is for all children- even the disruptive and hard to handle ones. The goal of children’s ministry is to train them up in the Lord. These five tips can help anyone who works with children.
1. Build a relationship with the families in ministry.
A relationship can go a long way in any ministry. If you build a relationship with the people you are trying to minister to, you will build trust and rapport. People are more likely to listen to those they trust and have a relationship with, and children are the same way. If they trust you because you have spent time pouring into the relationship, then they will be more likely to listen to you and follow your directions. It is important to build a relationship with not only the children in your ministry, but the families of those children. Minister to them, invite them to sit with their children, meet the physical and spiritual needs of the families so they will trust you and want to listen to what you say. Show the families love as it says in John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Remember, the whole goal in children’s ministry is to train children up in the Lord and make disciples through the love of Jesus Christ. By loving the families, you will be able to partner with them and help train up their children in the Lord.
2. Be consistent.
Consistency can help keep disruptions at a minimum. Be consistent with the day of week, time of day, and other routines throughout the program so that your children’s ministry will become an important part of children’s lives. They need something they can count on, especially since so many of them do not have consistency in their daily lives and homes. Consistency provides predictability which brings comfort and security. Many times, disruptive behavior comes from a place of chaos and fear. So by being consistent, children will trust your program, and ultimately you. You will be an immovable, predictable adult for them, and that labor will not be in vain as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
3. Keep your rules simple.
The simpler the rules are for your children’s program or ministry, the easier it will be to follow. The rules can be something like: listen to the adult in charge, follow directions, show kindness and love to others. Rules should be clear and direct so there is no question how to follow them. Children should know them, and when disruption occurs, the adults should point them back to the rules. You can find rules to live by in the Bible that also make it easy for children’s ministry. For example, you can use Luke 6:31: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (treat others the way you wish to be treated). This is a way to establish biblical rules while training them to live godly as well.
4. Reward or acknowledge good behavior.
Try not to always focus on the negative, but reward the good and positive as well. If you only focus on the negative, children and adults will often feel defeated. Acknowledge when a child exhibits good behavior or follows the rules. No matter what struggles a child has, you can find positive in something. Be watchful for those times so you can respond quickly. This can be accomplished with a physical reward, or just through encouragement and relationship building as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
5. Confront behavior privately instead of publicly.
When disruptions occur, confront them privately instead of publicly. No one likes their faults and struggles to be pointed out in front of others, and behavior is the same way. Before you get after them in front of everyone, try having someone confront them privately. This can be accomplished through using other adults in your ministry. Have them sit near disruptive children. Proximity can be the difference between students listening and growing in their spiritual lives and tuning out and being disruptive. Sometimes, children act out because they are looking for any kind of attention, even if it is negative. If you give them that attention by having an adult near them, you can head off some of those behaviors. If you have to confront them, pull them aside and have a conversation with them. Try listening to them, empathizing with them, and then explaining to them why the disruptions make it difficult for them and others to learn. Use the relationship you have built with them to correct and train them in the way they should behave.
Above all else, pray for each child that walks through the doors of your church. Every child who becomes part of your ministry needs prayer. Prayer is the foundation that children’s ministries can build upon. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Approach the throne of grace on behalf of each child and each worker. Watch as the Lord does amazing things in the lives of those who trust in Him.