I'm a word person...so words matter. I hear some people
say that words are just words today and we shouldn't be uptight
about the words people use. I'm not so sure.
I always think about the Scripture where Jesus says that out of
the abundance of our hearts, our mouth speaks. So words come from
what's in our hearts. And as we guide children to grow in their
relationship with Jesus, we're cooperating with God to shape their
1. Determine which words are and aren't
acceptable. Words matter because they reveal our
hearts, but words also matter because as a society we've determined
what is and is acceptable in normal discourse. There are definite
words that we consider acceptable and unacceptable. Which words are
on your list?
2. Convey your no-no's to your team. You
may have a set of words that you find totally reprehensible while
others think they're no big deal. I'll refrain from listing what
these words might be, but for the sake of explanation let's talk
about the word "crap." This word in many circles has become no big
deal; when I was a child I'd get disciplined for using this word.
It may be on your no-no list--along with other words--but it may
not be on everyone's list on your team. Communicate what is and
isn't acceptable in your ministry for consistency.
3. Stay calm. What'll you do when you hear
these words come out of the mouths of babes (and preteens)? The
first thing is to not freak out; stay calm. Often kids are looking
for a reaction and that reaction serves to reinforce the use of the
4. Give another option. We all need words to
express our emotions. For kids who are around adults who use swear
words, they may believe those are the only words possible. Instead,
give kids other words to exclaim. My family used "crayola" in place
of the aforementioned C-word (in case my mother is reading
5. Confront in private. For an older child
who swears, take the child aside and explain that swearing is
inappropriate. If necessary, have a conversation with the child's
For more tips on why kids swear and what to do about it, read this article by Barbara Bolton from
Children's Ministry Magazine.