Though kids are notorious for pushing the limits of our
boundaries, they're usually just doing one of two things: First,
they're trying to figure out where the boundaries are, and second,
they're seeing just how serious we are about the boundaries.
Providing clear guidelines for your class is important. If kids
don't know what they can or can't do, how can we reasonably expect
them to obey?
For example... each week, we review the guidelines, trying to
put a fun spin on them. But, simply put, the guidelines we give
- Pay attention -- You might miss something
- Participate -- We want you to be part of the
group, and what you contribute is important to us.
- Put your hand up -- We want to hear what you
have to say. It's important, but we can't hear if everyone just
speaks out of turn.
Turn it Over
The single greatest tool we have that leads to instruction is
the ability to turn over situations and challenges to God. Praying
for your kids must be as much a part of your preparation and
presentation as any other component. And prayer can dramatically
affect instructional situations. Prayer also changes our hearts,
increasing our patience, compassion, and understanding.
For example... I saw this dramatically illustrated early in my
ministry with a boy named Adrian. Adrian was "nothing but trouble"
when it came to his behavior. Of course, when I discovered what his
home life was like, I understood, but that didn't help in the
classroom. Nothing seemed to work. No matter what, our teachers
dreaded seeing Adrian dropped off on Sunday morning.
After trying everything we thought we knew how to do, we simply
prayed. The teachers and I made a covenant to pray for Adrian every
day, and to ask God not only to do a work in his life, but to also
do a work in ours. So we prayed, and after only two weeks, we saw a
difference in Adrian's life -- something was happening!
On the third Sunday, as I cleaned up after church, Adrian
quietly came in behind me and, in almost a whisper, said, "Pastor
Greg, I want to say I'm sorry." Once I picked myself up off the
floor and composed myself, I asked him what he wanted to apologize
for. Again in a very quiet voice, he said, "For all the things I've
done to hurt Jesus and for all the things I've done to hurt
others." As I bit my lip to hold back the tears, I had the
wonderful privilege of sharing God's forgiveness with Adrian and
helping him follow Christ. I saw his life transformed. Over the
next few months as part of our church family, Adrian became a
leader in Sunday school.
As we seek to "discipline" the kids God has blessed us with, the
real goal is to instruct them. These tools, which all of us possess
and can refine with a little practice, are a good starting
There are reasons for what kids do. For example, kids
Because They're Kids -- Proverbs 22:15 (NLT) says "A youngster's heart
is filled with foolishness..." Enough said!
Because They Lack Clear Guidelines -- Kids need
guidelines and even want them. Without boundaries, insecurity
creeps in and that often leads to misbehavior.
Because They're Bored -- When we teach
inappropriately (not actively or age-appropriately), kids get
bored. Boredom leads to misbehavior as kids try to find something
to engage their mind.
Because of Outside Issues -- I put these issues
in four categories:
- Hunger -- Some kids come to church hungry,
because they either didn't eat enough or they didn't eat nutritious
food before arriving.
- Health -- Parents will often drop off kids who
should be home in bed!
- Home -- Some kids deal with so much at home
that it inevitably comes out in their behavior.
- Helplessness -- Kids often just don't know how
to deal with things that happen, whether it's the death of a pet or
being bullied at school. This helplessness can lead to
Greg Baird is a children's pastor and the director of Kids
in Focus (www.kidsinfocus.org). Please keep in mind that phone
numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.